Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs
Sound familiar? Yup, we’ve got a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. The LeBron-led Heat rolled through the historically awful Eastern Conference to make this year’s Finals, while Gregg Popovich’s ageless Spurs found their way through the loaded West playing beautiful, selfless basketball.
Miami has won the championship the last two years, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of searching to figure out why. LeBron James remains the best basketball player on the planet and a dominant force on both ends of the court. His primary sidekicks–Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh–have regressed somewhat from where they were at the start of the Big Three era, but the Heat have looked quite dominant thus far in the postseason. Miami has dropped just three games in three rounds and, while that is partially a function of the weakened state of the East, the Heat’s performance has been impressive anyway you look at it.
The Spurs have been tested a bit more in the playoffs, most notably by a Dallas Mavericks team that took them to seven games in the first round. San Antonio has heated up since, knocking off Portland in five games in the Western Conference Semis and OKC in six in the Western Conference Finals. These Spurs had the best regular season record in the Association, winning 62 games. They are a team that relies largely on depth and skill; they don’t have dominant players. But they also don’t lack for quality players. Point guard Tony Parker, still a magician as he wades into his 30s, leads a brilliant Spurs offense. SA whips the ball around the court and plays basketball that (perhaps unlike some Spurs teams of not-too-long ago) is an awful lot of fun to watch. Tim Duncan is still is a heckuva ballplayer too and still will occasionally shock folks when they notice his back tattoo. Meanwhile, talented guys who know their roles such as Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, and, of course, Manu Ginobili, are the glue that keep the Spurs together.
The Spurs are a well-oiled machine led by the league’s premier coach, and they are outstanding on both ends of the court. Last year, before some Ray Allen magic, San Antonio had Miami backed into a corner in the Finals. We think the guys from Texas are back to finish the job this time. The Spurs haven’t won a title since 2007 and dethroning Mr. James shan’t be easy. But the Heat are a step worse than they were last year. That should allow the Spurs to dash Miami’s hopes of a three-peat.
Pick: Spurs in 6