Heat in 6
While playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the great disappointments of LeBron James career was his performance in the 2007 NBA Finals. The Cavs were outclassed and overwhelmed by the San Antonio Spurs who swept their way to a fourth NBA Championship. After finally winning his first NBA Championship last year LeBron will look erase that bad memory while leading the Heat to a second straight championship against the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals.
The Spurs dominated in the Western Conference Finals, sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies and losing just two playoff games in the first three rounds. Though two of the games against the Grizzlies went to overtime it was clear by the time the series was over that the Spurs were the best in the West as they made it to their first NBA Finals since 2007. The Heat meanwhile, were expected to cruise their way through the East, got pushed to a seventh game against the Indiana Pacers. This brings to the start of the series the old rest versus rust argument.
Truthfully nobody will know what effect the long layoff will have on the Spurs, or the tough series will have on the Heat, but in a sport of momentum like basketball, ten days without playing a game is a longtime for any team. The Spurs are a great veteran team, with a great coach in Greg Popovich. If there is one team that will be prepared despite a long layoff it is the Spurs, as rest can only help Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all of whom will be key if the Spurs are to win the series. Meanwhile the one worry for the Heat from a seven game series is Dwyane Wade, who was obviously not 100%, as he struggled against the Pacers. If he struggles in the NBA Finals the Heat could be in trouble.
The Pacers have shown a blueprint on how to beat the Heat, as Chris Bosh had a nightmare against Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson. The two key players for the Spurs will be Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard if they can match the rebounding of Hibbert and Stephenson and bottle up Bosh the Spurs will win the series. The problem is Hibbert is a much better defender than Splitter, and Bosh should not have the same troubles he had against the Pacers who emphasize defense.
Prior to last year, LeBron James struggled in the big game, he lost the 2007 NBA Finals when he was overmatched and failed to get the Cavs back to the championship when they had the best record in the NBA in 2009 and 2010. Arriving in Miami in 2011 it was another let down in the NBA Finals against the Mavericks, and then something changed in 2012. Down 3-2 in the Eastern Finals against the Boston Celtics LeBron scored 45 points on the road in Game 6 and led the Heat to a Game 7 win and onto the NBA Finals where they beat the OKC Thunder in five games. The difference was a Killer Instinct. That killer instinct is what paced the Heat 27 game winning streak and has made LeBron from a regular season MVP to the an all-time great champion. It is that killer instinct that drives LeBron to take revenge for 2007.
The bottom line is this will be a great series, and for the Spurs to win the must either win twice in Miami or sweep the middle three games at home. It’s hard to imagine the Heat losing two in a row, let alone three straight. With the layoff the Spurs will have a tough time winning Game 1, and that will put them in a hole that will be difficult to escape. They will win two of three in San Antonio, but in Miami it will be all Heat as they take the series in six games.