19 June 2013

NBA Finals: Heat Do the Zag and Force Game 7

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I have more faith in the zig zag theory than most hokey superstitions.

A couple of weeks ago I charted out a potential path to victory for the San Antonio Spurs that followed the zig zag. Based on the overwhelming fact that the Heat never lose two games in a row, the Spurs would have to alternate wins starting with Game 1 and win all the odd-numbered games... Game 3, Game 5, and Game 7.

Thus far, the NBA Finals has been following that exact path.

When Game 5 ended in San Antonio with a Spurs victory, everyone (fans, sportswriters, bookies, and wiseguys) assumed the Heat would win Game 6 in Miami, which would set up a coinflip for Game 7. The Heat never lost two in a row.  Bettors exploited that stat for ginormous paydays in the playoffs. Everyone and their mother was betting the Heat in Game 6.

It was time for the Zag.

On Tuesday morning, the NBA announced on the zebra assignments. Joey Crawford's crew got the nod. Who didn't see that coming?

If you believe in NBA conspiracy theories, then the Junta comprised of David Stern and Walt Disney's unfrozen head dispatched their henchman Joey Crawford to ensure a Miami Heat victory in Game 6, thereby forcing a seventh game. Big ratings for NBA. Mega advertising revenue. The media continues the hype cycle for 2 more days. A Game 7 is essentially printing more money. Everyone wins.

If anyone had any doubt about the Heat winning Game 6, the appointing of Joey Crawford put them to rest.

Even renown bookmaker Chris Andrews tweet'd: "Joey Crawford reffing the Spurs-Heat game 6 tonight. I guess we'll have a game 7."

I've written extensively about Joey Crawford in the past (e.g. The Unbearable Likeness of Joey Crawford). Joey Crawford is a hot head. Everyone knows that. He's broken fingers giving Ts after losing his mind. He loves confrontations. He's the type of dickhead who takes up extra space in the overhead compartment. He strikes me as the type of guy who stiffs cabbies and leaves a 10% tip at restaurants. He ritually sacrifices kittens for the Illuminati, and on his off days he flies phantom cargo planes that spray Chemtrails on the populous.

Joey Crawford is a "Yes Man" and a loyal henchman. That's why he appears in must-win games that are beneficial for the business interests of the NBA Junta. Like the Umbrella Man standing in front of the Grassy Knoll on the day JFK was whacked, Joey Crawford's absurd appearance seems like too much of a coincidence.

Tim Duncan is not one of those paranoid pro athletes who thinks The Man is out to get him, which is surprising that he made public statements about Joey Crawford's well-known vendetta against him. Crawford got suspended for threatening to fight Duncan, but Grantland deconstructed the accusations that Crawford tries to fix Spurs' games. According to the numbers, there's no statistical evidence that suggests the Spurs lose more often when Crawford is reffing.

Okay, so Crawford is not out to cook Duncan's goose, but he has an obvious bias toward Miami -- the Heat won seven out of the last 8 games he reffed.

Game 6 did not start out with the same uptempo pace of Game 5, but it looked like it would be in the 90s. Spurs got ahead in the 1Q, but the Heat pulled away in 2Q. The Spurs stayed close behind Duncan's offensive outburst. Duncan dropped many points as possible in the first half just in case Crawford rang him up with a bogus tech, or if he got into foul trouble. Duncan erupted for 25 first-half-points (setting a personal NBA Finals Record). The bookies set prop bets for Duncan's point total in Game 6 at 18 total points. Duncan crushed the over mid-way through the 2Q.

The Heat went butt cold and failed to score in the last 4:20 in the half. Spurs regained lead and went on a 11-0 tear to close out the half. Heat couldn't do anything on offense and the Spurs extended their edge to a 6-point halftime.

Miami dominated early in the 3Q and pulled within 1 point, but that was the closest they'd get before the Spurs rattled off a 11-0 run and took a commanding 12-point lead.

Miami came out firing in the 4Q and quickly chipped away at the lead. They pulled within 2 possessions after Miller drilled a trey while missing one sneaker.

The Heat's D shut down Danny Green. Even the rare times he got off shots, he was way off. LBJ woke up from a slumber. The Heat stormed back and seized the lead with 6 minutes to go. Brand new ball game.

Tony Parker hit a couple of big shots in crunch time. Meanwhile, Lebron made a few bad plays and made me wonder if he's shaving points. But then again, Lebron hit a big trey with 20 seconds to go.

Up two, Kawhi Leonard missed a crucial free throw, which was the Spurs best chance to clinch a win in regulation.

Down by three, on the final possession, Lebron bricked another jumper with seven seconds to go, but Bosh snagged the rebound and kicked it over to Ray Allen, who drilled a corner trey to tie the game with 0:05 to go. Tony Parker got mauled on a thwarted last second shot and Game 6 went into OT.

Joe Crawford wasn't really much of a factor this game, but he made a couple of close calls in OT that went the Heat's way. I was more surprised at how bad Lebron looked at times. He got off to a smoking hot 4Q, but then choked down the stretch in crucial situations.

The Spurs went cold in the second half of OT. Leonard scored their only two buckets. Down by 1, Ginobli got hacked. Zebras went blind and swallowed their whistles. Allen got fouled and hit both to put the Heat up by three. Green whiffed on a chance to send the game into double OT. Heat held on to win 103-100 (but failed to cover). Say hello to Game 7.

The Heat avoided an elimination. The zig zag theory held true. If it continues, the Spurs should win Game 7. But, can they win an elimination game in Miami? Or will the Heat shake free of the zig zag and win back-to-back eliminations games and continue their reign as NBA Champions?

Gonna be a crazy Thursday night in Miami. Bookies opened the line at Miami -6.

Pauly is the author of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

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