How fitting that these NBA Finals ended with the San Antonio Spurs winning the championship on the road.
The celebration was muted and whocaresified, barely any crowd noise tainting the ceremonies honoring a team that's made its way into the conversation with the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls in terms of basketball success, and of Eeyore, Les Nessman and Kelly Clarkson in terms of excitement.
The Spurs finished a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with an 83-82 win Thursday night that featured about as little entertainment value as it's possible to have in a game that finishes 83-82. The Cavs were in it in the final moments, but the Spurs had turned back Cleveland's reasonably spirited fourth-quarter rally -- three San Antonio players actually put their BlackBerrys down when the Cavs briefly took the lead -- and the end came down to whether the Spurs would miss free throws. They didn't.
Cleveland pulled within one when Damon Jones hit a meaningless three at the buzzer. This was a close game, but not that close, and about as thrilling as a well-prepared tax return.
There's value in a well-prepared tax return, of course. Let's not fall into the trap of hating the Spurs because they're boring. They're not always boring. They were pretty exciting when they were playing the Phoenix Suns in the second round, at least until the league's asinine suspensions of two Suns players took the air out of that series.
The Spurs are sort of the Zeligs of the NBA. They don't become their opponents, but they always seem to be no more or less exciting than their opponents.
Their opponents in these Finals had one exciting player, LeBron James, but the Cavaliers are a defense-first team that doesn't have nearly the complementary parts James needs to make the offense exciting beyond the occasional drive-and-dunk moment, when his athleticism can simply take your breath away.
At one point Thursday, James drove the baseline and dunked, and it looked like he could have dunked on a 12-foot basket if he'd wanted to. But beyond him the Cavaliers, like the rest of the Eastern Conference, didn't have the horses to compete with the Spurs.
Still, it's not the Spurs' business to be exciting. Their job is to win games and championships -- they've now won four in the last nine years -- not to become beloved beyond the boundaries of their hometown.
"I didn't think it could get any worse than Game 3," visibly shaken ABC analyst Jon Barry said at halftime of Game 4. "I really didn't."
Host Dan Patrick chimed in, "I know there are kids watching. There should be a warning label attached to some of the basketball that we've seen so far."
Actually, Dan, not too many kids were watching. Not too many anybodys were watching.
There's talk about where the Spurs fit in the NBA dynasty picture, though not too many people put them up there with the great Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams because they've never won consecutive titles and because when they do win they seem to be extremely competent rather than spectacularly great.
There's something spectacular about extreme competence. A tax preparer who has it rocks the house as long as it's your tax return. It just doesn't really play on TV, which explains why there's no such show as "America's Next Top CPA," although if there were, it would beat Spurs-Cavs in the ratings.
And be more fun.
At one point Thursday, ABC game analyst Mark Jackson was needling his partner and former coach Jeff Van Gundy for helming the team that had the lowest scoring average in NBA Finals history, the 1999 New York Knicks, who averaged a wan 79.8 points a game while losing in five to the Spurs.
Van Gundy: "We looked like the Phoenix Suns compared to this!"
There's also talk that the NBA should reorganize the playoffs, do away with the conferences and just seed everybody top to bottom, the better to wind up with the two best teams in the Finals. There was similar talk two years ago when the Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons in a series that looked dull at the time, before Spurs-Cavs plumbed new depths.
There wasn't similar talk last year, when Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat came from 2-0 down to beat the Dallas Mavericks, bringing some sparkle to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Be patient. The West has been dominating the East for the whole century in the NBA, but toward the end of the last one, the East dominated the West just as completely. Things will even out. The top two draft picks, almost certainly Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, are headed to Seattle and Portland, which bodes poorly for the Eastern Conference. Then again, the last time the top two draft picks both turned out to be great players was 1992.
This too shall pass, this era of the San Antonio Spurs clocking in and beating some hapless, dull Eastern Conference survivor. The Toronto Raptors are on the rise, for one thing, Bryan Colangelo the architect. He's the guy who built the Phoenix Suns.
It was just a few weeks ago that the NBA playoffs were pretty exciting, or have you already forgotten the Golden State Warriors' upset of the Dallas Mavericks, the first four games of that San Antonio-Phoenix tilt and even the Utah-Houston first-rounder that got Van Gundy fired by the Rockets?
The trend line isn't bad. The Spurs aside, more and more of the best teams play an uptempo game that would make for a pretty exciting Finals if we could ever get the Spurs and Pistons out of the way in the same year.
Don't worry, folks. Tim Duncan probably only has another five good years left.
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The blind squirrel report [PERMALINK]
We will now have a brief interlude of crowing by this column about its preseason prediction for the NBA Finals, which went as follows:
NBA Finals: San Antonio over Cleveland.
That brings to two this column's winning streak of perfectly prognosticating the championship of a major-sport league, a definition that allows us to skip the NHL, which was not predicted here. Surely you remember the Super Bowl pick in the 2006 NFL preview, and in case not here it is:
Super Bowl: Indianapolis over Chicago.
Who, I am moved to query, is your daddy?
Now you want to know this column's pick for the 2007 World Series so you can call your bookie, right? Well, be warned: Never wager actual money based on anything you've read here. But the pick was:
World Series: Detroit over Arizona
Eh. Could happen.
Previous column: Bud Selig vs. Jason Giambi
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