1. Bowen and LeBron: I thought the last play of Game 3 was called correctly. With the Cavs down three, Bruce Bowen tried to intentionally foul LeBron James. James broke free, however, and just missed an open three. Some had felt that the foul should’ve been called and that the Cavs got somewhat screwed. Bowen did foul James but the foul was before the shot and would’ve been worth two free throws and would’ve allowed the Spurs to effectively run out the clock. Unless Bowen totally impeded James, then the play was called right and the Cavs at least got a chance to tie the game.
2. Le Tony, MVP?: Based upon the regular season meetings and the match ups, I expected Tony Parker to give the Cavs problems but this is ridiculous. Parker has 24.7 ppg and is shooting 53%. Parker is an interesting player in many respects. He was an above-average regular player by age 20 (15.5 ppg, 5.3 apg at age 20 in 2002-03), which is fairly unprecedented for a young point guard. Parker is now an established quasi-star, a great scorer with some limitations–but he is not much of a passer (Parker never had more than 6.1 apg in season) and he really is a fringe All-Star.
In any case, Parker is the odds on favorite to win the Finals MVP at this point. This is also interesting because, almost always, the best player wins the NBA Finals MVP. In the last 16 years, the acknowledged star player always won the MVP and the player, no matter who he is, almost always is a Hall of Famer. Check all the MVP for the Finals since the award was first given out in 1969:
1968-69, Jerry West, Lakers: West is the only MVP from a losing team but he was the best player on the Lakers and, probably, the best player on the floor in this seven game series versus the Celts. The stats were limited back then (no blocks, steals, or turnovers were recorded) but West put up slightly better numbers than Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain and all the Celtics.
1969-70, Willis Reed, Knicks:* Walt Frazier was probably the better player and probably had the better series but this was Willis’ legendary Game 7 where he came back from a torn calf muscle to inspire victory.
1970-71, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bucks*
1971-72, Wilt Chamberlain, Lakers: West was arguably better than Wilt but the two were close enough that Chamberlain’s getting the nod is not shocking.
1972-73, Willis Reed, Knicks: Frazier had clearly passed Reed as the Knicks’ best player by this time but Reed, who was platooning with Jerry Lucas, played well and still had that inspirational status.
1973-74, John Havlicek, Celtics: The Celtics of the 1970s were always very balanced but Hondo was the team’s best player.
1974-75, Rick Barry, Golden State
1975-76, JoJo White, Celtics: Again, balance was the key. White was probably not quite as good as Hondo or Dave Cowens but White’s MVP was not a huge shocker.
1976-77, Bill Walton, Portland
1977-78, Wes Unseld, Washington: There were plenty of balanced non-star teams in the 1970s (Celtics, Bullets, Sonics). The Bullets bets player was probably Elvin Hayes but Unseld definitely had a presence defensively and on the boards. His numbers were not huge in the Finals (9 ppg, 12 rpg, 4 apg) but, like Reed, his aura gave him a little extra push and he was a great player.
1978-79, Dennis Johnson, Seattle: We already covered the 1970s Sonics a few months ago. The short answer is that DJ was one of the top three players on the team, and none of three were clearly better than the other.
1979-80, Magic Johnson, Lakers
1980-81, Cedric Maxwell, Celtics: Probably the worst player to ever win an Finals MVP so far. Maxwell was pretty good (18 ppg and 9.5 apg in the Finals) but not nearly as good as Larry Bird or Robert Parish (not to mention Kevin McHale, who was a rookie coming off the bench).
1981-82, Magic Johnson, Lakers
1982-83, Moses Malone, 76ers*
1983-84, Larry Bird, Celtics*
1984-85, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lakers: Not quite as good as Magic but he was still great and his resurgence after a weak Finals the previous year was the talk of the series.
1985-86, Larry Bird, Celtics*
1986-87, Magic Johnson, Lakers*
1987-88, James Worthy, Lakers: Magic was still the star but Worthy had a huge Game 7 (36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists).
1988-89, Joe Dumars, Pistons: Joe D was not quite the star of this team but he led then with 27 ppg and so he got the nod.
1989-90, Isiah Thomas, Pistons
1990-91, Michael Jordan, Bulls*
1991-92, Michael Jordan, Bulls*
1992-93, Michael Jordan, Bulls*
1993-94, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets*
1994-95, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets
1995-96, Michael Jordan, Bulls*
1996-97, Michael Jordan, Bulls
1997-98, Michael Jordan, Bulls*
1998-99, Tim Duncan, Spurs
1999-00, Shaquille O’Neal, Lakers*
2000-01, Shaquille O’Neal, Lakers
2001-02, Shaquille O’Neal, Lakers
2002-03, Tim Duncan, Spurs*
2003-04, Chauncey Billups, Pistons
2004-05, Tim Duncan, Spurs
2005-06, Dwyane Wade, Heat
*Denotes that player won the regular season MVP as well.
Quite a list. Only DJ, Maxwell, and JoJo White aren’t in the Hall yet among eligible players and Johnson will probably make it eventually. Of the newer group, Billups is the only guy who probably won’t make the Hall (Wade is on his way if he stays healthy). If Parker should get the MVP, he’s probably near the bottom of the list. He’s better than Cornbread Maxwell but he and JoJo are remarkably similar players (score first point guards), though White was a shooter and Parker is a high percentage drive player. Still, they are near a dead heat. In any event, Parker’s going into a nice company, even if he’s not quite the best of the bunch.