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NBA Finals Preview
by Ben Burns - 06/04/2007
Can the incredible talent of Lebron James overcome the stalwart and uncanny consistency of Tim Duncan? According to Vegas, the experienced and balanced Spurs will be too much for the younger Cavaliers to handle. Indeed, the Cavs are currently plus $4.00 underdogs and are being spotted 7 1/2 points in the series opener.
Cleveland is in the Finals for the first time in team history, while the Spurs are quite familiar with this time of year. A closer look at the 2007 NBA finalists appears below.
Dan Gilbert bought the Cavs in 2005 and used the Spurs as a blueprint to construct his new team. He hired a Spurs executive in Danny Ferry to be his GM and a first-time head coach in Mike Brown who learned his trade under Gregg Popovich as a Spurs assistant. Brown spent three seasons with San Antonio and was on the Spurs' bench when they won the 2003 title.
This is a classic coaching matchup of 'student vs. teacher'.
The Cavs have been steadily improving since Gilbert purchased the team. This year the Cavs were fifth in the NBA in defense during the regular season and became just one of five teams to have won 50 games in each of the last two years.
There are some factors that work in favor of the Cavs coming into the championship series; since Brown took over as the Cavs coach, they are 3-1 against the Spurs, including a sweep this season when the Cavs won in San Antonio for the first time since 1988. In that game Lebron James scored 36 points and led a late charge that included a monster dunk over Tim Duncan.
The biggest factor working for the Cav's is that Lebron is playing the best basketball of his career; averaging 26 points and eight rebounds in the playoffs while embarrassing double-team coverages with a stellar 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. James has been supported by the unlikely emergence of two offensive juggernauts in Pavlovic and Daniel Gibson who were instrumental in the Cavaliers win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Spurs are in the NBA Finals for the third time in five years and the fourth of Tim Duncan's ten year career. San Antonio went on to win the championship all three previous appearances. Duncan won the Finals MVP honor each time. The Spurs will be well-rested having wrapped up their five-game victory over Utah in the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.
San Antonio is led by their trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. Duncan is averaging 23.2 points and 11.4 rebounds, while Parker is adding 19.8 ppg and Ginobli is scoring 16.4.
Defensive specialist Bruce Bowen will have the unenviable task of containing Lebron James.
There are several significant factors that benefit the Spurs coming into the championship series. The Cavs have trouble matching up with Tony Parker who is quicker than any of their guards. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has trouble staying out of foul trouble against Duncan and isn't as effective on offensive rebounds. The biggest factors are, of course, their experience as a Playoff and Finals tested unit and their obvious head coaching advantage.
The Spurs have won 13 of the last 20 series meetings. However, the Cavs are 3-0 SU/ATS over the last three, including a pair of victories this season. Take note that both those games had over/under lines in the mid-180s, yet they finished with combined final scores of 160 and 169.
So, is Lebron's supporting cast competent enough for him and the Cavaliers to pull off a shocking upset or will they just be another side note in the Spurs legacy? Only time will tell! Enjoy the Finals and have a great summerâ€¦Ben Burns