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NBA Wrap Up
by Larry Ness - 06/23/2013
2013 NBA Playoffs in the Rearview Mirror
I noted in my playoff preview article (The NBA’s Second Season) that the NBA consists of 30 teams and just 12 have won championships since the 1976-77 merger, with only seven winning multiple titles. Those numbers haven’t changed, as the the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs in a terrific seven-game series. The Lakers lead the way with 10 overall titles, followed by the Bulls (six), Celtics (four), Spurs (four), Pistons (three), Heat (three) and Rockets (two). Of the five teams to win single titles since the merger, all but the Mavs win in 2011 came more than 20 years ago. The Blazers won the first NBA title post-merger in 1977, followed by the Bullets (now Wizards) winning in 1978 over the Sonics (now Thunder) and then the Sonics "returning the favor" the following season by beating the Bullets. The fifth team to win a single NBA title since the merger was the 76ers, who won with Moses and Doctor J in that famous Fo', Fo' Fo' season of 1983.
The Heat entered this year’s postseason as the defending champs and with the NBA’s best the regular season record at 66-16. Miami’s championship this year makes the Heat the first team to win the NBA title after finishing the regular season with the league's best record, since the Celtics did so back in 2008. However, as I also pointed out in my playoff preview, it's not as if the NBA playoffs typically serves up "unlikely" champs. Bird and Magic entered the NBA for the start of the 1979-80 season, rejuvenating what was a 'dying' league. Here's what a check of the history books tell us about the last 34 championship teams since that 1979-80 season. Miami’s title in 2013 means we’ve seen 16 teams with the league’s best regular season record (or tied for it) go on to win the championship. Nine champs have been teams which finished with its second-best mark and four others with its third-best record. Check the archives for the FIVE champions from outside the top-three regular season records over the last 34 seasons (or just 14.7 percent).
The home team went 5-2 SU in the NBA Finals (4-3 ATS). The first two games went under but then four straight games went over, before Game 7 stayed under the total. Those following the Zig Zag theory won their first four opportunities in The Finals (after going 7-2 in the conference finals), but finished with back-to-back losses in Games 6 and 7. The final 2013 postseason numbers show home teams having gone 54-31 SU (.635) but just 41-44 ATS (48.2%), which is minus-7.4 net games. There were 41 overs, 42 unders and two pushes, while “Zig-Zaggers” finished 38-32 (that’s plus-2.8 net games). Note “Zig-Zaggers” were 36-33 ATS in the 2012 postseason but we have seen a trend these last two postseasons, as following the Zig Zag theory in Game 2s of each series produced records of 11-4 ATS in 2012 and 12-3 ATS in 2013 (23-7 overall or 76.7%). That’s plus-15.3 net games, giving us all something to keep an eye on come the 2014 postseason.
Finals recap: Has there ever been an NBA Finals in which a team has won Game 1, 3 and 5, yet NOT won the title? I could go back and check but frankly, it’s been a long postseason and my research staff consists just me. I do know that in this 2-3-2 format, the winner of Game 3 (in a Finals tied at one-all) had gone on to win 12 of the previous 13 titles, with the Spurs becoming just the 2nd team in 14 Finals to win a Game 3 (with the series tied one apiece) and NOT win the title. San Antonio joined Miami in the 2011 Finals, which did so against the Mavs.
I also know that after winning Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead, the Spurs had history on their side as well, because 20 of the previous 27 times (74.1%) in NBA Finals history in which as series was tied at two-all, the Game 5 winner had gone on to take the title. Make that 20 of 28 times! The Heat returned home after that Game 5 loss down 3-2 and joined the 1988 Lakers, the 1994 Rockets and the 2010 Lakers, as the only teams to win Games 6 and 7 at home in the 2-3-2 format when down 3-2. In the four other times teams had returned home down 3-2 in the current format of the Finals, the visiting team had taken the title by winning Game 6.
That’s what will haunt this year’s San Antonio team. The Spurs led the Heat by 13 points in the late third quarter of Game 6 and took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.The Spurs still led by four with 28.1 seconds to go but down the stretch, both Ginobili and Leonard each made just one of two FT attempts, while the Heat converted three-pointers by LBJ and Allen, each coming AFTER an offensive rebound. Allen’s three-pointer came with just five seconds left and sent the game to OT, where the Heat prevailed 103-100. Duncan scored 30 points in Game 6 (also had 17 rebounds) but never scored in either the 4th quarter or the OT period.
Many were predicting that the Spurs would have “nothing left” for Game 7 but that was hardly the case. The Heat were never able to ‘shake’ the Spurs but when Duncan missed a chance to the tie the game at 90-all with just under a minute to go (he first missed a little running hook and then the tap-in), the Spurs were ‘dead.’ Leonard’s three-pointer at the two-minute mark was San Antonio’s last points, as the Heat made off with a 95-88 win. There would be no fifth-titles for Duncan and “Pop,” while Ginobili and Parker fell just short of earning their fourth rings.
Here’s the bottom line. Pop inserted Ginobili into the starting lineup in Game 5 and along with Green and Parker, the San Antonio guard trio converted 26-of-43 shots (60.5%), while scoring a combined 74 points. However, in Game 6, that trio made just 9-of-35 shots (25.7%), for a combined 31 points. In Game 7, it was more of the same with Green and Parker being the biggest offenders. Parker looked “totally spent,” while Green couldn’t ‘buy’ a basket. Parker was 3-of-12 in Game 7 and Green 1-of-12. For Games 6 and 7 combined, Green made 2-of-19 shots (10.5%) and Parker 9-of-35 (25.7%).
To the victors go the spoils and no one is shining brighter these days than LBJ. The guy’s legacy was in the balance at the end of the third quarter of Game 6. His team trailed 3-2 in games and by 10 points, as James was just 3-of-12 from the floor. However, LBJ responded with 14 points in the 4th quarter and OT, on 8-of-14 shooting. He would finish with his second triple-double of TY’s Finals (32-10-11), giving him four in his career (only other player with more than two is Magic, who has eight). LBJ then scored 37 points in Game 7 (12 rebounds and four assists), making 5-of-10 three-pointers plus converted on all eight of his free throws.
It was a virtuoso performance by the game’s best player, who averaged 34.7-11.0-7.5 in the Game 6 and 7 wins. The much-maligned Dwayne Wade also came through for Miami, as after the Spurs crushed the Heat in Game 3 by 36 points (113-77), Miami would win three of the last four games, with Wade averaging 23.5-6.0-4.8, while shooting 49.4 percent. He now owns three titles. Let’s not forget Shane Battier, who salvaged a disastrous postseason by somehow finding his shooting touch in Games 6 and 7. Battier averaged 5.0 PPG (on 22.7% shooting) vs Milwaukee, 6.0 PPG (28.6%) against Chicago and 2.3 PPG (12.5%) against Indiana. In the Finals, he opened by going 3-of-15 (20.0%) from the floor through the first five games (2.4 PPG), before combining to make 9-of-12 shots (all three-pointers), while scoring nine points in Game 6 and 18 in Game 7. You can’t make this up.