THAT was the best block ever.
Over the next 20 years, you will be greeted with the NBA’s montage of historic Finals highlights, just like every year.
You’ve seen them all — Larry Bird’s tip-in of his own miss against Houston in 1981, Julius Erving’s under-the-basket swoop versus L.A. in 1983, Magic Johnson’s junior sky hook against Boston in 1987 and Michael Jordan’s midair hand switch-and-scoop against the Lakers in 1991.
Let’s welcome LeBron James to the highlight reel.
His Game 2 denial of Tiago Splitter’s dunk attempt will go down as one of the greatest defensive plays in Finals history because in the span of just two seconds, it came to represent everything James stands for as a player. On a night when he didn’t put together a great offensive display, he still made the signature play of the game.
James, the consummate team player, rarely celebrates a highlight, but he couldn’t contain his emotion after turning back the 7-foot Splitter. Who could blame him?
THE Spurs are still in fine shape, despite losing Game 2 by 19 points. The bottom line is they got what they wanted: a split in the first two games. Now they have a chance to take the series lead in front of their folks.
With the next three games in San Antonio under the league’s 2-3-2 Finals format, it’s realistic to believe the Spurs will win two of the next three games at home — where they went 35-6 during the regular season — and head back to South Beach needing only one win in two tries for a fifth NBA title.
So don’t make too much of a Finals blowout. Just ask the Celtics, who thumped the Lakers 148-114 in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals, in what came to be known as the Memorial Day Massacre. The Lakers won four of the next five games to close out the Celtics in six.
DON’T be surprised to see coach Gregg Popovich increase San Antonio’s offensive tempo, even against the fast-breaking Heat. The Spurs have a quick-paced attack as well, and that was lost during Miami’s 33-5 second-half run Sunday night. San Antonio’s struggles were more about careless ballhandling than anything.
The 16 turnovers were the second-most by the Spurs this postseason, just behind the 17 they committed in Game 3 of the Memphis series. They were still able to come out of that game with an 11-point win because the Grizzlies use a slow, grind-it-out type of offense that didn’t thrive on fast-break buckets.
With Miami, a turnover is like pouring a bucket of blood into a shark tank. Miami feeds off that stuff, so I’m sure Pop has already put Tony Parker and the suddenly butterfingered Manu Ginobili on notice after the two combined for half of the team’s turnovers on Sunday.
DALLAS Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant was voted the 35th-best player in the NFL, according to the NFL Network, which is in the process of releasing its annual list of the league’s top 100 players.
Bryant made his first appearance on the list after undergoing his share of turbulent times early in his career. The ranking means even more because it’s a vote of current NFL players. Of note, Bryant was listed ahead of Pro Bowl wideouts Roddy White (39) Steve Smith (84), Wes Welker (44) and Victor Cruz (58).
Of interest to Texas football fans: Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson and Seattle safety Earl Thomas came in at 59th and 66th, respectively. KC running back Jamaal Charles hasn’t appeared yet but should be listed somewhere inside the top 20.
I WAS watching the French Open men’s final between Spaniards Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer on Sunday when security guards appeared out of nowhere to take down a couple of protesters, one of whom somehow found his way onto the court with a mask, a lit flare and no shirt.
Nadal scurried away from the guy, who was reportedly protesting France’s same-sex marriage law.
Where is the security in these big events? It brought back that memory of 20 years ago, when Monica Seles’ dominance of the women’s game came to a premature end after she was stabbed in her chair by an obsessed Steffi Graf fan in Germany. Nadal was apparently not the target Sunday, but the sport of tennis must increase its security measures to protect the sport’s most valuable resource: its players.
I would hate to see another career upended (or worse) by the actions of a crazed fan.