Posted: Tuesday June 7, 2005 4:49PM; Updated: Thursday June 9, 2005 8:34PM
By Brad Weinstein, SI.com
5. Any Finals-related discussion inevitably degenerates into clichés. Remember, road teams don't simply win games; they "steal" them. The home team takes a "commanding" 2-0 lead if it "holds serve." But at the same time, analysts like to tell us that a series "doesn't officially start" until the road team wins, er, steals, a game. So you're on your own there.
A Game 1 blowout is followed by talk of the losing team being "done," or at the very least placed in a "must-win situation" in Game 2. Any mention of Game 3 or Game 5 in a deadlocked series must be preceded with "crucial," "critical" or "pivotal." Neither team, of course, "gets any respect." And both amazingly find a way to play basketball with "their backs against the wall."
6. Speaking of platitudes, it's now trite to praise Robert Horry's utter clutchness. So be surprised if the prototypical role player doesn't tilt at least one game in San Antonio's favor, whether it's with a demoralizing 3-pointer, an out-of-nowhere offensive rebound or cagey defensive play. Horry, the NBA's active ringleader with five championships, stands fifth all time with 191 career playoff games, two behind Karl Malone and Danny Ainge for third.
7. The Spurs can wobble closing out games because of their poor free-throw shooting. They hit 19 of 34 in a 92-91 Game 3 loss to the Seattle Supersonics in the conference semifinals, and 11 of 23 (including 3 of 12 from Duncan) in a 111-106 Game 4 loss to the Suns. Ginobili was the only starter who converted better than 67 percent at the line during the regular season.
8. Hubie Brown will expect big things from the audience. The grizzled, insightful ABC analyst regularly refers to teams in the second person as "you." You're getting high-percentage shots so continue to run your stuff, he'll say of a team struggling to score. Or, You need to play like men here because the referees won't bail you out, as he emphasized during a taut Suns-Spurs finish in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Hey, we're trying, Hubie, we're trying.
9. In other ABC news, Eva Longoria will get more air time than she does on Desperate Housewives. Not that the network needs to promote the hit show, but the actress will be shown in the stands whenever her boyfriend, Spurs point guard Tony Parker, makes an impact. Or even when he doesn't.
10. Savor the games, because unless the league and the players' union agree on a new collective bargaining agreement soon, we're headed for an offseason of stories that go like this, "The NBA met with the players' association for eight hours yesterday at an undisclosed location in New York, and though no offers were exchanged, two league sources described the dialogue as cordial. ..."