MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 June) – It’s a relief that the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona is finally over. Now Filipino NBA fans like me can focus on enjoying the exciting conference finals that will determine the two teams that will get to play the championship series.
The outcomes so far in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals have taken similar turns. In the Eastern Conference the Miami Heat grabbed two straight games at home, but the Boston Celtics managed to bounce back to even the series at 2-2. In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma Thunder also won two successive games at home after losing two games on the road against four-time champion San Antonio Spurs.
For the Spurs-Thunder playoff, it’s basically youth versus experience. Thunder’s offensive players – Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook – are hard to contain with their all-around game. They can handle the ball and shoot from any distance and angle, including from beyond the arc.
With his skill, fast legs and long arms, Durant in particular poses a problem to the Spurs’ defense. He is a clutch shooter too. Harden and Westbrook on the other hand never hesitate to take perimeter shots or drive to the basket.
In the first two games in the Western Conference finals, the Spurs looked overpowering with the explosive performance of Tim Duncan and wily guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Put three defenders against Parker, and he can still daze them with his unpredictable moves and patented “teardrop” shots. And never underestimate Ginobili’s uncanny ability to slip past defenders like a ghost. No wonder that coach Gregg Popovich would simultaneously field Parker and Ginobili in crucial minutes to give the opponent a bigger headache.
But with the series now tied at 2-2, the past statistics will hardly matter. Hunger will be the main factor. Will the veteran Spurs fight to the last man to barge into another championship series and possibly win their fifth title? Or will Thunder coach Scott Brooks be able to motivate his wards to fight tooth and nail for a first finals appearance?
The “hunger factor” also holds true for the Heat and Celtics. I have no doubt that Lebron James has always dreamt of wearing a championship ring, or that Olympian Dwyane Wade wants another title for the team after getting it in 2006 together with Shaquille O’Neal.
However, the storied Celtics proved in Games 3 and 4 that they are no has-beens. Point guard Rajon Rondo has pushed the limits with his superb court generalship. His clever assists remind one of Larry Bird’s inimitable no-look passes. But their tall players have difficulty matching up with the Heat’s big men in the paint. Thus even Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett prefer to score from the medium range most of the time.
Fortunately for them, the Celtics’ zone defense has worked wonders, offsetting their deficiency in a man-to-man matchup with the bigger Heat lineup. But Doc Rivers needs to remind his boys that they have to overcome their bad habit of giving up unnecessary and unwise fouls. Mickael Pietrus in particular needs to be more disciplined in his defensive chores; he easily bites the fakes thrown at him.
Let’s see what happens in Game 5. Like Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales did during the impeachment trial, the teams may yet spring a surprise or two. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno is rooting for the Boston Celtics. He can be reached at email@example.com)