Just how are the Spurs asserting control in the NBA Finals? Let Bob Salmi show you the way.
This is how the Spurs do it
Here's the Game 2 tape breakdowns by Salmi, ABC-TV basketball scout. He's the seriously sagacious "coach in the truck" during ABC broadcasts of the NBA Finals.
Salmi also offers some thoughts on what Cleveland has to do to turn things around in Game 3.
See Box 5 for video from Game 2, analyzed by Salmi. Cavs fans won't enjoy this much. Here's what Salmi has to say
Tony Parker picked up where he left off in Game 1 by finishing at the rim again in Game 2.
He starts on the left side of the basket, reverses under the rim using his protection, and sneaks it into the basket.
And at a critical juncture in the game, when they needed a basket, Parker finds a way to sneak the ball up to the rim and stop the Cleveland surge.
Parker is making a strong case for Finals MVP with two great games.
The San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 making another case for them being the best passing team in basketball.
Tim Duncan's double-teamed, and as soon as he's double-teamed, he recognizes the double, gets it out of the double-team with one pass, a second pass and with the third pass, Bruce Bowen is wide open in the corner for a 3-point shot.
This is absolutely the best passing team in basketball.
At the start of this series, the San Antonio Spurs had decided it's not going to be LeBron James who beats them.
Every time that LeBron put the ball on the floor, that's 1-2-3-4-5 Spurs defenders all collapse on him and force the turnover.
Again LeBron at the top of the floor looking to get into the paint. By the time he does get into the paint, all five Spurs have again collapsed on him, and the only person open is Daniel Gibson for the 3-point shot.
If the Cavs want to get back in the series, someone else other than LeBron has to score the ball.
Andrew Ayres is an NBA editor for ESPN.com
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Bolstered by some home cooking, LeBron James and the Cavaliers aim for their first NBA Finals victory on Tuesday night.
I stumbled upon this idea the other day when I was talking to another writer and he joked, "They should play West versus East in the first round, not the last."
The more I think about it, this is no joke: They really should play West versus East earlier in the playoffs. It's a great way to reward the West powers while avoiding the train wreck Finals scenario created by the East's awfulness -- a scenario the league has found itself in in 1999, 2001, 2002 and again this year.
Here's the nitty-gritty:
The regular season would play out just as it does now. Then the league would seed the teams 1 to 8 in each conference, just as it does now.
Then it changes -- the two conferences would cross-match in the playoffs, so every series is set up to be East versus West. Of course, in those cases when the lower-seeded West team is able to eliminate the higher-seeded East team, then we would have West versus West, which means this system would be working exactly as intended: We would have the stronger teams meeting in the later rounds, regardless of conference.
This year, for instance, No. 1 Detroit from the East would have faced No. 8 Golden State from the West, and No. 1 Dallas from the West would have faced No. 8 Orlando from the East.
Although we would have lost the scintillating Warriors-Mavs series, the big picture would have been enhanced greatly under this plan. You can quickly see how much better the next three rounds might have been.
Instead of the league losing its MVP in the first round, Dallas would have had a virtual bye. And Detroit would have been the team facing the stern challenge of beating a torrid Golden State team that was perhaps the most atypical No. 8 seed the league has seen.
And the situation only improves from there, culminating in an NBA Finals with Phoenix facing Dallas or San Antonio.
When the Spurs go on the road up 2-0 in the playoffs in the past three years, they tend not to have much success. Cleveland hopes form holds.
• The Spurs have won 24 of their last 25 postseason games when shooting 50.0 percent or better from the field.
• The Spurs are 9-2 all-time in the postseason when Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan each have at least 20 points in the same game.
• The Spurs are 24-4 all-time in the postseason when Duncan blocks five or more shots, including 7-0 this postseason.
• Including Game 2, Duncan has had a double-double in 18 of his 20 career Finals games, and at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in 14 of his 20 Finals games.
• In his last four road games, Parker is shooting 39.1 percent (25-for-64) from the field. Parker is shooting 57.1 percent (40-for-70) from the field in his last four home games.
• Ginobili has had six games of 20 points or more this postseason off the bench. It is the most in a single postseason since Nick Van Exel had seven for the Mavericks in the 2003 postseason.
-- ESPN Research
AP Photo/Eric Gay
... Then don't let the Cavs off the hook, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. With two more wins, the Spurs would have their fourth NBA title in nine years.
Even though league officials reminded me Monday that this award is based purely on the Finals and not meant to go to the MVP of the entire playoffs by taking earlier rounds into account -- yes, I double-checked for confirmation -- I'd still go with Tim Duncan.
I suspect Tony Parker couldn't do what he does offensively if Cleveland's big men could leave Duncan with the freedom that San Antonio's big men do to give help on LeBron James.
Nor could Parker be a rim-attacking game-breaker if the Spurs weren't controlling the tempo, which also flows from Duncan's mere presence.
In 2005, when Duncan beat out Manu Ginobili for Finals MVP by one vote -- sparking a fury in Argentina that still persists to this day among my colleagues in the prensa down there -- there was a genuine debate in play because of Duncan's struggles in that series. The Pistons were at the height of their powers and guarded Duncan as well as anyone has in a playoff series.
In the NBA Finals (both games combined), the Spurs outscored the Cavaliers by 32 points when Larry Hughes was on the court. The Cavaliers outscored the Spurs by three points when Daniel Gibson was on the court.
In his last three games, Gibson is 20-for-30 (66.7 percent) from the field, including 9-for-13 on 3-pointers.
Gibson has scored at least 15 points off the bench in each of his last three postseason games.
-- ESPN Research
Spurs forward Robert Horry currently has six NBA titles as a player, tied with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Cousy and Jim Loscutoff. Those with seven-plus titles as a player all won their titles with the Celtics.
Most NBA Titles as a Player
Horry's titles: Rockets (1994, 1995), Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002) and Spurs (2005)
-- ESPN Research
The longest current championship drought by a city with three or more major pro sports teams is 43 years by Cleveland. The last time Cleveland won a title was 1964, when the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts 27-0 for the NFL championship. The 2006-07 Cavaliers' link to that game: Donyell Marshall's great uncle is Hall of Famer Lenny Moore, a member of that Colts team. In 1964, Moore was the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, as he scored 20 touchdowns in leading the Colts to the title game.
But the Cavs aren't the longest-suffering team in the NBA.
*can still win in 2007
-- ESPN Research