Soccer may be the most popular sport in the world, but basketball is a better one. I am on my way to the World Cup. So what. The NBA Finals will be watched and analyzed no matter what country I’m in.

After a depressing ending to a Finals Game 1 for LeBron James (due to jello-leg), all the LeBron haters jumped on him like sorority girls on jello shots. The Freight Train sat the last three-plus minutes of the fourth unable to contribute, although he did buy the Spurs’ sympathy with his heart-wrenching facial expressions from the bench displayed on the jumbotron (and on every LeBron hater’s blog the next day).

Yes, I'm a LeBron hater too.

Yes, I’m a LeBron hater too.

In his defense, anybody who has played an actual sport and has a competitive nature knows what it feels like to cramp up. I vividly remember sitting in a pizza joint after a high school soccer match and laughing at my teammate for cramping up at the table, which then caused my own hamstring to cramp. There we were, a laughing stock, unable to eat pizza because we were in too much pain and had to be stretched out. Whenever this happens during a game, it happens over and over until you just can’t run any longer. It may not be a serious injury but you are certainly temporarily out of commission.

Game 2 was a glaring display of the polarizing styles of basketball employed by the two sides: a beautiful, pass-heavy offense bolstered by a bench deeper than Mark Cuban’s pockets vs. unrelenting one-on-one from every area of the court with occasional dish-outs for 3’s when triple-teamed. We all know the box score is a bunch of crap, but there are two stats that prove my last statement to be factual. Assists: 26 to 16. Bench points: 37 to 12.

Perhaps the most surprising stat, then, was the final score: 96-98. Miami wins in the Grindhouse. Yes, individual talent can beat pretty much anyone, especially when that talent goes 25-42 from the field and 4-5 from 3 (67 points). Those are the combined numbers of the Big Three in Game 2. Let’s not take any credit away from LeBron either. The Train came to play with his all-out attack mode after the letdown in Game 1, highlighted by his one-man 8-0 run midway through the 3rd (in a span of 0:59). When he plays in this type of rhythm (reminiscent of 2007 Conference Finals against the Pistons when he scored the team’s final 25 points by himself) there is not much any defense can do.

GreenGame 3, in Miami, was a completely different story. I don’t know what Pop fed em in the locker room, but the Spurs defensive intensity was taken to another level on Tuesday night. They swarmed LeBron like pita bread forcing the Train to cough it up 7 times and a series high 20 times for the Heat. The footwork and positioning: close-out, jump the pick and roll, show weak-side help, rotate, double the post, rotate, triple the post, rebound. Not to mention constant hands in the face and swiping at the ball. It was a textbook display. All of you “They don’t play D in the NBA” haters, please shut up and watch the clinic. (Yes, it’s just one game of the season but defense happened.) When your team has the same amount of steals as turnovers, you’re going to end up with a few more possessions than your opponent. (That should be a new stat: Steal-TO ratio: I bet the correlation with winning games is surprisingly high. In game 3, the Spurs’ ratio was 1.0, the Heat’s was 0.4) Combine that with offensive efficiency (almost 60% from the field) and that’s a guaranteed dub. The offensive explosion from Kawhi Leonard was extraordinary, but his defensive effort was as important in punctuating the soft-spoken youngster’s career night.

If the Spurs come out with the same sense of urgency in Game 4 it will take an extraordinary performance from the Train to win. Or maybe Rashard Lewis will go off, you never know.