Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 19th 2014 Contents A62
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 19, 2014
To get another shot at LeBron James,
the San Antonio Spurs may have to go
through Dirk Nowitzki, then Dwight
Howard and James Harden, and finally
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Survive all that, and maybe they can
avenge last year's NBA Finals heartbreak.
"There's definitely that burning desire in
the back of your mind that really wants to
get back there," Spurs guard Patty Mills
They get started tomorrow, right before
James and the Miami Heat begin what they
hope is a run to a third straight champi-
onship. Miami's path seems much easier,
but James' team also appears more vulnerable
than the one that was an overwhelming
favorite in last year's playoffs.
Maybe that was boredom, though. Count
on the Heat to pick it up now.
"This is why we're all here," Heat forward
Shane Battier said. "The regular season is
great and all, but this is the fun part. You
wake up and you're excited for the challenge
of the playoffs."
It begins today with four games: The top-
seeded Indiana Pacers host the Atlanta
Hawks, and the Brooklyn Nets visit the
Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference,
while the West series openers include the
Golden State Warriors at the Los Angeles
Clippers, and the Oklahoma City Thunder
against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Tomorrow, No 1 overall seed San Antonio
opens against the Dallas Mavericks, right
before Miami welcomes the Charlotte Bob-
cats. Washington at Chicago, and Houston
hosting Portland round out the action.
The finals came to a thrilling conclusion
last year, with the Heat rallying from a five-
point deficit in the last 28 seconds of reg-
ulation to win Game 6. They went on to
take a tight Game 7, helped when Tim Dun-
can missed over Battier from point-blank
range, as San Antonio fell to its first loss in
five NBA Finals appearances.
Many thought that was the last chance
for the Spurs' core of Duncan, Tony Parker
and Manu Ginobili. Instead, San Antonio
won a league-high 62 games in perhaps the
franchise's finest all-around season.
Even the Spurs are impressed with the
way they left disappointment behind, but
all that matters now is what's ahead.
"We are No 1 overall and can't be better
than that. But it doesn't mean anything,"
Ginobili said. "The playoffs start from
And it starts against a Dallas team the
Spurs have beaten nine straight times.
"Eventually," Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki
said, "we will win one."
Miami lost 14 of its final 25 games, often
while playing without Dwayne Wade, and
finished two games behind the Pacers. For-
mer NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy picks Indi-
ana to win the East, in part because the
Heat aren't as intimidating as they were a
"They have a lot of guys who are not in
their prime right now and their ability to
consistently play well individually is just
not there," Van Gundy said on Thursday
during a conference call. "If they didn't
have some of those health issues, they'd be
If another Spurs-Heat finals happen again,
San Antonio would get the decisive game
at home this time---though that may not
even come into play if the Spurs have to
face either the Rockets or Thunder, who
both went 4-0 against them.
Every series in the West could be a
slugfest, which would make the playoffs no
different than the regular season. The East
has a sub-.500 Atlanta team along with
postseason novices such as Charlotte and
Washington, potentially making things easier
for the Heat and Pacers.
But Toronto, Chicago and Brooklyn all
compiled better records since January 1 than
Indiana and Miami, and will try to prevent
the Eastern Conference finals matchup that's
been expected since November.
The Spurs have been hoping for another
finals shot ever since walking off the court
in Miami where they were so close to victory
in Game 6 that workers had already begun
preparations for the celebration.
"We could have easily fell in a hole and
let last year's loss kill us," Spurs forward
Kawhi Leonard said. "But we got back men-
tally together and trying to get the same
goal accomplished." (AP)
....Can they survive West?
series billed as
OAKLAND---Forget the Showtime Lakers or the
Sacramento Kings of past decades.
There's a flashy brand of basketball being played
by a new pair of rising California rivals. The alley-
oops in Lob City, the deep three-pointers by the
so-called Splash Brothers, and the overall bitterness
between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State
Warriors should make for one of the most enter-
taining matchups in the first round of the NBA
The Clippers---Lob City---host Game 1 today,
and whether the high-octane style and three-point
prowess both teams possess can carry either to a
championship---this year or in the future---remains
to be seen.
Those Kings teams, dubbed The Greatest Show
on Court on a 2001 Sports Illustrated cover, never
even made the NBA Finals. Neither did the high-
scoring Phoenix Suns with two-time MVP Steve
Nash at the point. The Run TMC Warriors under
Don Nelson never reached the conference finals.
In an age when the pace typically slows down
in the playoffs and offenses get bunched in half-
court sets, the Clippers and Warriors are trying to
speed it up and spread it out.
"It will be a fun matchup," Clippers guard Jamal
Crawford said. "It's two teams who are both exciting
and both love to get up and down the court."
The high-flying frontcourt of Blake Griffin and
DeAndre Jordan, coupled with point guard Chris
Paul and 3-point shooters all over the roster make
the Clippers a fan-pleasing spectacle. Los Angeles
led the NBA in scoring this season, averaging 107.9
points per game.
The quick-shooting Splash Brothers, Stephen
Curry and Klay Thompson for Golden State, are
as dangerous a scoring tandem as the league has
ever seen. They combined to make 484 3-pointers
this season---eclipsing their NBA record of 483 set
last season---and showed in the playoffs a year ago
how tough they are to cover when they get going.
"The greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history,"
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has repeatedly labeled
What both coaches believe separates their
teams---and often gets lost in the shoot-first-and-
shoot-often approach---is the importance they
place on defence.
The Warriors held opponents to 43.6 per cent
shooting, tied with Oklahoma City for third-best
in the league---though Golden State's defense could
be hampered with center Andrew Bogut out with
a broken right rib. Opponents shot 44.1 per cent
against the Clippers, ranking fifth.
The Clippers and Warriors also have something
rare these days: Real animosity that could fuel
"They hate one another," said former Indiana
Pacers guard and current TV analyst Reggie Miller.
The last major squabble came in Golden State's
win on Christmas Day in Oakland, where Griffin
and Warriors reserve Draymond Green were ejected
and Bogut had dust-ups with Griffin and Paul.
This season, the Clippers even refused to hold
pregame chapel with the Warriors in Los Ange-
les---something every other team does in the league.
The verbal accusations heated up again on the
air waves this week when Thompson was asked
to describe Griffin's tactics. He said the Clippers'
All-Star forward is "out of control" and compared
him to a "bull in a china shop."
"Like how can a guy that big and strong flop
that much?" Thompson told KGMZ.
The teams have been in the Pacific Division since
1978, when the Clippers played in San Diego. They
have never met in the playoffs---until now. (AP)
Can Spurs get
back at Heat?
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) passes between San Antonio Spurs' Boris Diaw (33), of
France, and Manu Ginobili (20), of Argentina, during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA
Finals, in San Antonio last June. A rematch of last year's thrilling NBA Finals finish is
possible, but the Spurs and Heat would have to get through tough paths to get there.
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