Monday , Jun , 18 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Three out of Five for Spurs; Among the all-time best?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Spurs walked into Quicken Loans Arena
on June 12 needing to win two games in order to sweep the Cavaliers and win
their third NBA championship in five years. Both contests were close, but in
the end, the better and more experienced team prevailed.

Many in the media spent countless hours debating if San Antonio has reached
“dynasty” status and a large proportion felt that four titles in nine years
does not necessitate the elite standing of such clubs as the 90s Bulls,
winners of six of eight, or the Lakers run of three straight earlier in the
decade. I wholeheartedly agree that the Spurs arent in that class…yet. But
with the big three – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – set to return
next year, four rings in six years sounds mighty impressive.

Some radio talk show hosts had also mentioned that San Antonio does not even
fall into the class of the New England Patriots, a team that had won three
Super Bowls in four years. I highly disagree with that statement, as theres
not much difference between three titles in four years or three in five. The
bottom line is the Spurs are the NBAs team of the decade – three titles and a
solid chance for a fourth in the next year or two, which would be one more
than the Lakers.

DEFENSE WINS TITLES, JUST NOT TELEVISION VIEWERS

Not only does defense win championships, it also gets team’s there. The NBA
champ has finished in the top three in points allowed in four of the last five
years, and four of the last six finalists also ended up in the top five. One
of those clubs that didnt make the list, more than made up for it in the
playoffs, as Miami finished second in that category to Detroit in the 2005-06
postseason. The Heat were 13th during the regular season.

This year, the Spurs led the league in scoring defense (90.1 ppg), while the
Cavs were fifth at 92.9. The Finals were a microcosm of that statistic as
three of the four games went UNDER the totals in convincing fashions. The
fourth and final games finished at 165 with the OVER/UNDER set at 176. That
was as close as it would get. The first contest was an 85-76 San Antonio win
for 161 points, which crushed the total set at 179.5. The third game was even
better for those playing the UNDER, as the two teams combined for 147 points,
32.5 points below the number.

There are those that say it was boring basketball…and the ratings surely
reflected it. This years finals set an all-time low in terms of the
television audience with the horrendous rating of 6.2 and an 11 share. The
projected wisdom is that network programming, especially sports, do not get
the ratings they used to back before the onslaught of cable and the Internet.
Still, that doesnt explain how last seasons Miami-Dallas series blew the San
Antonio-Cleveland match-up to smithereens.

The six-game affair between the Heat and Mavs crushed last weeks series by
over 25%. The only way to clarify the difference is to mention one name –
Shaquille ONeal. Nonetheless, isnt LeBron James supposed to be the next
Michael Jordan? Wasnt he dubbed that coming off his spectacular 48-point
outburst on the road in game five vs. Detroit? Didnt many people say that he
has a chance to be even better than Michael? Why wasnt he the draw NBA
higher-ups thought he was?

The answers are hard to pinpoint but might lie with his opposition – the
Spurs. The 6.2 rating topped the previous low, a 6.5 marking when these very
same Spurs defeated the Nets in 2003.

Another answer could be that not many people care too much about the sport, or
sports in general on the tube these days. Since 1982, only four series
registered single digit numbers and all four came in the last five years. The
only one that finished over that mark Shaq’s series vs. the Heat.

Two seasons ago, San Antonio defeated Detroit in an epic, seven-game series
and, yet, the TV ratings were the second lowest since 1981. Defense wins
championships, but it also drives away the viewing public in droves. Sure many
people would have preferred seeing the run and gun Suns or the upstart
Warriors, but that style of play doesnt bring trophies to the locker room.

Both the Suns and Warriors finished one-two in scoring this past season with
110 and 107 points per game, respectively, but Golden State ended up in last
place on the opposing end allowing 107 ppg. Phoenix didnt fair any better and
finished eighth from the bottom at 103 ppg. Two years ago, the Suns also
let up 103 per contest (third worst in the league) and failed to reach the NBA
Finals. Coincidentally, they allowed the same 103 points per game the year
before that and finished last in the league in that category.

Commissioner David Stern tinkered with a big change at the start of this past
season bringing in a new-styled ball, but that got pushed out on January 1,
2007. It will be interesting to see if he decides to do something else to
combat public apathy towards his sport.

Logic dictates he should leave it alone. The best thing he ever did was making
sure high school athletes get at least one year of college ball and with Greg
Oden coming into the league next season, the NBA might usher in a new version
of “Shaq,” which is so important since ONeals time has passed.

The league has come a long way from having its championship series on tape
delay prior to the Magic and Bird infusion, but more rivalries have to be
established before Stern and his staff can take it to the next level. Its
unfortunate that there doesnt seem to be a dominant team in the Eastern
Conference. Maybe if the Cavaliers get the services of another superstar to go
along with LeBron, they will be the team to watch in the coming years, not
just by NBA standards, but by the viewing public.