The last time the San Antonio Spurs were in the NBA Finals was in 2007 as they faced the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.
Then, San Antonio had one of the NBA's most ferocious perimeter defenders - Bruce Bowen - who had the unenviable task of guarding James. Bowen ended up doing an all-around solid job defending James, as the Spurs went on to sweep the Cavaliers en route to their fourth NBA crown.
However, James was a totally different player in Cleveland. He relied heavily on his ability to drive to the rim and his jump-shot was shaky. Something Bowen exploited:
"We did a clip on SportsCenter, the space I gave him," said Bowen, an ESPN analyst. "I wanted him to shoot jump shots, because he is a load if he is going to the basket. If I could get him shooting jump shots, that's what I wanted. But now, that's changed."
Indeed James' game has changed for the better. No longer can a defense dare him to shoot anymore as the stats show:
In 2007, he was at 36 percent from 10 to 15 feet, and 34 percent from 16 to 23 feet. This season, he posted career-bests of 44.7 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
If Bowen was still playing during prime and faced the much improved James, one can only wonder how that matchup would have gone down.
What do you have to say Spurs fans? Could a Bowen in his prime be able to defend James' much improved game?
2007 was a classic example of why it takes veterans to win at the highest level.
They realize how to neutralize good-great offensive players. Bruce was one of the best at it. LBJ could have attacked more in that series, but he settled for too many outside shots. Of course Duncan had something to do with that. I still think if he had attacked more and worked the FT line, the Cavs could have one at least a game or two. But it takes time for stars to learn how to play and adjust mentally to how they are played. It's more than having confidence in your jump shot, but I agree that does make a big difference.
Scottie Pippen and maybe 2nd 3-peat MJ (he had put on a little more weight) could defend LeBron at this point... and that's about it.
No one can really "LOCK Lebron Down." Though I think if Bruce is still playing he can still play better defense than anyone on the Spurs rosters.