Summer Is Coming! The NBA Finals begins tonight putting the San Antonio Spurs against the defending champion Miami Heat. The Heat and Spurs have been the best teams all year and now we have a best of seven series to see who is taking home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Spurs are heading into tonight’s game with nine days of rest thanks to a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Heat played their game 7 Monday night. The Spurs and Heat played each other twice in the regular season but not really. When the Spurs went to Miami, Gregg Popovich sent home the big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for rest while the remainder of the team lost a close game 100-105. The Heat did likewise when they rested Dwayne Wade and LeBron James in San Antonio. So these teams haven’t faced each other at full strength until tonight.
Just like every other series, this one will be about matchups. Nobody can stop LeBron James but someone needs to do their best to contain him and that job will belong to Kawhi Leonard. Gregg Popovich has been scheming for days on a way to help out Leonard without leaving Heat shooters open for LeBron to find if he gets doubled. LeBron is lethal not only for his own ability to score but the ability to find the open man. The Spurs have quite a few things going in their favor though. Tony Parker will be a tough defensive assignment for anyone not named LeBron but LeBron is going to be worn out if he needs to chase down Tony Parker on the defensive end and carry the load on offense for potentially seven games. Look for LeBron to defend Tony Parker at end of game situations while Norris Cole/Mario Chalmers get owned for the first 3.5 quarters. Miami’s biggest weakness since the Big 3 era began is their frontcourt. The Spurs crash the boards, which was clearly seen in a SWEEP of the BIG MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES. Tim Duncan should own Chris Bosh on the block every game for 48 minutes. Popovich is a master gamesman and will be 3 moves ahead of Eric Spoelstra finding a way to give the Spurs an edge. The Spurs could go small with a lineup of Duncan-Parker-Ginobili-Leonard-Danny Green but that lineup is a -33 through only 75 minutes played all season. Dare I say, look for Tiago Splitter to play a big role with Shane Battier guarding him. Battier will be getting more playing time this series and his roles on the defensive end and making corner three pointers will be key for the Heat to triumph. Dwayne Wade is the X-Factor of the series. Wade should have a nice matchup when Gary Neal or Ginobili guard him but he could see a longer, taller Danny Green on him for the most part. Wade when healthy is good enough to clearly swing this series in Miami’s favor but he doesn’t even seem 80% of himself now.
This series can be defined by the word legacy. Tim Duncan will try to climb up the all-time list, cementing himself in the Top 10 of all time and the greatest Power Forward ever. Also Duncan can move ahead of Kobe Bryant as the best player to be drafted in the 1990’s. Winning titles in 3 decades would be quite the feat. Other Spurs like Ginobili, Parker & Popovich all can add to their legacy with another championship. In the opposing corner, LeBron James needs to add to his jewelry collection if he is going to be considered as an all-time great. James is 1-2 in the NBA Finals including a sweep from the Spurs in 2007 back in his Cleveland days. The outcome of this series could impact next summer’s potential free agency. If Wade and Bosh continue to be M.I.A. then why should LeBron stay? The reason he left Cleveland for Miami was because he had to do everything by himself but the last few games is reminiscent of Cleveland LeBron. There are other places like Cleveland & Chicago that will have cap space and can offer him a better supporting cast then a crippling Dwayne Wade and a Chris Bosh who shoots under 30%.
The Heat have home court advantage and the advantage of having LeBron. The Spurs though have a better coach, Tim Duncan, & Tony Parker who all have championship pedigree. I think this series will be at least 6 games and good easily go either way. If Dwayne Wade produces then I like the Heat in 6 but I don’t think we will get much from Wade this series and the load will be too much for LeBron to carry on his own. The Spurs find a way to win their 5th title since 1999.
SPURS in 6