Re-watching game 1, thoughts before game 2 and why tonight affects LeBron’s legacy

Photo by D. E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by D. E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

By Joe Manganiello

In the hours before game two, I decided to revisit game one – a phenomenal game – to pinpoint what would be most consequential in the NBA Finals second installment.

With the help of my Twitter followers (some friends and some strangers) here’s what I’m looking for tonight.

Amidst rumors that he might be on the move to Charlotte or someplace else this summer, Bosh threw up yet another stinker in game one. Bosh was the 13th highest paid player in the game this season; he’s practically seven-feet-tall; and often finds himself on the court with two of the 25-30 greatest basketball players of all-time. He can’t be giving Miami 13 points and 5 rebounds on 6 of 16 shooting from the field. He has to give them more than that.

Solution: Bosh needs to purchase property on the foul line. Zero foul shot attempts over the final 45 minutes of a game is embarrassing. No wonder why Miami is interested in turning Bosh (17 million dollars per year) into Otto Porter Jr. or Anthony Bennet on a rookie scale.

How would I use Bosh? I’d (1) never let him set up from beyond the foul line; (2) make him shoot/drive immediately after catching the ball; and (3) feature him regularly. An aggressive Chris Bosh looking for mid-range jump shots and 1 on 1 match-ups inside the arc against Boras Diaw, Tiago Splitter and the much older Tim Duncan sure beats the hell out of a sullen, uninvolved Bosh who is only looking for 24-footers. It’s when LeBron James and company forget about Bosh on offense that he becomes useless on both ends of the court. He certainly is a capable defender but his inability to rebound for his position make him a liability. It’s his offense that justifies playing him 35+ minutes in this series. But he doesn’t create offense for anyone else (1 assist in game one), he doesn’t move well without the ball (when’s the last time Bosh was compared to Karl Malone in the pick-and-roll game?) and is a horrid offensive rebounder.

Sidebar:

Chris Bosh has 19 offensive rebounds this post-season in 17 games. Compare that to Roy Hibbert, who posted 90 offensive rebounds in 19 games (4.74 per game), or Joakim Noah, who collected 52 offensive rebounds in 12 games (4.33 per game). Even Brook Lopez, who for the record is NOT A GOOD REBOUNDER, grabbed 29 offensive rebounds in seven games, a respectable 4.14 per game. Claiming Chris Bosh as the worst rebounding forward of his generation has to be in play, if it wasn’t already, which it probably was.

End Sidebar.

Danny Green went 4 for 9 from behind the arc in game one, and I expect that to continue if Wade keeps unapologetically failing on defensive assignments like this:

Oh, and this too:

Not only is Danny Green a stud defender who is well-equipped enough to handle Dwyane Wade at 70 percent (or less), but Green’s perimeter shot might just be the most important factor in this series.

A 63-50 Spurs run in the final 32 minutes, which included holding the Heat to 16 points in the fourth quarter, has to be the story of the game. Wow. Even crazier is that San Antonio didn’t really play well. Look at the final quarter. They shot terribly, continued their subpar rebounding figures and scored just 23 points. Sure, Miami (probably) won’t score 16 points in a fourth quarter again this series, but I’m not sure the Spurs will shoot that poorly again either.

I’ll keep my comments brief here, as officiating is touchy for me. I’ve umpired baseball for close to a decade, so I know it’s a million times tougher than it looks. But I dare you to watch this video and subsequently not care even a little bit that Joey Crawford’s officiating a Spurs game… in the NBA finals!!!

One guarantee I’ll make: Duncan could maul a pair of Heat players (unless its LeBron), plus a fan and proceed to punt the basketball into the rafters, and there is a 0 percent chance Crawford ejects Duncan tonight.

Duncan had two fouls by the 1:43 mark in the first quarter, and Kawhi Leonard had two fouls by the 11:25 mark in the second quarter. Seeing as though A) LeBron makes a living driving to the basket, B) Leonard is the primary Spurs defender on LeBron and C) Duncan plays near the basket, it spelled trouble for San Antonio that arguably the two most important defensive players on their team were in foul trouble so early. But Duncan’s third foul didn’t come until 3:53 to play in the third quarter and Leonard didn’t pick up another foul in the game. Duncan actually finished with just four fouls.

And Miami’s three best players went an unexceptional 7 of 10 from the foul line.

I’ve been defending Erik Spoelstra around my peers all season, claiming him as one of the best coaches in the game. But he needs, not should or could, but NEEDS to stress to LeBron, Wade and Bosh that getting to the foul line and chipping at the Spurs depth is their best weapon against a team designed to defeat them.

The underestimation of the century would be that tonight’s game doesn’t mean a thing to LeBron’s legacy. Coupling the improbability of the Spurs blowing a 2-0 lead in a series with the historic improbability of any Finals team blowing a 2-0 lead would make it difficult to believe the Heat would be able to come back from a loss tonight. Not when the next three games are in San Antonio.

But that’s all about Miami. What about LeBron? It’s no secret that he has had the greatest season of his career, that he was the catalyst of a team that rattled off a 27-game winning streak and who hasn’t lost two games in a row since January. It’s his defensive evolution that has turned him into the best two-way player since Michael Jordan (and now almost unquestionably the best player since MJ, period). But a failure in this year’s NBA Finals would make LeBron 1-3 for his career in late-June. To avoid actualizing that statistic, LeBron needs more from his supporting cast. That means the injury hampered but all-too-often seemingly uninterested Dwyane Wade; the woefully thin and tactful Chris Bosh; the usually clutch Mario Chalmers; and the array of shot-makers Pat Riley signed from Ray Allen to Norris Cole to Mike Miller to (from within five feet) Birdman.

I’ve gone on record of saying LeBron could be the perfect candidate to join Jerry West as the only players in NBA history to be the Finals MVP of a losing team. And while that was meant to be a positive mark on LeBron, that he is so special the league would have to recognize his play even if his team failed to secure a championship on the largest stage, the subtext of that prediction speaks just as loudly. After a decade-plus of basketball fans reaching further and further to try and compare LeBron to MJ, maybe LeBron is more accurately this centuries Jerry West: the unluckiest great player of his era.

LeBron needs to be special for Miami to win against this San Antonio team, and if LeBron was going to pick a night to be special, the last guaranteed home game of this series seems like a good start.

Follow me @joemags32. Tweet me, comment on my article and enjoy the NBA – Peace, love, recycle and ball.

 

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