By Andrew Bergmann @dubly, for NBA.com
After a stellar performance in the 2014 NBA playoffs, Kawhi Leonard joins the elite group of Finals MVPs. Here’s a look back at all of the other winners since the award was first given in 1969.
By Andrew Bergmann @dubly, for NBA.com
After a stellar performance in the 2014 NBA playoffs, Kawhi Leonard joins the elite group of Finals MVPs. Here’s a look back at all of the other winners since the award was first given in 1969.
By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
SAN ANTONIO – Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green lit up the Heat a year ago in Games 1 and 2 in Miami, making 10 of his 15 shots from beyond the arc. That type of accuracy is exceptional, and on the road it’s extraordinary.
In Games 6 and 7 back in Miami, Green fell back to earth, going 2-for-19 from 3-point range. His long-distance shooting is critical to San Antonio’s success. The beneficiary of drive-and-kick passes from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, he’s often afforded open looks and can be the driving force in momentum-shifting runs.
Role players are always said to be much better performers in the comfort of their own arenas than in hostile environments, and Green has played to that trend so far during these playoffs. On 3-pointers, he’s shooting a remarkable 59.2 percent (38-for-66) at home and 31.3 percent (23-for-61) on the road.
In the last two series against Portland and Oklahoma City, he’s 21-for-35 (60 percent) from deep at home and 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) on the road.
“The last series, the two games we lost on the road against OKC, they played us tough and they were high on emotions and they closed out even better to our shooters,” Green said. “But we didn’t move the ball as well as we should have, like we wanted to. We can’t have games like that where we give them a game or two by not playing Spurs basketball. We have to continue to do that each and every night where we play our game, aggressive defense and offensively moving the ball and finding our shooters and taking uncontested shots.”
During their run to now a fourth consecutive Finals appearance, the Heat have been one of the league’s top defenses closing out at the 3-point line. They can put immense pressure on the perimeter, causing contested shots or creating turnovers that put LeBron James and company in transition.
Miami has not been very good at preventing 3-pointers this postseason, allowing 38.1 percent. The Spurs led the league in 3-point percentage during the regular season, and after the Dallas Mavericks aimed to take away San Antonio’s 3-point shots in the first round, and with some success, the Spurs have recovered and are shooting it at 39.2 percent throughout the playoffs.
“We have to do a better job of finding each other and taking uncontested shots,” Green said. “That’s the biggest key for us, moving the ball, be aggressive and at the same time be smart. We want to penetrate and move the ball to the open man.”
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Parker expects to be OK for Game 1 — Spurs star point guard Tony Parker missed the second half of San Antonio’s West finals-clinching victory in Game 6 over the Oklahoma City Thunder with a balky left ankle. Since the Spurs wrapped up the West title, the focus has been on whether or not Parker will suit up for Game 1 tomorrow. Parker talked with reporters after Tuesday’s practice and assured the masses that he will be active for Game 1:
Tony Parker plans to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs open their rematch with the Miami Heat on Thursday, and their star point guard is nursing a balky left ankle.
“He’s getting better every day, and I expect him to play,” coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday.
Parker aggravated the injury Saturday, missing the second half of San Antonio’s series-clinching victory over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
Parker didn’t practice Tuesday, but said he expects to be back Wednesday.
“I always try to be honest with Pop,” Parker said. “He knows, but if I’m 50 percent I’ll try to play. If I’m under 50 percent, we can argue.”
Parker conceded the ankle has bothered him since San Antonio’s second-round series against Portland, although he did not divulge it at the time.
“I don’t like to talk about when I’m hurt,” he said. “I played on it for the whole series against Portland. That’s why I think my hamstring got hurt because I was playing on a bad ankle.”
Parker had tightness in his left hamstring midway through the second quarter of Game 5 against the Trail Blazers, forcing him to miss the rest of the Spurs’ series-clinching victory.
He did not miss any of the Western Conference finals because of his hamstring. But he aggravated the ankle injury in Game 4 against Oklahoma City.
“I twisted it again, but didn’t say anything,” Parker said. “Played on it, and then Game 6 I think my body is like, `That’s enough.’ It’s perfect timing to get five days and to get better and to be ready for Game 1.”
