I was at The Cove the other night, eating a burger and listening to some local band. They took a break and the guitarist said “I’m cramping!”. The rest of the band proceeded to carry him off the stage a la Lebron James in Game 1. It was funny. Sports is supposed to be fun and it’s hella fun to make jokes at your rival’s expense. The worst thing about the last few days between games has been not the overreaction to LeBron’s cramping, but the reaction to that. It has been the caping up for LeBron. Having some fun with the dude – a non-life threatening injury at that – isn’t the worst thing that happens on the internet. Look at the racist, sexist, homophobic stuff that goes on and then come back and tell me that the people pretending they have a LeBron cramp are the worst on the internet.
That said, tonight LeBron actually did some #LeBronning. He proceeded to drop 35 points on a Spurs team putting up a solid defensive effort. The rest of the Heat only had 3 assists (one of which was Chris Bosh’s game-sealing pass to D Wade with 9 seconds left). The heat won on the strength of LeBron James’ otherworldly talent overcoming all of the excellent execution from the Spurs.
And that is mostly it. Ten or fifteen years from now, that’ll be what people talk about. Such is the reductive nature of sports history. San Antonio played a typical Spurs game – with some incomplete quarters and missed free throws to boot – and came up short thanks to the incredible play of LeBron – with great play by the champs.
The good news? LeBron James, despite all his talent, isn’t likely to cash fadeaway three balls on incredible defense from Kawhi Leonard and well now that I think about it that is the only thing the Spurs can hope for. Next game the Heat players will presumably play outside of their minds. Danny Green called the shots LBJ made “ones we can live with.” LeBron called them “uncontested”. Basketball is a game played to the offense’s advantage. Presumably, a player can get good enough to drain half-court jumpers and there is little the defense can do about it. So when the most athletic and dangerous player on the Heat can step back and rain threes there is little in the way of hope for the Spurs.
Miami likely felt similarly when Patty Mills and company combined to drain nine (9) threes in the second half.
How Should We Feel?
I say you should feel okay. The fun thing about playoff basketball is how often the Narrative gets broken or rewritten. How much talk about athleticism was there while the Spurs were winning in Oklahoma in game six? Wasn’t that the Unresolvable Problem the Spurs would have to face?
Similarly, the Spurs’ execution is praised when they win – or in quarters where they are ripping off gif-able sequences – but ignored when they put up 20+ turnovers – which has happened. That is basketball. It is a game of runs and trends and overreaction to those things. I’d say that the Spurs organization’s secret has not been some keen eye into the game, but recognizing it for what it is. They don’t overreact (like Twitter does) and they don’t stray from the process. You know those last nine or so possessions where the Heat played incredible defense and made game one’s 31-9 run look like an anomaly? Well we’ll likely see those same sets and those same plays next game. Hopefully we’ll see different outcomes.
So it goes.