Czar’s Season Update

WEB-Czar's Update-Outlook-13NOV2013

Czar’s Finals Preview: Game 5

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty ImagesWith the 2013 Finals knotted at two games apiece, tonight’s Game 5 in San Antonio is pivotal for both sides.

After a surprisingly lackluster showing in Game 3, Miami came out firing on all cylinders in their 109-93 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night. The Heat’s Big 3 combined for 85 points on 37 of 64 shooting.

Most importantly, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who submitted sub-par performances over the first three games, came out determined and aggressive. Bosh pulled down 13 boards, and Wade’s stat line read 32 points, 6 boards, 4 dimes and 6 steals. As a team Miami shot 53% and outrebounded the bigger Spurs by 5.

Prior to tip-off on Thursday, most pundits were wondering about the health and effectiveness of Wade and Bosh. However, that storyline has since switched benches. Tony Parker’s hamstring and Manu Ginobili’s lack of production have gone under the microscope of speculation heading into the fifth 48.

Parker stated that his hamstring could tear at any time and that if this were the regular season he would take 10 days off to rest it. Manu is averaging only 7.5 ppg in the series and shooting a woeful 34.5%. On Thursday his +/- was -22, and at times he seemed out of the flow and a step slow.

Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe pattern that’s emerged in this seesaw series would have the Spurs winning comfortably tonight. Except for Game 1, the contests ended with lopsided 19, 36 and 16-point differentials.

In fact, the Spurs need this game more than Miami. Losing would put them in the almost impossible position of having to win the last two games in South Beach.

However, when the Heat’s Big 3 are functioning at full capacity they can be downright scary, and Game 4 was not a good sign for San Antonio. Coach Popovich will need his veteran Big 3 to play well in addition to getting solid contributions from Green and Leonard.

San Antonio must show Miami that Parker is effective and only partially limited and get a breakthrough game from Ginobili, because even with a Black & Silver victory tonight they still have to win one in Miami.

27 times the NBA Finals have been tied at 2-2, and the winner of Game 5 went on to win the title 20 times.

Expect both teams to come out ready to do battle tonight, with the Spurs fueled by a mix of hunger and desperation. After all, this could be the last time SA’s Big 3 play together in front of their home crowd.

Czar’s Finals Preview

Copyright NBAE 2012 - Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe 2013 NBA Finals kick off in Miami tonight, and as is the case in most championship rounds there are plots on top of subplots and buried storylines soon to be unearthed in the hot glow of the Ring Round.

The Heat and Spurs are worthy adversaries. Both are veteran teams that have been infused with a little bit of youth in key positions. Both have deep rosters with several stars and experienced guys coming off the bench. Both possess players who have competed in a number of important playoff games during their careers. Both boast excellent 3-point shooting capabilities. And both teams are led by outstanding coaches.

The Heat beat the Spurs twice this season, but how these teams performed in their two regular season meetings doesn’t carry much weight. Pop sent his core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back home to rest after a rough six-game road trip prior to the first game in Miami. And Spoelstra sat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in their second matchup.

A concern for the Spurs is that their almost 10-day layoff after sweeping Memphis in the WCF could hinder their performance in the finals – rest vs. rust.  It also remains to be seen how the Heat will hold up physically after a grueling 7-gamer against Indiana in the ECF.

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photos by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesWill these Finals be remembered as one of the best? After all, many hoops heads have both Tim Duncan and LeBron James on their all-time NBA starting five. One would have to go back to Magic vs. Larry and Michael vs. Magic to equal the historical mano-a-mano accomplishments of Duncan and James.

Wade and Bosh, Parker and Ginobili – which duo will come through when it really counts? We know that Wade has a bum knee and that Bosh twisted his ankle in the ECF. Can both or either of them produce at their career averages, or will they continue to struggle? Has Tony Parker elevated his game and gone from star to superstar this postpeason? Is Parker the second best player in this series?

Will second-year wingman Kawhi Leonard be able to slow LeBron down even a little? Which supporting cast will rise to the occasion? Will the inside presence of 6’11” Tiago Splitter and Duncan give the Heat the same kind of headaches that Indy’s bigs did in the last round?

A fifth ring could cement Coach Gregg Popovich’s (the longest tenured coach in both the NBA and all four big sports leagues) status as one of the all-time top 5 coaches in the league? How impressive would it be if San Antonio were to win the 2013 title 14 years after winning their first one with Pop?!