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Good, in a split decision over bad. The best part of a return is making the championship round consistent with the first three rounds. The NBA playoffs used to have all as many quirks as MLB — first-round byes, 2-out-of-3, 3-out-of-5 — and no one really objected, but this is more true. Still, this potentially doubles the amount of travel and time-zone changes for both teams from start to finish in a 7-game Finals, a consideration even with charter flights. Good thing incoming commish Adam Silver has 20 years on David Stern – he might prefer 2-3-2 after bouncing back-and-forth for a few Finals himself.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Yes, it’s a good thing. First, it restores home court in what I think is a critical Game 5 to the team with the best record. Second, those three straight games in the middle put an almost unfair burden on a team to often need to win three in a row. Most important, it keeps the rhythm of every other series in the playoffs. This is the 21st century. Every team flies a luxury charter. Just have a shrimp cocktail, lean back and enjoy the ride.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Definitely a good thing. The reasoning for changing it to 2-3-2 back in the 1980s is outdated. Besides that, I object to a team having Games 6 and 7 at home. At the same time, I like the team holding homecourt advantage to play Game 5 on its floor. The 2-2-1-1-1 format just makes sense to me.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Bad. It all depends on the geography of the matchup. A San Antonio-Miami repeat isn’t brutal travel, and something like OKC-Indiana is even less of a strain. But imagine Clippers-Heat or any team from the Pacific Division or Portland playing anyone from the East Coast. Now imagine the schedule breaks bad and the travel is on the calendar as the one off day, and then the teams go back in the other direction with a quick turnaround, and then back again. This will negatively impact the caliber of play. That’s bad enough in the regular season. It should never happen in the Finals.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I understand the idea that the team with the better record should have a pivotal Game 5 on its home court, but I just don’t see the 2-3-2 format as unfair. It’s just the rule that’s in place and teams have to deal with it. Winning a championship is hard and it almost always requires a road win, whether you’re the higher seed or not. Selfishly, I don’t like the idea of crossing the country five or six times to cover a seven-game series. And I’m not sure that’s best for the players and the quality of the competition either.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m easy, I love The Finals in whatever format they use. It could be 2-3-2, 2-2-1-1-1 or 1-1-1-1-1-1-1. When you’re getting the best of the best, the cream of the NBA crop from both sides of the conference divide, the format is of little concern to me. They could play on outdoor courts in the middle of nowhere and I’d want to see it. I do think it’s time for a change, though. Whatever travel concerns there were a generation don’t matter these days. Besides, the format for the other rounds is 2-2-1-1-1 and that seems to work just fine. It should be good enough for The Finals, too.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Is neither a choice? I honestly don’t think it matters all that much. Either way, the team with the better record gets to play four games at home and the team with the worse record hosts three games. And sure, perhaps the 2-2-1-1-1 format means more travel for the teams, and definitely for the assorted media covering the event, but free Skymiles with the end of the season just around the corner never stopped anyone from covering as many games as they needed to cover.
Aldo Aviñante, NBA Philippines: I think it will be good to go back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format — it’ll just make The Finals more exciting. The structure of the format will probably push the Finals to more Game 7s. If a team is in an elimination game for Game 6, the home team will have a better chance to extend the series to the limit.
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Changing The Finals format back to a 2-2-1-1-1 is a good idea and I think it will lead to more Game 7s. Three consecutive home games were a huge plus for the team without the home-court advantage — a chance to make amends for mistakes on the road and change the momentum. Obviously, going back and forth in the final three games could be a further challenge for the teams, but I think it will make The Finals more unpredictable.
After 29 years of staging its championship round in a 2-3-2 format of home/road games, the NBA is considering a return to the 2-2-1-1-1 system used for The Finals prior to 1985 and still used for all earlier playoff rounds.
The league’s competition committee voted to recommend the switch to the Board of Governors, which is expected to approve the move at its meetings Oct. 22-23. Still to be determined: whether the change would take effect for The Finals this June or wait till 2015. The committee’s recommendation was first reported by the Boston Herald Sunday.
“The idea was raised at the competition committee and was well-received,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Sunday, “and the committee ultimately unanimously voted to recommend the change in format.”
The 2-3-2 format was adopted for the championship round in 1985, after three consecutive Finals – and nine in a span of 10 years – had played across three time zones. Six of those nine had gone at least to Game 6, requiring additional coast-to-coast travel at a time when even the teams flew commercially.
A relatively new commissioner (David Stern began his term on Feb. 1, 1984) was aware of the demands on demands on players, coaches and staff. Stern also was keen to marketing issues, and the increased expense to newspapers and other traditional media in booking extra flights. Now NBA teams travel via charter flights. Many traditional news outlets no longer cover The Finals, a nod to their own industry’s economic woes rather than travel costs.
Also, the 2-3-2 format has its own issues. First, it veers dramatically from the staging of home/road games used in the earlier rounds. Second, the higher-seeded team, which begins The Finals at home, has what some have considered a homecourt disadvantage through five games.
Through the years, many have debated the psychological edges and pressures facing both clubs. Is it tougher for the higher-seeded team to know that, if it loses Game 1 or 2, the series might not return to its city? Or does the lower-seeded team face a greater burden at home, considering how difficult it is to beat a Finals opponent three straight times?
