Tuesday, October 13, 2020

NBA Finals

 Lots of folks were unhappy with the NBA this year, but I really liked their bubble.  Basketball tournaments are often played on a single neutral court, and the quality of the games was generally quite high.  The biggest problem was the fact that no one in the bubble -- or in the Association, for that matter, could really give the Lakers much of a contest.  The Heat was the only team to win two games against L.A., and the series wasn't that close:

09/30/2020:  Los Angeles 116 - 98 Miami
10/02/2020:  Los Angeles 124 - 114 Miami
10/04/2020:  Miami 115 - 104 Los Angeles
10/06/2020:  Miami 96 - 102 Los Angeles
10/09/2020:  Los Angeles 108 - 111 Miami
10/11/2020:  Miami 93 - 106 Los Angeles

In a tight NBA series, the winner is usually the team that wins the close games.  In this series, Miami won the only game that was settled by less than five points.  The Lakers won their games by 18 points, 10 points, six points, and 13 points.  Not much drama.

For most of the world, of course, the big story here was LeBron James's fourth NBA title in 10 trips to the finals.  Here is his finals record by team:

Cleveland:  1-4
Miami:  2-2
Los Angeles:  1-0

I still think Michael Jordan was a greater player than LeBron, but I can certainly understand why others would draw a different conclusion.

But for those of us who root for the Kentucky Wildcats, LeBron was not the biggest story of the NBA playoffs.  That honor belonged to Anthony Davis, my all-time favorite Kentucky player.  Personally, I think Davis is the greatest UK basketball player in history, and he is now the only Kentucky Wildcat to win an NCAA Title, an NBA Title, and an Olympic Gold Medal.  LeBron learned what those of us who root for Kentucky have long known -- he is not only a spectacular talent, he is the perfect teammate.  Here were his stats in 21 playoff games this year:

27.7 points per game
9.7 rebounds per game
3.5 assists per game
182-299 from 2-point range (60.3 percent)
23-60 from 3-point range (38.3 percent)
149-179 from the line (83.9 percent)

Davis is 26 years old, and I can think of no higher praise than to compare him to the 27-year-old version of Larry Bird, who played for the 1984 Celtics.  Here were Bird's playoff statistics that year:

27.5 points per game
11.0 rebounds per game
5.9 assists per game
222-420 from 2-point range (52.9 percent)
7-17 from 3-point range (41.2 percent)
167-190 from the line (87.9 percent)

The fact that Davis's stats are so similar to Bird's shows just how spectacular he was.

I also want to give a shout-out to Rajon Rondo, another all-time favorite of mine.  I have always thought he was underrated, and I was really happy to see him get so much praise.  And let's not forget Laker coach Frank Vogel (B.A., University of Kentucky 1998), who was a student manager for the 1995 Wildcats.  GO BIG BLUE!

But the best part of the NBA Finals took place after the last game, when someone tweeted out a picture of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with a reminder that the Warriors -- who were laid up with injuries after winning the Western Conference five times in a row -- will be back next year.  All of us want to see a healthy Warriors team (even without Kevin Durant) take on the Lakers.  And let's hope that it happens in fronts of lots and lots and lots of cheering fans.


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