The two-time NBA champion Miami Heat are wilting before our eyes.
They are being thoroughly outplayed by the San Antonio Spurs. What’s more disturbing is the champs are playing like mindless zombies, wandering aimlessly (in more ways than one) on their home court.
In the NBA Finals, they have been defeated, 110-95; 111-92, and 107-86, each game more boring than the last; each game more embarrassing than the last.
The Heat had gone 13 straight games in following a loss with a win. Thursday, they did not have an answer to Tuesday’s blowout. Great teams, even really good ones, respond to a pounding with a inspired effort. The Heat followed a clunker with a louder clunk — on their homecourt.
The Spurs are the best team. The Western Conference is the best conference.
Down 3-1 and faced with an almost impossible task, the Heat might regroup for a flurry but this series appears over. That whooshing sound you hear is the excitement leaving these finals with the Heat.
With precision, the Spurs have removed the heart of their opposition.
Lebron James is the only thing holding together some thread of competitive spark. As the superstar, he takes the hit. It’s not his fault. He has a weak and disjointed supporting cast. He is to the Heat what Tony Romo is to the Dallas Cowboys.
The debate about the greatness of Michael Jordan vs. that of James has reached an absurd stage.
James is one of the greatest pure athletes to play the game and he’s certainly among the greatest of the modern era.
What’s comical is many in the media seemingly don’t think there were great basketball players before 1980 or 1990.
In their eras and in leading their teams, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousey, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Julius Erving an Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were pretty darn good in another era, as instrumental to their teams’ winning as Lebron.
Lebron is great but the greatest ever? I can’t put him in the top five.
And, if Tim Duncan had played in the New York or LA media market, there would be a conversation about him.
In addition to the stars, this series is about role players.
In addition cornering the market on passion and heart, the Spurs have the best role players, possibly in NBA history.
And they are hungry. They think they should have won last year.
What the Spurs did Thursday night was a template on team basketball at its best.
That’s a good thing. It’s great for young people to watch how basketball should be played with every player knowing his role and how it changes on a given night.
Watch how the Spurs pass and how economical they are with their dribbles.
It’s refreshing to see in an era in which pro basketball has become giant one-on-one competitions.
As a team, the Spurs can grind and spit you out and look like they are having a lot of fun doing it.
We’re seeing how unselfishness, good preparation, teamwork and just plain desire — foundational in any sport — can trump age.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)