NBA Finals Game 2: Good Win for Miami?

If you’re a pure NBA fan, skip to the bolded “Quick Thoughts” section. If you have time to travel the “non-basketball related stuff that I try to link together,” start here:

So did LeBron James foul Kevin Durant or not?

On my bike ride this morning I got involved in somewhat of a questionable foul call myself.

First of all, I haven’t figured out the rules of riding a bike in a city. I rarely ride on the street for (realistic) fears that I’m pissing everyone in their cars off and sidewalk travel is harder than you might expect.

Let’s start with the road. When a car passes a bike they do it in an over-exaggerated motion. They take a wide angle putting half of their vehicle in the lane of oncoming traffic as one big, “See, see what you made me do!” statement to the pedaling pest. To successfully ride in the road, you have to really commit to it and this is a substantial investment. You have to buy the helmet, the tight-fitting Lance Armstrong clothes, the $2000 bike, the advanced water bottle, and ultimately master the hand turn signals.

On the sidewalk, you only have to worry about cars at the intersections; which can still be a bit of a mess. Without the bike riders flying around, driving a car is simple. People don’t even have to look at the road. This gives them extra time to text on their phone, look in the Taco Bell bag, maybe watch a show on their iPad.

With bicyclists out there, suddenly that no-need-to-look-right-when-turning-at-the-stoplight gets interrupted. They slam on their brakes, honk the horn, give the cyclist an angry stare with equally angry flail of the arms.

Sidenote, I think the question, “How do we stop people from texting while driving?” is the wrong question being asked. The better question is, “How do we get the driving out of the way?”

Think about it, rush hour traffic is frustrating, yes, but would it really be that bad if the car did all the work and you could watch a TV show instead? How many people when given the choice between driving vs. reading/watching TV/playing video games/texting/talking on phone/drinking would say, “You know what, I’d rather drive.”

Now, granted, there are people who enjoy driving. The manual transmission crowd being the largest demographic. That’s fine. I think they should get their own lane on the road. You’d have one lane, the manuals, going however fast they wanted, and the other, the ultra-automatics, being in either a logjam or a steady stream of equally spaced 75 mph cars. The manual transmission crowd is happy because now they can fly at 80, 90, 100 mph and the ultra-automatics are happy because now a six hour car ride means taking down a season of some HBO show that they never had the time to check out before.

It would all work until bicyclists started screwing things up.

But back to my bike ride this morning. Right when I was in land-the-plane mode, gliding down the sidewalk, a few yards out from the bike rack, I passed by a guy who clearly thought he got fouled.

“You did that on purpose!” he shouted at me. “You rode me close, you didn’t call out right or left.”

If I “rode him close,” this was news to me, and as for the right or left call, I find that’s somewhat of a shaky strategy to begin with. In my sidewalk experience, I’ve done the, “On your right/on your left” call before, but people either A) have earbuds in or B) panic and hop the wrong way. I personally think it’s a flawed strategy and will only use if necessary.

“I didn’t mean to,” I said back.

“Yes you did!” he shouted.

He crossed the street then stood in front of a building yelling. Not really at me, just yelling out loud. I locked up my bike. I considered crossing the street left then cross again to avoid him, but us bicyclists are a pretty rough and tough crowd plus I have a pretty full beard right now so I manned up and walked his way.

He started walking toward me. Uh oh. It was about to go down in the middle of the crosswalk. Which I think would have been a pretty awesome fight, not so much a physical battle, but a three round verbal exchange that kept getting interrupted when the walking man turned flashing hand turned steady hand and we’d both have to walk back to our sides then battle again a half minute later.

But real life didn’t turn out so cool. All he said to me as he walked by was, “Yep, and you work over there too, but parked your bike there, man you did that on purpose.”

End of exchange.

Now, first of all, I had to live with that sentence for the next several hours. I tried to put myself in his shoes, see where the logic came from. You work here, but parked here, therefore you, what? I almost would have preferred that he had just called me an asshole. At least that’s straightforward.

After hours of contemplation, here’s my best understanding of what he thinks that I did: Guy on bike intentionally rode close as a joke/bullying/disrespect and didn’t call out right or left to keep this element of sneakiness/surprise.

Then I thought, what if we had the ability to review the tape and instead of a fuzzy overhead security camera, this footage was ultra close, mic’d up, high definition. The visual/verbal evidence would show a bike coming close to a man with no audible notification from the bicyclist that he was approaching.

Angry guy would then be right on his claim that I “rode him close” and “didn’t say right or left.” My only defense left then is, “But I didn’t do it on purpose!”

Great, but angry guy has already been right on two out of his three claims. I think he ultimately has the edge once video evidence is introduced.

This is the ultimate difficulty of being a referee. You have to make decisions in the heat of the moment, split second situations without the help of video. In the case of last night, it’s deciding how to officiate a 6’11’’ guy going into a 6’9’’ 250lb guy. Was there contact? Yes, but there’s always contact down by the basket. Was there a foul? Maybe? Does Durant get that call if he’s going against Udonis Haslem? Yes? I don’t know, we can only speculate.