A reversion to 2-2-1-1-1 at least would make the format consistent with the earlier rounds, seemingly a more legitimate way to determine a champion. For the record, since 1985 the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) have won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) in the 2-3-2 format. In the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984 (including some played with alternating home games or even 2-3-2 in the 1950s), the higher-seeded teams went 26-12 (.684).
By NBA.com staff reports
A classic Finals ended with a classic Game 7. LeBron James cemented his place in NBA history scoring 37 points as the Heat captured a second-straight NBA title with a 95-88 Game 7 win over the Spurs. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 7 coverage.
SAN ANTONIO – It was business as usual at the San Antonio Spurs’ practice facility on the morning of Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich enlightened the assembled media for all of 57 seconds after shootaround and spouted about half as many words.
Turnovers, Pop, how much of an emphasis have you put on keeping them closer to four as in Game 1 as opposed to 17 as in Game 2?
“We didn’t talk about turnovers at shootaround,” Popovich said.
How about ball movement, Pop, how do you keep your precision passing game sharp to create open looks for your shooters? “You pass the ball,” Popovich said, “expeditiously.
“Any other questions?”
One giant one is how San Antonio’s Big Three will bounce back from an awful Game 2. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to go 10-for-33 from the floor with nine turnovers.
“I expect them to play better than they did last game, obviously,” said Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green, who is 9-for-14 from beyond the arc in the first two games. “A big bounce back? Yeah, I’m hoping for it. … Timmy wasn’t too happy with himself, he’s coming in and getting extra shots, Tony as well, coming in and getting extra shots. Manu, they all have pride in themselves. There’s a reason why they’ve won in the past, they’re competitors, they compete and they’re perfectionists, so they’re going to continue to work until they get things right and get them perfect.”
One issue is creating more space for Parker to operate. The Heat threw different looks at him in Game 2, crowding him and taking away lanes. Green said the Spurs have to set better screens and re-screen to help pop Parker free and allow him to better challenge Miami’s big men inside.
Parker smiled and said he’s not worried.
“I’ll figure it out,” Parker said. “That’s what players do, you have to figure it out and that’s my intention, to play better and figure it out. I can play better, I can make quicker decisions. As a team we can all help each other out.”
Defensively, the Spurs — primarily Kawhi Leonard and Green — have done a good job guarding LeBron James, limiting him to 18 and 17 points in the first two games, respectively, after he averaged 29.0 ppg in the East finals. Still, the MVP is averaging close to a triple-double (17.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 8.5 apg) and was key in the pick-and-roll with Mario Chalmers (team-high 19 points) during Miami’s massive 33-5 surge to run away with Game 2.
“You’re not going to limit a guy’s impact like that,” Green said. “A guy like Lebron James is the best player in the world for a reason. He impacts the game in so many different ways — defense, rebounding, passing, blocking shots. So far we’ve done a decent job on him. Yes, we’ve limited him from not scoring 30, 40 points, but he’s still impacted the game many different ways. We want to continue to do that, but also try to limit the role players from putting big numbers on us.”
MIAMI – The Spurs put forth a terrific effort in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, finishing with just four turnovers and winning 92-88. At Sunday morning’s shootaround heading into Game Two at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Spurs guard Tony Parker acknowledged that repeating that performance taking care of the ball will not be simple.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen again,” Parker said. “Miami is a very, very good defensive team, so they’re going to create turnovers. First game, I don’t remember a game where we had four turnovers. That was pretty good. If we can keep it under 10, that’s what we want. That’s a realistic number. I don’t think 4 is a realistic number.”
Turnovers aside, the Spurs feel as thought they can still improve from Game 1, particularly as they see the chance to go up 2-0 heading back to San Antonio, pointing out rebounding as an area of concern — they were outrebounded 46-37 in Game 1.
While the Heat are 10-0 in games after their lost 10 losses, and haven’t lost two straight since January 10th, it’s worth remembering that in this postseason, the Spurs are a combined 13-2, and they haven’t lost a game since May 12, in nearly a month.
“It’s a great opportunity, obviously, to try to get another one,” said Parker. “I think in this team we have enough experience to understand how valuable this opportunity is. And we realize it’s going to be tough. They’re going to play with a lot more energy. It’s always easier to bounce back after a loss. We just have to make sure we match their energy, try to keep it close, and see what happens in the fourth quarter.”
The Heat have spoken about playing with a little bit of fear as a motivating factor heading into Game 2, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pointed out that fear — rather, “appropriate” fear — is something the Spurs are intimately acquainted with.
“We’ve talked about appropriate fear for 18 years,” said Pop. “We believe in it. Appropriate fear basically equals respect for your opponent. Don’t take anything lightly. Nothing comes easy. And a little bit of fear is motivating. It doesn’t mean you’re scared or anything like that. It means you’re smart.”
