Spurs in 7
For the second straight year the Miami Heat are facing the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Last year’s seven game affair was an instant classic, as the Heat won a second straight championship, after a historic comeback in Game 6. The Spurs had the championship in their fingers with a five point lead with 30 seconds left in the game. However, a missed free throw by Kwami Leonard and a pair of three pointers one by LeBron James and one by Ray Allen sent the game to overtime. The Spurs have waited an entire year for a second chance at the Heat, and with their players advanced age it may be the last chance to get fifth championship for this core group that has been a Western Power since 1999.
The Heat are the perfect team for Miami, they are glitzy they are famous they are fast they are quick and they are famous. LeBron James is the unquestioned best player in the NBA with four MVP awards in six years. He could with a scoring title, but is unselfish and gets his teammates involved as much as possible. Together with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade the Big Three have stood the Eastern Conference on its head since joining forces four years ago. They have gone to the NBA Finals in all four seasons and are seeking a third straight NBA Championship. The Heat did not have a great regular season and are not in possession of home court, but since the start of the playoffs they have been blazing, as they swept the Charlotte Bobcats, blitzing the Brooklyn Nets in five games, and picked apart the Indiana Pacers in six. Wade who spent much of the second half of the regular season on the bench has looked rejuvenated in the playoffs, averaging 18.7 points per game in the playoffs. When Wade and LeBron are both at the top of the game, the Heat are impossible to beat. Chris Bosh has also been strong in the playoffs, averaging 15.2 ppg, while LeBron has been at a MVP level with a team high 27.1 ppg and 6.8 rebounds per game. Off the bench the Heat have gotten big shots from Ray Allen once again who has been deadly from downtown, while the Birdman has been great and getting at loose balls with 6.1 boards per game, many of which provided big second chance shots on the offensive boards.
The Spurs meanwhile, are the embodiment of West Texas; they let their action do the talking for them. In fact you could almost call them boring, as they are more reliable and efficient than glitzy. Nobody on San Antonio has overwhelming statistics as Tony Parker is leading the scorer with 17.2 points per game, but he is just one of six players on San Antonio with at least 9.3 points per game in the postseason. This is the formula that has paid off for the Spurs for the last few years and has kept their older lineup fresh and able to win big games. Old reliable Tim Duncan has been solid with 16.5 ppg and 8.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs. The Spurs are also averaging 8.2 three pointers made in the playoffs, with Danny Green and Manu Ginobilli each being the Spurs top shooters from behind the arch. The Spurs road to the Finals has been a little rougher than Miami, but that is because the Western Conference makes the Eastern Conference almost look like a minor league, with the depth of solid teams and talent. The Spurs needed seven games to get past the Dallas Mavericks, five games against the Portland Trail Blazers and six to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, with the exception of Tony Parker who was hobbling at the end of the Western Conference Finals the Spurs head into the NBA Finals healthy.
Head to head these teams match up well against each other and split two games during the regular season, this leads me to believe we are in for another classic seven game battle. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade when at the top of their games can almost carry the Heat by themselves and stopping both will be nearly impossible. The thing the Spurs must avoid is LeBron breaking records, if they can keep him in the low 30’s they should have chance to win, but if the King is able to score 40 or more the Miami Heat will be ducking low bridges on another championship parade. What helps the Spurs is their depth, something Miami lacks this time around. The Spurs have gotten significant minutes from 11players while ten have scored at least 5.7 ppg in the playoffs. The Heat have six players who have logged more than 20 minutes per game in the playoffs, and have some question marks as Chris Anderson missed two games in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Anderson is not healthy the Spurs will have a significant edge on the boards an edge that can decide the series. Both teams have strong shooters from the three point line, but the Spurs versatility makes it a more significant weapon for San Antonio.
Last year’s NBA Finals almost took on a quality of Rocky, and older champ going against a brash champion. The champion won and held on to the title, but the underdog gained more respect in losing and if not for a bad 30 seconds would have won themselves. This time a seventh game will be in San Antonio, and the new 2-2-1-1-1 format plays into their hands, as much as the 2-3-2 format was key for Miami’s win last year. The Heat have not lost two straight playoff games in any of the last two years, and the Spurs are nearly as strong. The Spurs have lost just one home playoff game, while the Heat have been perfect in South Beach. It’s hard to believe with two teams this good, will not break through and win at least one game on the other team’s court. However, those last two games both teams are too good to fall at home. Like last year when the two teams alternated wins, I see a similar pattern. The series will be tied after four games, and benefiting from coming home for Game 5 the Spurs will take a 3-2 series lead. The Heat will bounce back and not fall in Miami, but with Game 7 in San Antonio, the Spurs will win a close finale in overtime, as fans a treated to three weeks of basketball at its highest level. Tim Duncan will win the NBA Finals MVP and retire as the Spurs have the perfect Texas ending with their quiet superstar riding off into west Texas sunset with five rings.