IT’S DOWN to the Final Eight in the NBA playoffs and the possibility, no matter how improbable and possibly unthinkable for fans, of Boston and San Antonio meeting in the Finals is there.
You can actually hear your teenage children and the rest of the young NBA fans worldwide dismissing your notion: Nah. Won’t happen. Dreaming. Old man’s wish. No way. It’s got to be Kobe and Lebron, Dwayne and Kevin (they call them by their first names, of course).
Any of the four, they proclaim, because they exhilarate and entertain. The Celtics and the Spurs have had their heydays.
Besides, as much as the NBA honors its history and tradition, the league is hoping to score a marquee matchup in the Finals that will help erase the stigma of this nearly canceled season because of the lockout.
They need their vibrant new stars there, to thrill this generation of video-game playing, high-flying wannabes who love the game with a passion.
But it could happen.
The Spurs are teaching the young Clippers a lesson and lead, 3-0, in the Western semifinals. One more win and they face the winner of the Oklahoma-Lakers series where Kevin Durant and company are up 2-1.
In the East, Boston and Philadelphia are tied as of the weekend at two games apiece. The winner of that series faces the victor of the Heat-Pacers showdown, where the Pacers lead 2-1.
The Celtics and the Spurs are using every ounce of their playoff experience to eke out wins. They are no longer spring chickens and, as my friend Dr. Sho Marquez explains, “Kalaban nila ang mga tuhod nila (Their opponents are their knees).”
That’s why they use the team approach to the hilt to cover for each other’s shortcomings against the speed and athleticism of their youthful opponents.
Check out how two grizzled veterans are approaching these playoffs.
First, Kevin Garnett. In most sequences, especially after a block or converted basket, Garnet is talking or mumbling encouragement to himself or his teammates. Taunting, of course, is not allowed but Garnett is that kind of athlete who needs to talk it out. That’s releasing stress and pumping adrenalin at the same time.
Garnett is the last line and probably (as the movie “Men in Black” says) the only defense against the offense. He’s asking his teammates to ride on his back and come together to get the job done.
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Here at home, we don’t like our stars talking or emoting too much. But many have done it with aplomb like when Robert Jaworski would emote to rev up the crowd or when Atoy Co would pump his fist after a jumper on the fastbreak.
Nowadays, Gary David provides an emotional rush when he looks at his hands, still smoking after a basket.
We seem to like our stars with a dash of indifference which keeps their focus and concentration. We see this in James Yap and Larry Fonacier whose game faces hardly change no matter what the weather is on the hardcourt.
We like our stars confident but not noisy.
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The Spurs’ Tim Duncan, The Big Fundamental, falls in that mold. He is all business on the court, nailing jumpers or faking off opponents with up-and-under moves.
Many may find him boring but two points is two points and Duncan often gets three-point play chances after being fouled. Duncan is all focus as he tries to be the rock of this veteran band of players.
The Celtics and the Spurs in the finals? Nah, but look out. It could happen.