Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 NBA Finals notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ This run of making the NBA Finals every couple of years that San Antonio is on, dating back to 1999, is one of the longest in the history of the league in terms of basic continuity of the unit.  Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich provide the most crucial part of the continuum.  This stretch of making the Finals at least every couple of years is longer than the biggest one of what is generally considered the “modern era” of the NBA, the LA Lakers of 1980-91.  The only stretches that are longer than this one are the Lakers of 1950-73 and the Celtics of 1957-76.  And this appearance 15 years after his first one marks Duncan as a player who rates with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the modern benchmarks for playing in the Finals all throughout their great careers.

^ There is a continuum of ten league megastars that stretches back to 1980.  One or more of them has been represented in the Finals every year since then: Magic, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and LeBron James (hat tip to Ben Chew of ThatNBALotteryPick).

^ The third clash between Tim Duncan and LeBron James in the Finals is a rare one for megastars.  The three Magic/Kareem-Bird meetings in the 1980s were the last such interaction -- also the three Magic/Kareem-Dr. J. head-to-heads of the same era.  Prior to that, you’d have to go back to the legends on the 1960s Celtics and Lakers squads for this phenomenon.

^ As much as the Spurs were hopeful a year ago of making it back to the Finals after their seven-game loss, they had to be a bit apprehensive this late in their run – because they had never been back to the Finals in back-to-back years during this run.  Until right now, that is.

^ Miami is the first team to make four consecutive Finals appearances since the LA Lakers of 1982-85.  The Lakers were 2-2 in that stretch, setting a dire precedent for the Heat this time around.

^ For all of the continuity we’ve seen with only a handful of teams in the Finals over the past few decades, this is actually the first rematch for the title since Chicago-Utah in 1998, with both of course won by the Bulls.  The last few before that were LA Lakers-Detroit in 1989-90 (split between the teams), LA Lakers-Boston in 1984-85 (split between the teams), LA Lakers-Detroit in 1982-83 (split between the teams), Washington-Seattle in 1978-79 (split between the teams) and the LA Lakers-New York in 1972-73 (split between the teams).  So San Antonio should be optimistic in light of this history.

^ This is the 10th time since 1994 that the NBA Finals have had their Western home games played in Texas, with all three teams in the state represented.  And when you add California to the mix (with the Lakers accounting for all of the action there), 2012’s title clash with Oklahoma City represents the only time since 1998 that a team from neither state was represented.

^ Notwithstanding last year, seven-game series don’t happen very often.  Here’s the full list of years those have happened since 1970: 2013, 2010, 2005, 1994, 1988, 1984, 1978, 1974 and 1970.

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