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Sinceonly ten different franchises have won NBA titles. Dynasties are sexy, but there is a large segment of NBA fans who love underdogs. This chapter celebrates my favorite collection of said teams from the past 20 years. One of the best defensive teams of all time. Many thought this was a wrap before the series even started. The Lakers were a Kobe Bryant desperation heave from getting swept in four games.
After beating the back-to-back Eastern champion Nets remember them? Most of the scoring brunt was taken upon by Sheed, Hamilton and Billups, who got buckets when they needed.
Billups ran the offense with precision, getting the ball to people in the spots they needed to score. Ben Wallace was on his way to being the best defensive player in the league, controlling the block and the boards. Rasheed Wallace was a good ass games for any power forward who dared to check him. Too quick for bigs and too big for smaller forwards; his outside shot forced big men to play him close. Sheed embarrassed a lot of guys at his peak. Their bench players provided big minutes in Ham, Hunter, and Corliss Williamson. Somehow they just got it done.
If you looked at the lineups, you wondered how they would get enough points to win, but somehow they always did. But for the blue collar fanbase of the Pistons, this was the perfect team, winning through grit and defense. No flash, but all substance. The strategy worked as Kobe declined to pass to Shaquille and with an ailing Gary Payton and Karl Malone, the Lakers did not have a third scorer to counter this strategy.
Some believe this is the first super team to be created in the Free Agency era, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce ing forces, but all three players careers had already plateaued.
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Garnett embraced his role as the defensive captain hitting outside jumpers whenever he was open, but he mostly focused on leading the defense and hitting the boards. Paul Pierce put up his shots, while Ray Allen who may have had the biggest adjustment only showed glimpses of his Jesus Shuttlesworth persona. James Posey, Leon Powe, P. Brown, Kendrick Perkins, and Tony Allen provided the muscle on the defensive end. Rajon Rondo was still a young pup, but proved he was capable of running an offense.
Doc Rivers had a very strong coaching staff with future Head Coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau. Barea, Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi. The season created a power vacuum. The Mavericks, however; were third in the western conference behind the Lakers and the Spurs.
In hindsight, perhaps the West was more wide open than it appeared at the time.
Although the Lakers had been to three straight NBA finals, and were poised for good ass games three peat, looking back, things seemed to have been fracturing at the time— due to some internal strife and disgruntled big men. The Mavericks opened their playoff campaign with a wildly entertaining series with the Portland Trailblazers Shout out to the Brandon Roy game 4 ; beating them in 6 games. Then they ruined the network wet dream of a possible Kobe-Lebron NBA Finals by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in spectacular fashion, as the defending champs folded like lawn furniture after going down in the series.
The NBA Finals had more than a few subplots, with Dirk trying to get the playoff monkey off his back, the first super DUPER team put together in the league, and Lebron himself having a playoff monkey of his own to shake. The Mavericks, historically known for being a team full of finesse players, had the perfect mix of grit, basketball I.
Jason Kidd had seen better days on the defensive end of the court, but his I. Dirk consistently hit big buckets after big buckets whenever it counted the most, but he had help with perimeter scoring from J. Brian Cardinal and Ian Mahinmi provided big minutes when called upon as well. A lot of teams had bigger stars, but Dallas had a group of savvy veterans with high basketball I. Defensive captain, Tyson Chandler cleaned up any offensive penetration that resulted from perimeter leaks.
The defining moment good ass games the series came with five minutes left in game 2 of the Finals with the Mavericks down by double digits with 5 minutes left and the Heat up a game already. The Mavs embarked on a huge comeback; punctuated by a Dirk off-hand layup to take the lead with 3. With left in the 4th, the Mavericks were down by 15 and ended the game on a run.
The Mavericks would go on to win the highly contested series in 6 games.
When Lebron detractors argue why he can never be as good as Michael Jordan, they typically point to this NBA Finals as their closing argument. One night it would be Gasol, the next night Siakam and Green, Fred Van Fleet after the birth of his son chipped in 3 point shots on a nightly basis off the bench, and Kyle Lowry was able to shed the ghosts of playoffs past and get buckets whenever the team needed him good ass games score.
Down the road, I can see history glossing over the fact that this team was loaded with All NBA defenders. The Milwaukee Bucks that season were one of the highest scoring teams that season and Toronto was able to hold them below their scoring average. The front line won their nightly matchups against the Warriors in the Finals; trotting out bigs, Siakim, Ibaka, and Gasol Ibaka and Gasol both former all NBA defenders with Danny Green and Lowry both known for their defensive prowess on the perimeter.
Kawhi will get the credit for this team winning this title—as he should, he was their closer whenever they needed key basket—but he certainly had a lot of help from the collective.
I became more enamored with making flashy passes than I was with scoring the basketball or just as much. I find more joy in setting someone up for a bucket than to get one on my own. The following is a list of all my favorite passing big men to play the game, past and present. He could make the dazzling play, but turn around a make a simple play into a turnover. His highlights include Kansas-Florida in and any game where he faced Texas. These two Knicks legends, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, were so known for their bruising defense that most fans overlooked that they were incredibly deft passers in a system that was not very sophisticated.
He came to the league late into his career and played before the age of social media and the explosion of the internet. You had to be there. Seeing him play changed how I imagined the game could be played. He had incredible touch on good ass games entry passes and his large hands hid the ball as he whipped passes into the interior or behind his head. Chris Webber C-Webb 4. Career high 5.
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His great big paws made it easy for Webber to perform wizardry with the ball. Webber threw countless beautiful behind the back, no look passes. He was equally as great at finding the open man from along the perimeter, as he was passing from the high post and in the post. Bill Walton Big Red 3. Many think Walton is one of the best passing big men of all time. Highlights of his peak years are grainy, but he had some gorgeous passes from the high post and perfected the touch pass as a way of catching defenders off guard.
There is a reason why Tim Duncan was called the Big Fundamental. There was not one aspect of the game that he did not excel at.
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His outlet passes were a thing of beauty—they always were the perfect spin or speed for the occasion. Blessed with superb court vision, Duncan threw passes to where a player was going to be—like a quarterback leading a wide receiver. In his early years, he perfected passing out of the high post to other big men including Hall of Famer David Robinson.
Near the end of his career, he was throwing alley oops to future Clipper grea t Kawhi Leonard. There are even clips of Duncan running the fast break and embarrassing young players who doubted his handles shout out to a young Lebron James.
Watching Larry Bird is where I learned to perfect the no look, over the head, post pass. Bird was also a master of the touch pass off a rebound carom. You could get lost watching old footage just by typing the words, Larry Bird, passing clinic. Joakim Noah Jo 2. It is hard to believe Noah played 13 seasons in the league.
It felt like his career reached a grinding halt after playing for known hard ass Tom Thibodeau. At his zenith, he was the best passing big man in the league— in addition to being a defensive player of the year candidate, year in and out. In when he averaged his most assists for a season, it seemed like he was on Sportscente r every other night with a highlight worthy pass. Nikola Jokic the Joker 6. Two words: Basketball savant. Plays with the pizazz of a mixtape player on the playground.