Tuesday , Jun , 05 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Matchups to watch in the NBA Finals

(Sports Network) – The 2007 NBA Finals features a veteran club with plenty
of championship experience and a team which showcases an incredible one-man
show. The San Antonio Spurs, who are trying to win their fourth title
in franchise history, do it all, as they are efficient on offense and play
tenacious, tough team defense. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who are appearing in
their first-ever NBA Finals, will look for superstar LeBron James to continue
his playoffs heroics in this best-of-seven series.

San Antonio will have to be creative defensively when it comes to stopping
James. The Spurs will try and make LeBron’s supporting cast beat them.
Cleveland will need to pick up its intensity on defense, and make All-Stars
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker work hard for everything they earn.

There will be plenty of physical activity around the basket, hard fouls and
entertaining play in this set. Here are some intriguing matchups that will be
interesting to keep an eye on as this series plays out.

LEBRON JAMES (CAVALIERS) VS. SPURS’ DEFENSE
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The legend of the 22-year-old James is starting to build an impressive resume
very early. It took him four seasons and just two trips to the postseason to
get the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. He leads Cleveland, which fell in seven
games to the Pistons in the East semis during the 2006 playoffs, in scoring
(25.8 ppg) and assists (8.3 apg) in the playoffs. LeBron has single-handedly
put the team on his back and led them to some of the most important victories
in franchise history.

Washington, New Jersey and Detroit weren’t able to stop James during the
Eastern Conference playoffs. What will the Spurs do differently in the
championship round?

San Antonio will use defensive stopper Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley and Manu
Ginobili throughout the series against the Cleveland superstar. They will be
physical and try and keep LeBron from moving towards the hoop.

Bowen, Finley and Ginobili will get plenty of help from their teammates, as
they will double and triple team the Cavaliers All-Star forward and try and
force him to beat them from the outside. Making LeBron give the ball up or
settle for long-range jumpers is the goal for San Antonio’s defense.

The Spurs know the Cavaliers will only beat them if James produces a series
for the ages. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich will have his team ready
to defend arguably the biggest star in the game today.

DREW GOODEN & ZYDRUNAS ILGAUSKAS (CAVALIERS) VS. TIM DUNCAN (SPURS)
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Duncan is a man on a mission. A series victory over Cleveland would give the
Spurs their fourth title in nine years. The 31-year-old Duncan, who leads the
Spurs in scoring (23.2 ppg) and rebounding (11.4 rpg) in the playoffs, has
played on all of San Antonio’s championship teams. He has already
cemented himself in as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

A nine-time All-Star, Duncan, like James, has been dominant in the postseason.
He is shooting 53.9 percent from the floor and has made the big bucket when
his team needed it most.

Forward Drew Gooden and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been solid for
Cleveland in the postseason, but the Cavaliers are going to need a lot more
from this duo. The 7-3 Ilgauskas is averaging 13.8 points and team-best 9.5
rebounds, while Gooden has posted 11.1 points and 7.9 boards per contest.

The mere presence of Duncan gives San Antonio credibility in the low post.
Gooden and Ilgauskas are going to have to earn respect by showing the Spurs
that they are going to score around the hoop. The Cavaliers need production
from the pair in order to create more court space for LeBron.

Duncan has done it before and will once again be a huge factor in the finals.
If Gooden and Ilgauskas don’t come through, the Cavaliers are in big trouble!

CAVALIERS’ GUARDS VS. TONY PARKER (SPURS)
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Stopping Parker is going to be very difficult for Cleveland. The 25-year-old
Parker, who is averaging 19.8 points and a team-best 6.4 assists in the
playoffs, can score and dish the ball. He has a knack for finding an open
teammate for an easy bucket, and is deadly driving to the hoop as well as when
he puts up an outside jumper.

One thing the Cavaliers do have is size in their backcourt. Larry Hughes,
Sasha Pavlovic and veteran Eric Snow are all decent defenders and will rotate
defending Parker. The 6-7 Pavlovic will try and take away space from Parker,
while Hughes, who is 6-5, and the 6-3 Snow have to keep up with the craft
Parker, who will try and counter with his speed.

If Cleveland can contain Parker, it would make it difficult on Duncan in the
low post and Ginobili and Finley from the outside. Parker’s quickness and
penetration creates plenty of open shots for his teammates. The Cavaliers will
try and smother Parker, hoping for a domino effect which would take the Spurs
out of the flow of their offense.

Keeping Parker in check is very important for Cleveland. Hughes, Pavlovic and
Snow better be ready to play some defense.

CLE SAN