And how do you determine what level is appropriate, Coach?
“You figure it out.”
From NBA.com staff reports
An incredible shot by Tony Parker with five seconds left in the fourth quarter propelled the San Antonio Spurs to victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 1 coverage.
SAN ANTONIO — Of course, Tim Duncan has changed since he entered the NBA 16 years ago.
Older and wiser.
Lighter and faster.
Let’s not say better for a 14-time All-Star with two MVP awards and four championships on his resume, but certainly very effective as he leads the Spurs into The Finals and a quest for a fifth title.
Yes, leads. For while this spring has been a long overdue coming-out party for point guard Tony Parker as perhaps the game’s best point guard, what the Spurs have achieved and how far they’ve climbed wouldn’t have been possible without the transformation of Duncan’s body and his game.
Coach Gregg Popovich calls him the Spurs “psychological foundation,” the one who makes everything possible.
But the fact Duncan can continue doing that at the advanced basketball age of 37 is what has raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. It is not like Duncan simply showed up in the fourth quarter of the clinching Game 6 in the conference semifinals against Golden State and made the plays that made the difference or he came out of nowhere to pull the Spurs’ wagon in overtime of the critical Game 2 win over Memphis in the Western Conference finals.
Playing 30.1 minutes per game in the regular season, most in three years, Duncan averaged 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game, numbers that were good enough to get him voted onto the All-NBA first team. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 39 in 1986 has been an older selection to the first team and the gap from 1998 to 2013 matches the 15-year span of excellence.
Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Duncan has averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while playing 34.4 minutes.
If the Spurs go on to defeat the Heat in The Finals, Duncan will have won championships in three different decades, an unprecedented feat.
“Timmy amazes me with his discipline on and off the court,” Popovich said. “A lot of people would like to be able to play a sport at that elite level for so many years, but what they don’t realize is the full commitment that it takes. It’s not about just playing games and working in every practice. It’s being mindful of everything that you put into your body. It’s being dedicated to doing all of the necessary things in the offseason so that you can show up perform during the season.”
As the years seemed to take a toll on the Spurs, there were changes that needed to be made. The team had been swept out of the playoffs by Phoenix in 2010, upset as the No. 1 seed by Memphis in the first round of 2011 and then built a 2-0 lead on Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals in 2012 and then was steamrolled by four straight losses.
While the team was making a strategic and stylistic change from a pound-it-inside, low-post offense of his early career to a step-on-the-gas transition attack fueled by Parker, Duncan knew that one of the biggest changes would have to come to himself.
Contrary to an image that has been wrongheadedly perpetuated by those who can’t look deeper than his emotionless expressions on the court, it was his passion for the game, his fiery, intense competitive nature that drove Duncan to remake his body.
“Anybody who doesn’t credit him that way is probably an idiot,” Popovich said.
Duncan spent the past two off-seasons dropping 25 pounds from his previous playing weight of 255 to 260 pounds and now looks positively lean, a loose collection of muscles and tendons.
“The last couple of years, my game has declined and changed,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to let it go. I wanted to play as well as I can, as long as I can.”
While the Spurs have steadily made their offensive shift toward Parker as centerpiece, they have always had Duncan as the main mast of their ship that keeps them sailing forward even while he did an extreme makeover of his body.
“That’s his passion for the game and that passion is part of what makes him such a great leader,” said forward Matt Bonner, who has been Duncan’s teammates since the 2006-07 season. “He sets a great example for everybody. He’s always putting in the work before practice, after practice, in the training room.
“He’s the utmost professional, has that drive, that passion. Considering everything he’s accomplished and considering the credibility he has in everyone else’s eyes in the game, you see that in him and it only makes you want to emulate it.”
On top of all the other challenges that come from aging, Duncan has performed at a steady, elite level all through a season when he knew his marriage was coming apart. It was revealed 10 days ago that his wife Amy has filed for divorce. Yet through it all, the intensely private man never gave even an inclination in public of his pain or his problems. Duncan merely went about delivering the kind of steady, solid performance that the Spurs have perennially expected, always needed to chase those championships and now he’s got them back on the doorstep for the first time since 2007.
“It’s been a long time, and I know what the struggle is,” Duncan said. “I know the luck you have to have, the health you have to have, the team you have to have, all that stuff that has to go into it to make it back here.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect about these years. My game has changed, and my role is different on this team. It’s kind of reverted a little bit over the last however many games, and I’m being called on a little more.
“I love playing and I’m going to miss it when I’m gone. So I’m enjoying every minute. I know my time is running short here. Every minute I’m on the court — practice, whatever it might be — I’m enjoying being here.”