- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2007


Stop this Spurs-Cavaliers mismatch.

Pull the plug on this NBA Finals.

It has the feel of being over, done.

To put it another way, it is so not fair, to borrow from that great philosopher of our times, that jailbird known as Paris Hilton.

The Spurs did not merely defeat the Cavaliers 103-92 in Game 2 last night.

They put a beating on the Cavaliers before the visitors made the obligatory scoring run late in the fourth quarter that gave a misleading sense of respectability to the final score.

The Spurs did anything they wanted against the Cavaliers, and there was nothing the outclassed Cavaliers could do about it for the longest time.

Tony Parker or Tony Soprano?

At least there was an element of suspense with the mob family’s final episode.

What the Spurs have shown in the first two games of the NBA Finals is that the Cavaliers do not belong on this level.

The Cavaliers are only here because the NBA requires a representative from the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers would be no better than the fifth- or sixth-best team in the Western Conference. They are LeBron James and four guys who could have been picked up off a street corner.

Unless a change of venue can solve all the problems before the Cavaliers — Tim Duncan and Parker are two of them — this showcase event is poised to go down as one of the least compelling ones ever.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich liked what he saw for the most part.

“We played well for three quarters,” he said. “As usual, in the fourth quarter, in two regular-season games with them and now two playoff games, they scored somewhere between 25 and 30 every fourth quarter. So that was disappointing. But we’re in the finals, we got a win and we’re thrilled about that.”

The Spurs made it look easy in putting away the game early in the second quarter.

Duncan hit consecutive jump hook shots over Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Then Manu Ginobili hit a 3-pointer and a jumper in the three-second lane to stake the Spurs to an 18-point lead.

The Cavaliers looked dazed at this point, beaten, out of their element.

The Cavaliers could not imagine it getting any worse. Or embarrassing.

But it did as James shot a free throw attempt that traveled about 14 feet.

His was an air ball that drew cheers of derision from the crowd.

James succumbed to early foul trouble and sat out the last 9:05 of the first quarter.

With James out of the lineup, the Cavaliers played like one of the dregs of the NBA.

They could not put together anything on offense; they could not stymie the Spurs’ Big Three of Parker, Ginobili and Duncan.

And so it went. The Spurs led by 27 after 36 minutes.

The Cavaliers then made a late run, as NBA teams often do, with the Spurs never being in any genuine danger.

James was mostly inefficient again, unable to find a comfort level in the jaws of the Spurs’ defense. He again was careless with the ball, with six turnovers. He again could not hit a perimeter shot. He may have scored 25 points, but he needed 21 shots to do it.

“We’re definitively still confident,” James said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose by 30 or one. A loss is a loss. We’ve been down 2-0 in a series before, so that is how we have to look at it.”

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was annoyed with his team’s lackluster showing.

“Our effort has to be better,” he said. “Our aggression has to be higher. And we still have to be poised. There is no magical play that is going to help us on the floor. We have to bring the juice, and right now, we’re not doing that. We can’t be passive against this team.”

Passivity is just one of the many problems before the Cavaliers.

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