NBA Finals: Who is the Most Unlikely Key to a San Antonio Win?

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That’s the word from Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, anyway. Speculating on the great matchup that is set to start tomorrow night, Mannix gave a brief rundown on the shortlist differences between this year’s and last year’s teams (relative health, relative bench strength, Ray Allen’s series defining shot), then proceeded to sing the praises of Boris Diaw.

Diaw, the 32-year-old Frenchman who has played the last eleven years in the NBA, first rose to national prominence as a member of the mid-2000s Phoenix Suns, the same team that saw Steve Nash win two MVP awards and Amar’e Stoudemire receive a contract from the New York Knicks worth $100 million. Diaw never snagged a massive payday, and he failed rather spectacularly on the Charlotte Bobcats, but he has thrived as a reserve on this year’s San Antonio Spurs squad.

“Defensively, I think Boris Diaw is going to be in the game,” Mannix said. “He’s got to step up and either defend LeBron James, or Chris Bosh, or somebody in that front court.” Citing Miami’s preference toward small ball, Mannix pointed out that Diaw, nicknamed ‘The Human Mismatch’ by the fantastic Spurs blog Pounding The Rock, was likely to take the lion share of the minutes previously owed to Tiago Splitter.

“When Boris is in there, he makes San Antonio’s offense more dynamic. He’s an excellent passer, he helps with that ball movement — if he can have a strong series, that’s going to bode well for San Antonio’s chances.” Mannix also offered some thoughts on LeBron James, the star for the Miami Heat, saying that if LeBron truly wanted to be compared to some of the all-time NBA greats, he would have to bridge the championship gap (James currently has two) between him and his would-be contemporaries.

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