Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2013-2014 NBA Finals Recap (sport, gambling)

Some people may have already forgotten about it, but the San Antonio Spurs won this season's NBA championship only two weeks ago! It capped off what might have been the biggest weekend in modern sports history when factoring in the importance of the events played, with the NBA Finals, NHL Finals, US Open (golf), and World Cup all going on. That was followed by more World Cup action, the start of Wimbledon, as well as one of the most hyped NBA drafts in a long time. June has just been an incredible month for sports, and I wanted to wrap up my thoughts on the NBA Finals before the the finals of the World Cup and Wimbledon come along.

The series was rather anti-climactic, so there isn't much to analyze in more depth. Let's start by looking back at my predictions from my NBA Finals preview.

"Both are excellent coaches, and while Miami has the best player in the series, the Spurs are much deeper and will be more pliable for different coaching strategies. I give the edge to the Spurs here just because they have more options and looks they can go with."

That was pretty spot on. While last year featured an amazing back and forth chess match between the coaches, the Miami Heat just didn't have enough pieces for Spoelstra to fire back with.

"Prediction: San Antonio 4-3
Possible bets: Bet San Antonio to win the series 4-1. Current price around +375, which represents pretty good value. While the series seems pretty even, I can see San Antonio winning easily if their league-leading bench outperforms at home while they steal one on the road."

The series wasn't really that even, but this value bet did cash as the Spurs had 9 players who consistently made significant contributions throughout the series.

"The Key Players (who will need to step up): Dwyane Wade, Boris Diaw, Rashard Lewis"

The player who obviously stood out was Diaw, who made his way into the starting lineup midway through the series and almost had a triple double in one game. While Kawhi Leonard deservedly won the Finals MVP, Diaw stepping up was the key piece that solidified that the Spurs could handle whatever Miami threw at them. Wade played well to start, but he was clearly gassed towards the end of the series. Diaw was an effective defender against him, as his height and reach advantage bothered Wade while Wade couldn't overpower him like LeBron could. Like Wade, Lewis shot well to start the series, but didn't do enough to make San Antonio change what they were doing.

Last year, I wrote that "A 5th championship would probably have cemented [Tim Duncan's] status as the greatest player of his generation." I still think that this is true, and even though most of the attention was on the Spurs' pretty offense and Leonard and Diaw, Duncan played his usual consistently excellent game, averaging 15.4 points and 10 rebounds in only 33 minutes per game in the finals.

But in my mind, the one person whose legacy was truly cemented in this win was coach Gregg Popovich. He finally managed to do the one thing that Bill Belichick hasn't yet been able to. Much has been made about the similarities between the two, from leadership style to adherence to fitting players into their "system", and their terse interaction with the media. But to me, there's one similarity that stands out and separates them from all the other top coaches in their respective sports, and that is their ability to win using two completely different approaches. Both coaches accomplished their initial dynastic run of championships with defense-oriented teams, but then each of their respective leagues began to adopt rules that were clearly designed to increase scoring and favor the offense. In my mind, the ability of both coaches to then create scoring juggernauts to win is truly remarkable. But only Popovich has managed to come through with a championship after radically changing his team's style, edging him above other venerated coaches such as the aforementioned Belichick and Pat Riley (who won with the showtime Lakers, but also took the physical, defensive minded Knicks to the NBA Finals).

1 comment :

Memphis MOJO said...

Good NBA analysis both before and after.