The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kunal touts his superiority to ESPN, talks NBA

It’s finally the end of the school year, and consequently, the end of my column writing for three months. I know, I know, I’m just as sad as you are. After all, how are you guys supposed to keep up with all the major goings-on in the sports world without Kramer and I? ESPN? FanNation? Your local newspaper? Those sources are stupid and lame, plus they lack the personal touch that Kray-Kray and I deliver on a weekly basis. You hipsters can’t tell me that reading about sports isn’t 5X more fun when a couple of Grinnell-specific jokes are tossed in.  Seriously, though, I want to thank all of you out there who read my column, because I thoroughly enjoy writing it, and without the large, nay, massive readership I have gained at Grinnell, I would be talking to nobody. Speaking of talking to nobody, be sure to tune in to KDIC on Sunday night for the grand finale of Kramer n’ Kunal’z Sportz Zone (3rd most listened to show on KDIC). Anyway, this is a sports column, not a resume, so without further ado, LEZZZZ GOOOOOO!

When deciding what to write about for my final column of the year, I found myself torn between a few options. I have not written about baseball since October, so a part of me wanted to write about the upside-down AL Central, and how the fast starts of Cleveland and Kansas City should not be discounted because of these teams’ recent histories. I have not written about soccer even once this year, so a part of me wanted to write about FC Barcelona’s third consecutive La Liga Championship, and the upcoming Champion’s League Final between Barca and Manchester United (by the way, you cannot call yourself a sports fan if you do not watch this match – it defines “epic matchup”). However, in the end, I decided that the biggest sporting event occurring in America right now is the NBA Playoffs, and with superstars such as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitizki, and Kevin Durant still in the mix, I have no choice but to predict the NBA Finals matchup.

I talked a little bit in my last column about how the Dallas Mavericks were exceeding expectations this year, but I couldn’t have foreseen this. After sweeping the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki has proven that he deserves to at least be in the conversation for best player in the NBA. I mean, how many 7-footers can average 26.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 38.1 minutes per game, while shooting 49.7 percent from the field, 89.9 percent from the charity stripe, and a hotter-than-hot 60 percent from three-point range!  While Dirk has certainly been the best Maverick in these playoffs, some of his teammates have picked it up too. In fact, that’s what worries me about this Dallas team heading into the Western Conference Finals – how long can Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic sustain their torrid shooting? Jason Terry shot 45 percent from the field during the regular season and 36.2 percent from three, yet he is a whopping 52.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the playoffs. Peja, a known long-range specialist, has upped his three-point percentage from 40 percent during the regular season, to 46.2 percent in the playoffs. I mean, the entire Mavericks team is shooting 41.9 percent from three-point land in these 2011 playoffs!  Clearly, Portland and L.A. did a poor job of defending the perimeter, but Oklahoma City, once they finally finish off the surprising Grizzlies, will not make the same mistake. The Thunder possesses the size and athleticism at every position to contest shots on the perimeter and make Dallas work inside. The Lakers do too, but for some reason they never committed to such a defensive philosophy, even as they found themselves on the brink of elimination. Dirk can still kill you taking the ball to the rack, but he’s stroking it so well right now that you might as well make him earn the damn two points. Also, tight perimeter defense will likely cool off JET and Peja to some extent, two players not quite as apt at driving to the cup. The Thunder boast more scoring options up and down their roster than the Mavs, so if OKC can d-up and contest every shot, Kevin Durant & Co. should be heading  to the Finals. The question is which Eastern Conference team will they face?

Remember the struggles of the Miami Heat at the beginning of the regular season? How long ago does that seem? After disposing of the Boston Celtics in five games, the Heat are peaking at the right time, and NBA fans are wondering if Miami is finally morphing into the juggernaut we all thought they would be when LeBron announced “The Decision.” In a column I wrote during the first semester, I said it was only a matter of time before the Heat started meshing and playing a brand of basketball never before seen. Any team can lose any given game in the NBA, such is the nature of professional sports, but for a team featuring James, Wade, and Bosh to lose 4 games out of 7 to any team is becoming a less and less likely proposition. However, I also said in my column that I did not think the Heat would win the Eastern Conference this year. Do I stick by my guns and pick the Chicago Bulls to pull the upset, and consequently, send Grinnell College into a state of basketball pandemonium? Believe me, nothing would please me more, but the job of a sports journalist is to be a realist, and I cannot realistically see the Heat losing this series. Chicago might be the better-rounded team, and they definitely possess the deeper and more skilled front court with Boozer, Noah, and Deng. However, at the end of the day, if you want to beat the Heat, you’ve got to stop DWade and LBJ. The task is easier said than done when you consider that both players are averaging over 26 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 39.6 minutes per playoff game – oh, and by the way, they’re both shooting over 47% from the field. Even if you stop DWade and LeBron from tearing you apart in the half-court, nobody runs the fast-break like these cats, and you best believe they’ll convert every careless turnover into points. Some fans may say, “LeBron and Wade are going to go off anyways, might as well let them get theirs and shut down the rest of the team.” The problem is, as the Celtics and the Sixers found out, the Heat don’t actually need a complete team effort to win games. The oft-forgotten member of the Big Three, Chris Bosh, has chipped in an efficient 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.  If three players are accounting for nearly 80 points of offense per game, the contributions of the rest of the team need only be miniscule to put the team at 100-105 points. LeBron and Dwayne Wade are excellent defenders, and most of the time, they’re going to make a score in the triple digits stand. Even with a standout performance from the league’s MVP, the Bulls will struggle to consistently match the athleticism and creativity of Miami, and thus, LeBron will get a second crack at claiming his first ring.

-Kunal Bansal ’12

 

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