How will the fact that Miami has played so much heavily scrutinized basketball the past 30 months (3 straight Finals) affect them mentally and physically? And finally, is the world about to bear witness to the best basketball that 28-year-old, 10th-year 4X MVP LeBron James has ever played?

All the answers will be revealed over the next two weeks in what has the makings of a historic NBA Finals. San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat Game 1 will get underway at 9:00 PM ET on ABC.

Czar’s Playoff Preview

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: PACERS VS. HEAT GAME 7

Copyright 2013 NBAE - Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesNothing beats the pressure-packed excitement of a Game 7. Tonight the Indiana Pacers will try to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat in the last chapter of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals and transform this page turner of a series into one for the ages.

The surprisingly well-matched opponents have been alternating wins since Game 1. Top seed Miami finished with the best regular season record, 16½ games ahead of the Pacers. They were better than Indiana at just about everything, except rebounding and blocking.

But in the ECF the Heat have encountered a hungry team that’s not afraid of the reigning champs or league MVP LeBron James. The Pacers stepped into the ring with an apparent belief in their ability to beat the Heat at home, and they’ve been building confidence with each win since.

On Saturday the Pacers toppled King James & Co. in a decisive 91-77 Game 6 win. Now the Pacers can taste the franchise’s first-ever finals appearance.

Roy Hibbert and David West have been the difference for Indiana. Though many have identified Miami’s small size as a chink in their armor, few teams have been able to exploit this vulnerability. But Coach Vogel has decided to stick with his bigs when the Heat have gone small with LeBron or Battier at the 4 spot. Hibbert and West have successfully defended the paint and punished the Heat at the offensive end of the court.

The Heat’s perimeter game has evaporated of late, so they must come up with one of their better shooting performances tonight. And LeBron will need his struggling teammates to step up. Though banged up, the Heat’s home court advantage should give them a significant advantage as home teams are 16-2 in Game 7′s played in the conference finals or finals since 1984.

Will Miami return to the NBA finals for the third straight season, or will it be a long, hot summer of speculation about the Big 3’s future? Marv Albert, Steve Kerr , Reggie Miller and Craig Sager will bring you TNT’s final broadcast of the 2012-13 season when Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals tips off at 8:30 PM ET. Can’t wait!

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game Six

Czar’s Playoff Preview

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game FourThe back-and-forth ECF return to Miami tonight for a pivotal Game 5. Tied at 2-2 this series is proving to be the most competitive and exciting of the 2013 postseason. Both sides are loaded with talent, veteran poise and clutch performers.

The only non-competitive 48 thus far was Sunday’s Game 3 in Indy, where the Heat outscored the Pacers in every quarter, shot 55% and committed only 5 turnovers. This was the Heat team that rolled through the regular season and was anointed the prohibitive favorite to repeat. They were scary good that night and had some thinking the series’ momentum had shifted unalterably.

However, coach Frank Vogel’s guys flipped the script in Game 4 on Tuesday, winning 99-92 behind C Roy Hibbert’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. All five Pacer starters scored in double figures, and they shot 50% as a team. Most importantly they outrebounded Miami 49 to 30 and outscored them 50 to 32 in the paint.

Miami had the lead at 86-83 before Indy went on a 16-6 run to close out the game. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to shoot only 6 for 21, and LeBron James fouled out for only the fifth time in his NBA career.

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers  - Game FourAll of the Big 3 are banged up. LeBron tweaked his ankle in Game 4 and may not be 100% tonight, so Bosh will need to bring his A-game, as will some of the bench guys who have struggled.

After Game 4 there was grumbling and mumbling among some of the Heat players and fans about the officiating, but give Indiana credit for showing great resiliency and making believers out of many who didn’t think they stood a chance against the reigning champs.

In last year’s Eastern Conference Semis, Miami and Indiana were in this exact same position – knotted up at 2-2 with Game 5 back in south Florida. The Heat administered a true beat down, 115-83, and went on to win the series in six. The 32-point loss was the worst in Pacers postseason history.

Tonight’s Game 5 will be a tighter affair than last year’s. The Pacers aren’t afraid of the Heat’s homecourt advantage. They took Miami to OT before losing a nip and tuck Game 1, and then showed their character and heart by coming back strong and taking Game 2 in South Beach. Indiana is confident that they can win on the road.

Ultimately the team that focuses on their game plan, executes at a very high level and demonstrates poise under pressure will come out on top. Tune in to TNT at 8:30 PM ET to see if the brunt force of Hibbert and PF David West own the inside, or if Miami’s Big 3 do what they have done so many times over the past three seasons and grab the all important Game 5 W.