NEW CASTLE —
The Spurs victory in Sunday night's Game 5, wrapping up the NBA Finals, was little more than a foregone conclusion after the throttling they put on the Heat in Games 3 and 4.
If anyone doubted that the Spurs were the better team, Game 5 was an exclamation point. While Kawhi Leonard was the obvious choice for MVP after averaging around 20 points in the Finals and playing lockdown defense on LeBron James, the case could be made that there really was no MVP this year.
The Spurs were the epitome of team basketball, with no one player carrying the entire load, and every single player making huge contributions. Boris Diaw was flawless as a passer. Tony Parker was incredible as a catalyst. Manu Ginobli was the old Manu Ginobli, flying around and making play after play. And Tim Duncan was simply Tim Duncan, albeit a little bit slower if not wiser.
While Leonard certainly deserved his MVP, he was just one of maybe the best "team" ever.
•I don't make that last point lightly. There are some incredible examples of team basketball throughout the decades of the NBA. Going as far back as what's comfortable for my memory, the 1980s Detroit Pistons come to mind, as well as Larry Bird's Celtics teams and Magic Johnson's Lakers teams.
In the ’90s, Jordan's Bulls ruled the decade, before giving way to Kobe and Shaq's Lakers of the early 2000s. All of those mentioned were incredible teams with multiple championships and legendary status. But when you look at these Spurs, they completely flipped the script on what a championship team looks like, and they did it by beating the current example.
LeBron's Heat have been to four straight Finals, winning two. This would have been their third straight, but they ran into a team that has no star, but still absolutely destroyed them. The most recent example of how to build a championship winning team, just got beat by a team that did things completely different.
Instead of relying on go-to guy, or three go-to guys like the Heat, the Spurs just dominated the former best team in the world with the current best player in the world (James), and did it as unconventionally as possible. Add that on to the fact that they have now won five championships in the last 15 years, and you have one truly remarkable franchise.
•On the same subject, the Spurs really should have been champs last year, too, blowing a late five-point lead in Game 6 when Ray Allen made one of the most clutch, ridiculous shots you'll ever see in an NBA Finals game, or even on the playground in your local park. Without that shot, LeBron's Heat would have been 1-3, instead of 2-2 in the Finals, and LeBron's legacy would look much different in that light.
Leave it to Ray Allen to save LeBron's already shaky, at least in my opinion, legacy.
•Speaking of LeBron, his post-game handshake/hugs with the Spurs players were a little too joyful for my liking. I know that these guys know each other well from the Olympics and other arenas, but you just lost the NBA Finals in embarrassing fashion, I'd expect you to be more a bit more upset.
Of course, as if reading from a script on how to act, since he has no real human emotions that are readily apparent besides nervousness and an unbridled joy of losing, he sulked his way through the obligatory loser's press conference after the game. I obviously have no proof, but I would bet anything that he walked off that stage and laughed the rest of the way home.
I really think he has not a care in the world, and that losing the Finals was not a big deal to him.
•The Buccos briefly reached .500 before falling to the Marlins on Sunday, with an incredible streak of playing good baseball over the past 20 games or so. Even after losing Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano to injury, the starting pitching has somewhat stabilized with good performances from Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Vance Worley.
The hitting has also come to life as the dream outfield of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and the recently called-up Gregory Polanco have all been crushing the ball as of late. The one problem is that the bullpen has to get its act together, as they tried to blow two wins to the Marlins, giving up four runs in consecutive ninth innings, before finally truly blowing Sunday's game with three runs given up in the final two innings of that one.
However, if they can get things shored up, there is finally reason for optimism in the Pirate's season.