When we see the replay from three different angles, ultimate high definition, close-up, slow motion, of course it looks different.

What I do know is I would rather have refs swallow the whistle and let Rasheed Wallace’s “ball-don’t-lie” be the judge then always making that call. If they always call it, then games will be decided by the coach drawing up a play where the superstar charges full-steam ahead to the rim targeting a regular guy. Foul. Free throws. Win.

In the “ball-don’t-lie” strategy, something that really makes no rational sense but seems to hold true at least 70 percent of the time, you have the refs abstaining from the call with the idea that if it was actually a foul, then LeBron’s going to miss those two free throws, or at least one, giving the Thunder another chance. LeBron hit both free throws. Take that for what it’s worth.

Then again, if the ref would always call the foul on the defender and send the offensive player to the line, “ball-don’t-lie” would prevent the points from happening since the call was wrongly made. And that’s why I never want to be a referee.

Quick Thoughts on Game 2

Not a Great Win For Miami – This should have been a 15-point victory. For almost the entire game Miami had the 12-15 point cushion. They let OKC get close, then really close, then really really “wait-Durant-hits-this and we’re in OT?” close.

Now, some of this is being in a hostile road arena going against a young fearless team. A veteran team like the Celtics gets down by 15 for three quarters and decides, “Eh, let’s start icing the knees and try to take care of business next game.” A young team doesn’t have that. Young guys always want to go an extra gear and try to steal a game they didn’t deserve.

Still not convinced Miami can win close games. Game 2 they had a big enough cushion that lasted just long enough, but what’s going to happen when it’s truly a back-and-forth, down to the wire game?

A Great Win for LeBron – May not seem like a big deal, but LeBron hitting those two free throws with four/five seconds left, two-point game was huge for his psyche. Or at least what I imagine would be good for his psyche. That was a big opportunity to fail and feed the masses with more choke material, but he stepped up and put the game out of reach.

Chris Bosh: “Play like this!” If Coach Spo, or whoever the next coach is, ever wants to explain to Chris Bosh what he wants, just show this tape.

The 18 points, 8 rebs Bosh will continue to make All-Star teams, but the 16 points, 15 rebs Bosh can win championships. Best part, seven offensive rebounds. There was one stretch in the game where Bosh had a big block, a steal, stepped out on the perimeter to guard Durant, Durant fired a bad shot, Miami scored, 51-34.

I do feel bad for Bosh though because as well as he played, he still looks so weird. When he yelled at Mario Chalmers it didn’t look tough, when he celebrates it’s awkward, the poor guy can never really look cool or fierce on a court. If he tries too hard he pulls an abdominal muscle.

Scott Brooks Great Call on Durant, tough call ahead – KD picked up his fifth foul early. Gutsy, but smart call to keep Durant in the game. It’s much easier to come back from a couple of points with a fouled out Durant then be down 25 with six minutes to go deciding if it’s even worth putting Durant back in. Last night he got the best-case scenario, Durant brought his team back in the game and never fouled out.

The tough decision is what to do with the rotation of big men. Personally, I think Serge Ibaka or Nick Collison with Thabo, Russell Westbrook, KD, and James Harden works the best. Durant at the power forward creates a similar situation to what Dirk in Dallas defeated Miami with last year. Ibaka gives you a last line of defense (huge blocks in Game 2) and Collison is so good at help side defense/setting up for a charge that it disrupts Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’s normally effortless attack to the rim.

Kendrick Perkins was meant for the 1990’s NBA. You’d love to have him on your team to battle Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing, Alonzo, David Robinson, Sabonis, Vlade, etc. In today’s NBA, you really only need Perkins’s set of defensive skills for Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. He doesn’t give you a lot offensively and defensively, at least in this series, you don’t need a lockdown guy on Udonis Haslem/Joel Anthony.

But the same thing was said when the Thunder went down 0-2 against the Spurs. Don’t play Perkins. Go small. In Game 3, Brooks went against the analysts and instead made an extra effort to get his big men involved. Result? Huge games for the OKC big men in a dominant victory. I’m interested to see how he approaches Game 3 of this series.

Both Teams Limited after Big Threes – A lot of times in the NBA Finals, one team’s best three cancels out the other team’s best three. For example, last night LeBron and Durant each had 32 points. Westbrook had 27, Wade had 24. Bosh 16, Harden 21. That’s all fairly close.

But the Finals seem to always be won by that 4th – 8th guy. It’s why we have all this stock footage of Robert Horry, JJ Barea, Sam Cassell, Shrek & Donkey, etc.

Shane Battier continues to shine in his role of 4th guy:

Battier: 17

Ibaka: 7

But after the top 4, really 3.5, both teams struggle to find scoring:

Chalmers: 3

Thabo: 3

Haslem: 2

Perkins: 4

Then several 0-2 guys.

I’m interested to see what happens when one of the top guys, for either team, has a 10-15 point game. How will their other guys respond?

The more I watch this series, the more I wonder if it’s as simple as whoever scores 100 first will always win.

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