Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
With the Conference Finals, the NBA proved it is the hottest show in town, not only killing the NHL ratings-wise but in excitement as well. When a longtime hockey fan and NBA neophyte like myself would rather watch either conference final matchup than the Stanley Cup Finals, you know something’s a little off about the NHL, but something’s very right about the NBA. Recaps and finals predictions after the jump.
Grading the Conference Finals
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction: Spurs in 6
Actual Result: Thunder in 6
The way this series began, it seemed like my prediction might be wrong, not in which team I’d chosen, but in how long the series might last. The Spurs, with the help of the officials and Manu Ginobili’s Italian soccer flopping, won the first two games without much trouble, and looked to be continuing their dominant reign as the best team in basketball. Then OKC head coach Scotty Brooks figured out what every commentator and ninety percent of the fans already had: Derek Fisher can’t guard anyone, so defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha needed to be put on Tony Parker at all teams. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant hit big shots, and James Harden hit even bigger ones, and the Thunder turned into a younger, faster, more explosive version of the Spurs, countering San Antone’s twenty straight wins with four straight of their own. When the Heat came together, no matter how much their arrogance and sense of entitlement may have turned people off, basketball fans wanted to see something like what the Thunder have been doing from the Heat’s Big Three. Now it looks like Durant, Westbrook and Harden are the Biggest Three.
(2) Miami Heat vs (4) Boston Celtics
Prediction: Heat in 6
Actual Result: Heat in 7
My prediction for the Heat winning in six was optimistic; after I made the prediction I thought Boston’s age, Rondo’s unpredictability, and the Heat’s Duke-like ability (via Shane Battier) to make offensive foul calls materialize from the ether might make it so that the Heat took this one even more quickly than that. Instead, Boston had a chance to take it in game six and it took a LeBron performance for the ages (45 points, 15 boards, 5 assists) to keep the Heat in the series. The Celtics’ stamina finally gave in about halfway through the final game. The old Big Three loses to the new Big Three; now the Heat will be going up against the newer Big Three.
Conference Finals Average Grade: C-
NBA Finals Prediction
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (2) Miami Heat
The way I see it, this is the Thunder’s series to lose. There’s more pressure on Miami due to LeBron’s presence, and the fact that the Heat made it this far last year and it wasn’t good enough. This is the Thunder’s first trip to the dance, and they’ve made a constant progression as a young, developing team: make the playoffs, nearly upset the Lakers; make the conference finals, lose to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks; make the finals. No one will hold it against them if they lose, which is why they’re more likely to win. That, and the fact that beyond their three budding superstars, they have role players that can do things other than Duke-flop in the lane (I’m looking at you again, Bane Shattier). Even though Kevin Durant is not a better all-around player than LeBron James, which one of them would you rather have in this series? I thought so.
Prediction: Thunder in 6
There you have it. See you again after the Finals, when LeBron thinkpieces will dominate every website and publication that even touches on sports. I already have my ideas ready. What are yours? Whatever the silliest, most obscure idea that gets left in the comments for the LeBron thinkpiece sweepstakes wins me trying to write it.