Meadville Tribune

Opinion

June 11, 2013

WALK TALK: Turnovers will decide who wins NBA finals

1 Turnovers. It’s a basketball coach’s most feared word. Right now, it’s probably keeping Spurs coach Gregg Popovich awake at night. After tying an NBA finals record with just four turnovers during Thursday’s Game 1 win, San Antonio committed 16 during Sunday’s Game 2 loss. Miami scored 19 points — the winning margin — off those turnovers. The Heat excel on the fast break and their mistake-creating defense is a big reason why they’re going to win their second consecutive title.

2 The thing about the Heat is they have an “on” switch — and the Spurs don’t. Sunday’s game was close and competitive — that is, until Miami went on a 33-5 run. The Spurs need to win two of their three consecutive games at home to even have a chance of winning this series. There’s no way the Heat are going to lose two straight games in Miami at the end of this series.

3 As I watched all of Sunday’s Game 2, I kept waiting for LeBron James to show up. He had just eight points through three quarters and was largely absent from the game. Then came a 68-second highlight package that started with a huge block of Tiago Splitter. After a bit of showboating, James ran down the court to assist Ray Allen’s 3, then stole the ensuing possession and followed it with a dunk. No player can change a game as quickly and loudly as James.

4 Game 4 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Pittsburgh was one of the 2013 postseason’s best. But not many saw it because everyone doesn’t have NBC Sports Network. It’s no surprise that the NHL is nowhere near the NFL and NBA in popularity — the league is hiding the most important part of the season from the average fan. Why, instead of the broadcast of Game 4 of the eastern finals, was a rerun of Law and Order SVU airing on NBC last Friday?

5 I said it last spring and I’ll say it again: The NHL goalie is the most important position in all of sports. Example: Boston’s Tuukka Rask saved 98 percent of Pittsburgh’s shots during the Bruins’ sweep of the Penguins, who were said to have this season’s best offense. That makes me wonder why we don’t see more NHL superstars or higher draft picks coming from the goalie position. Every football player as a kid wants to be the quarterback — the field general and most important player on the field. That’s not as apparent with the NHL and the goalie, and it’s puzzling to me. Only three goalies have been taken first overall since the NHL draft started in 1963. The most recent was the Pens’ Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003.

6 We’re in for what should be a competitive Stanley Cup Finals between the sport’s hottest teams. Chicago dispatched the defending champion Kings in just five games, while we all know how quickly Boston downed the Pens. The series winner will serve as the NHL’s best team of the last half-decade, considering the conference finals featured the previous four league champions. No matter how hot Tuukka Rask is, the Blackhawks dismantled Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with ease and will have similar success versus Rask. It may be a long series, but the ’Hawks will win it.

7 Whether it’s the NFL, NBA or even UFC, every sports league strives to expand its international reach. The NFL, however, isn’t doing things right in Europe. Commissioner Roger Goodell keeps pushing for more games overseas. There are even rumors of a European expansion team coming to the NFL within the next decade. So now we’re possibly shipping professional football jobs out of the country? Why call yourself the National Football League if you’re playing in another country? Leave the NFL where it’s supposed to be played — the U.S.

8 I always laugh when NFL players complain about OTAs, which were famously dubbed “voluntary mandatory” offseason activities by Keyshawn Johnson years ago. Defensive back Cary Williams recently signed a $17.5 million contract with the Eagles and is complaining that players are held “captive” during OTAs and that players don’t have enough of a personal life. Us non-professional athletes don’t have “an offseason.” And we aren’t getting paid millions of dollars a year to “play a game.” The least Williams can do is show up when the team asks — even if these workouts are “voluntary.”

9 For those wondering what’s happened to the Indians — losers of seven straight and 15 of 19 — it’s pretty simple. During the last seven games entering Monday, Cleveland has been outscored 27-2 during the first three innings. For a team that needs to get to the seventh inning with the lead to win, those kind of deficits are troublesome. The good news? Entering Monday, 70 of the Tribe’s remaining 100 games are against teams currently with sub-.500 records.

10 Fabricio Werdum was impressive again during UFC on Fuel TV 10, causing heavyweight submission legend Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira to verbally tap out in the second round on Saturday. Assuming Alistair Overeem beats Travis Browne in August, I want to see the trilogy fight between Werdum and Overeem, with the winner becoming the heavyweight No. 1 contender. Werdum’s come a long way since his joke of a decision loss to Overeem in Strikeforce and is one of the UFC’s hottest fighters right now.

The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.

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