The Finals have been -- correctly -- billed as LeBron vs. the Spurs. But there are a host of more subtle storylines that are just as intriguing:
LeBron vs. Bruce Bowen: Rare is the star who hasn't openly ripped into Bowen and his defensive tactics. To this point, James has fared well against the Spurs' stopper, but after stepping on each other's toes - literally -- for four or more games, will James join the Vince Carters and Ray Allens of the NBA in criticizing Bowen? James has rolled his ankle a few times this season already; another instance at the feet of Bowen might be too much even for the league's new face to hold his tongue.
Another lesson for Mike Brown: The Cavs coach developed many of his philosophies at the arm of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whom Brown assisted from 2000-03. Even in this spring's playoffs, Brown would consult with his mentor. Now school's out and Brown will have to fly on his own. And though the Cavs seem to have adopted Brown's defensive principles, they far too often look lost on offense, a state Brown has been reluctant to admit. The Spurs' boa-constrictor-tight defense, though, may demonstrate even to Brown just how dysfunctional the Cleveland offense can be.
Floppers Ball: Cleveland's Anderson Varejao drove the Pistons' batty with his penchant for drawing offensive fouls, most of which the Pistons felt were more acting jobs than fouls. He will meet his match in fellow thespian Manu Ginobili, who is no stranger to sprawling backwards on the floor. With Ginobili likely to be defending players with far less respect from the refs than Varejao will with Duncan, our money is on the Spurs' dervish to win this battle, but Duncan's role in getting referee Joey Crawford booted late in the regular season could make this interesting.
The James Gang: Cleveland's supporting cast not only has been cast aside as largely anonymous, but ineffective, too. And while there is no one on the Cleveland roster the likes of Tony Parker or Ginobili or even Michael Finley, there are some solid NBA pros such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden who could make the Spurs sweat a little if they can contribute something meaningful in the boxscore. And they will likely have to as we can't see the Spurs leaving rookie phenom Daniel Gibson as open as Detroit did in the conference finals.
Nothing free for Duncan: Tim Duncan has played like a man possessed in the playoffs, averaging 23.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks through 16 games. But he's played like a man scared at the free-throw line, hitting less than 65 percent of his attempts. Considering Duncan is the Spur sent to the line most often, and considering that Cleveland may use as many as four different bigs to defend him, Duncan's foul shooting may well decide how close the Spurs keep the Cavs in each game.
All that written, there is no reason the Spurs shouldn't win this series. They have more talent, better coaching and deeper experience. But the Cavs have played to the level of their competition all season, which should bode well for a Finals more closely contested than many expect.
But that's just my opinion. How do you think the Finals will play out?