And with a blocked 3-point attempt from Derrick Rose last night, we have our NBA Finals matchup set.
I watched the fourth quarter of Game 5, and was struck by how similar it was to Game 5 in the Dallas/OKC series. Young team is up late, the lead seems fairly insurmountable, and the veterans get it done, closing on a huge run to win it all.
LeBron hounded Derrick Rose into a 1-10 shooting night, including blocking that series-clinching 3-point attempt.
James also held Rose to 6.3% shooting in the series when guarding him directly.
Six point three percent? Holy moley!
The rest of the Bulls were no better. Boozer made one of his six shot attempts. Deng was 6-17. Ronnie Brewer was the only Bull to shoot near 50%, and hit four of his five, including a huge 3-pointer late to give the Bulls a (presumably) comfortable lead.
When Ronnie Brewer is your best shooter, you know things are going poorly.
Up until the last five minutes, no one for the Heat was playing well, but LeBron added two deep shots, Wade hit one and got to the hoop at will and that was that. This game demonstrates the amazing utility of great defense. If your shots aren't falling and you can't stop anyone, you're going to lose by 20. But if your shots aren't falling and you can lock down your opponent, you'll be in position to win the game. The Heat only scored 83 points on 39% shooting as a team, horrible numbers. But they held the Bulls to 80 points on 35% shooting, so they are on their way to the Finals.
Want to read a bitter and sarcastic take on the Heat making it to the Finals? You're in luck!
As a mini Finals preview, what strikes me the most is the lack of young talent on either team.
Dallas has Dirk (13 years), Kidd (17! years), Terry (11 years), Peja (13 years), Marion (12 years), Haywood (10 years), Chandler (10 years). Even DeShawn Stevenson has been in the league for 11 seasons now. J.J. Barea is the youngest player to get any playing time for the Mavs, and he's got five years under his belt now.
The Heat run out James, Bosh, Wade, James Jones and Haslem (all at eight years now), Mike Miller (11 years) and Mike Bibby (12 years). Joel Anthony is their lone young gun getting time in the playoffs (four years).
That is a whole lot of combined experience for both teams. I give the edge to Dallas in this area, as head coach Rick Carlisle has coached 1,181 regular season games (60% winning record) and 93 playoff games (52% win percentage).
I admit not knowing much about Rick besides the fact that he looks like Jim Carrey.
It's not like he's bounced around a lot, either. He's coached for the Pistons, Pacers and Mavericks. He doesn't make the news for being a great coach or a terrible coach. He's not the Bobby Knight type or the legendary type like Jerry Sloan or Greg Popvich. He just keeps on keepin' on, taking his teams to the playoffs sometimes and winning more than he loses.
In contrast, Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra might as well be a teenager. He has 246 regular season games under his belt (60% win rate) and 27 playoff games (59% win rate).
Anyway, this should be a great series between two teams that know how to win. Wade might have the edge here, being the only star with a ring, though I don't imagine Dirk or James will choke here. They've shown great poise in finishing off good teams to get to this point, and I expect barnburners from Game 1 on. You hear me? Barnburners!