NBA Finals Preview—Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs


No, this is not a typo from last year. We indeed have a rematch!

For the second consecutive year, the NBA Finals will feature the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. We, of course, remember vividly what happened last year when the Spurs were within less than an eyelash of winning their fifth NBA championship before Ray Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6 sent that game to overtime. The Heat would go on to win Game 6 and Game 7 en route to their second consecutive NBA title.

Last year’s NBA Finals was a complete classic from start to finish. Should we expect anything different this year?
If anything, we should expect more.

Most are talking about the relatively easy path the Miami Heat have had to the NBA Finals, but the Heat clinched the Eastern Conference the moment the eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks pushed the Indiana Pacers to seven games in the opening round of these playoffs. Most basketball aficionados knew that the Miami Heat would make it—it was all a matter of who they would play.

This year, it has turned out to be—once again, the Spurs. Their road to the NBA Finals has been much more difficult than that of the Heat. At one point, the Spurs were trailing their opening-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks 3-2 before winning the final two games. San Antonio also defeated the Portland Trail Blazers and an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was without Serge Ibaka for the first two games of the Western Conference Finals en route to the NBA Finals.

Many pundits are predicting that things will be different from last year and that the Spurs will be this year’s NBA champions. There’s reason to think that. First—the Spurs are the team with the home court advantage this year, not Miami. In the previous four Spurs NBA titles, they held the home court on all four occasions.

The last time the Spurs were in an NBA Finals Game 7 at home was when the Detroit Pistons pushed San Antonio seven in 2005 after going up 3-2 on the Spurs, only for San Antonio to win the last two games and the championship.
In addition, Tony Parker announced on a French radio station that he will play in Game 1.

As for the Miami Heat, we know about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and how they can lead an offense. No lead is safe against this team. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Indiana Pacers jumped out to an early 17-4 lead before the Heat slowly, but surely, came back to win the game. They did it primarily because they were able to force turnovers on the Pacers.

Also, the Pacers were a team that was going through an identity crisis and whose entire team’s success really depends on the performance of two players in Paul George and Roy Hibbert.

It is much difficult to force turnovers on the Spurs and put them through an identity crisis. This is a team about to play in its sixth NBA Finals in the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era.

One reason why the Spurs had a lot of success against the Heat last year prior to losing the last two games in Miami was because of their bench. Everyone remembers that Danny Green made a case for the MVP award if the Spurs won prior to him disappearing towards the latter part of last year’s series because of the defensive adjustments made by Erik Spoelstra.

As evenly matched as these teams seemingly are, the difference may be exactly as last year—the bench. If Green and Kawhi Leonard have big games, San Antonio wins this series. If it’s an issue of the Heat once again forcing Parker, Duncan, and the rest of the Spurs into turnovers and huge numbers off the bench from Norris Cole, Ray Allen, and Shane Battier, Miami wins this series and a claims a three-peat.

That said, this San Antonio team has been looking forward to this since last year and that Allen shot. They knew they had last year’s series won and probably would’ve won it if not for that defensive lapse towards the closing seconds of the 4th quarter in Game 6. A title would be their fifth and would likely cement their standing as one of the greatest (despite being one of the least ballyhooed) dynasties in NBA history.

As for Miami, of course they’re going for history. The last team to 3-peat was of course the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant-led Lakers from 2000 to 2002. A championship would mean it’d be the third for LeBron James as well as the fourth ring for Wade.

That said, we’ll be in for a heck of a series & it’s more than likely going the full seven games. But, the result will be different from last year’s Finals.

Prediction: Spurs in 7