As unlikely as it may have seemed given their aging roster, the San Antonio Spurs are NBA Champions for 2013-2014.
The Spurs were able to take revenge on last year’s conquerors, the Miami Heat, winning game 5 and taking the Finals series 4-1.
The win will go down through the ages as one where beautiful basketball and team ethos triumphed over individual greatness collectively harnessed. Not that the Spurs don’t have great individual players; they do, but the Heat are the team known best for it’s ‘big 3’ of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
To be honest it’s always been more of a ‘big 1 + 2’, and that was never more evident than in game 5. Despite the struggles of Wade and Bosh LeBron was brilliant with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists, yet the Spurs essentially had the game wrapped up with 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter when they took a 21 point lead on the back of an avalanche of 3 pointers from Australian Patty Mills and Argentinian Manu Ginobli, and a signature block on Wade from Brazilian center Tiago Splitter.
Cadel Evans failed last week. Failed to win a cycling race he’d spent months dedicating himself to winning, failed to live up to his own expectations as he was left (not too far) behind by men more than 10 years his junior on some of the steeper climbs in world cycling. Those were his own sentiments after 3 weeks of racing in the Giro d’Italia closed with the BMC former Tour de France winner finishing in 8th place, some 11 minutes behind eventual winner Columbian Nairo Quintana. He was quick to praise his team and the work they had done in his service, but lamented that he’d failed to capitalize on it.
But failure is a relative term. Prior to the last 10 years, or more accurately prior to the Cadel Evans era, Australian cycling had only ever had a handful of top 10 finishes in any of the 3 grand tours – the Giro, le Tour or the Vuelta a España – the Tour of Spain – all achieved by the same man, trailblazer Phil Anderson in the mid 80’s.
For an Aussie to finish 8th in one of the most hotly contested Tours of Italy for many years at any other time and by any other rider would have been considered a phenomenal performance and career highlight. For Evans, it was failure. That should tell us plenty about the unassuming former mountain biker from Barwon Heads via the Northern Territory and New South Wales, who these days spends much of his time with his family in Switzerland.
As a confessed twitter addict I’ve noticed something interesting the past few weeks, the world loves the World Cup. No news there, except that most of my circle of ‘tweeps’ have barely ever mentioned soccer; sorry, football, before the past two weeks. Now my timeline is full of tweets about Mike (Tony, seriously mate) sorry Mile Jedinak, personal favourite Marco Bresciano and of course legend goal scorer and all around good guy Timmy Cahill. I’d look down my nose at these bandwagon fans, if I wasn’t shamelessly one of them.
That’s not to say I don’t love ‘The World Game’ and have a history with it, I do. As a kid I was a reasonably typical country sporting lad playing Aussie Rules in the Winter, Cricket in the Summer and Basketball year round. We’d play some soccer at school but the game wasn’t big in my neck of the woods so it passed me by for much of my childhood. That was until I made friends with a mad Manchester United fan in high school and was introduced to very late weekend nights watching the English Premier League. My interest piqued in the early days of Harry Kewell’s career at Leeds United, and once he was joined by Mark Viduka I was hooked. 1am on a Sunday morning would roll around and I’d make my way to the couch and hope the brilliant Martin Tyler would be calling and a good game was in store. I never became a fully fledged fan of a team in the EPL, though I had my favorites, rather I tended to follow the Aussie guys.
The NBA Finals series continues in Miami today with the pivotal game 4 matchup, following on from the Spurs blowout 19 point win in game 3.
The Heat will be hoping for a better performance from center Chris Bosh who was unusually quiet in game 3, managing just 9 points and more importantly just 3 rebounds. The Spurs threw a matchup curveball at Bosh, with famously crafty coach Greg Poppovich trying to engineer a mismatch of sorts by starting Boris Diaw at center. It’s not the first lineup change Poppovich has made these playoffs, with incumbent starter Brazilian Tiago Splitter starting at center in games 1 & 2 and the long range shooting Matt Bonner starting at times in the previous conference finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs goal is to spread out the Miami defense, Miami for their part have countered with heavy minutes for former big time scorer Rashard Lewis at Power Forward who is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts, while Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem continue to struggle to earn the minutes they once owned for the Heat.