By Hans Marin
It is the experience, dynasty and veteran leadership of Tim Duncan and San Antonio Spurs against LeBron James’ led Miami Heat seeking to be back to back champions as current defending champions in the 2013 NBA Finals.
The Heat swept its season series against the Spurs, 2-0, but it can be seen that both teams were not at their best when they met. A complete Heat roster barely escaped the Spurs’ bench to get the win, in a game in which the Spurs were fined $250,000 for sitting their starting lineup for the whole game.
In the second game, the Heat decided to rest James and Dwyane Wade against a complete Spurs team but Chris Bosh carried the Heat to victory with a last-second three point shot. It’s evident that these games can’t be the basis of what will happen in their Finals matchup.
The Spurs entered the playoffs with the second best record in the Western Conference, behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs are on a spectacular run in the postseason with a 12-2 record with both losses against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ cold-blooded shooter Stephen Curry forced the Spurs to make adjustments. After they did, it was not long after the Spurs claimed the series. Prior to the series against the Warriors, the Spurs swept the Los Angeles Lakers, who played with out Kobe Bryant, in the first round.
The Spurs also made quick work of the Memphis Grizzlies in the Conference Finals to reach the NBA Finals, where they are 4-0, in NBA Finals appearences.
The team did it with a well-executed offense led by Duncan aka “The Big Fundamental” and guard Tony Parker, who is playing at a high level. They had the fortune of a long rest while the Heat continued to battle against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers took the Heat to the seventh and final game of the series before losing to Miami.
The Heat came into the postseason with the best record in the NBA. The Heat also reached a 27 game winning streak earlier in the season which was the second longest winning streak in NBA history.
It was expected that they would just knock out every team they played in each round of the playoffs in a short time and fly into the finals.
It was true in their first round series, where they swept the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat stumbled in the second round against the Chicago Bulls, giving up the first game of the series but never looked back as they went on to win, 4-1.
After the Bulls, they faced their toughest test in the post season. The Pacers gave the Heat a scare in the conference finals even without former All-Star Danny Granger.
With the great frontline duo of Roy Hibbert and David West and the emergence of a superstar in Paul George, the Pacers revealed a possible blueprint on how to beat the Heat as they shock the world by making the series go all seven games.
While the Spurs had built a dynasty winning four championships in the last 15 years and having an NBA Finals record of 4-0, the Heat meanwhile had their first championship last year in it’s “Big three” era. The Heat enter the 2013 Finals with a 1-1 record in Finals apperances and are now in the Finals for the third straight year.
It’s still very ripe in James’ mind how the San Antonio Spurs gave him a nightmare in their 2007 NBA Finals matchup in which James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were brutally swept by a more experienced Spurs team.
James single-handedly carried the Cavs to the Finals after an extraordinary performance against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was then that the Cavs, or rather, James could make it all the way but Cleveland’s roster just did not have enough firepower to get one game against the Spurs in 2007.
But now the setting is a different. James, a four-time MVP and considered to be the best player in the planet, now has a more reliable group of teammates which include Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
The series can easily come down to which trio shows up first, the Spurs’ big three or the Heat’s big three.
Also this series will be great with a veteran and experienced coach Gregg Poppovich and a young but eager coach Erik Spoelstra going head to head. It will be a hard-fought series with a lot of adjustments in each game but it will be a battle of will want it the most.
The Spurs also possess a great frontline of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, who can provide a much-needed defense like what Hibbert and West provided for the Pacers when they faced the Heat.
But it can be seen that the Spurs had troubles with teams who had an explosive scorer like Curry in their second round series and with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in last year’s Conference Finals.
Parker also will be a big key for the Spurs to win the series. His ability to take the game and set the tempo for Spurs’ offense will be important. Manu Ginobili will also be crucial to give a spark off the bench for the Spurs as well. Kawhi Leonard will also need to be at his best defensively against James.
The Heat have James and Wade, who both have the ability to give a spark offensively when needed. It is a given that James will play at a high level every time but for them to win against Spurs, they will need the production of the other two star players, Wade and Bosh. Both are struggling offensively especially in the Pacers’ series.
Spurs drew the first blood in Game 1 against the Heat. They did it by a perfect execution in the 4th quarter with zero turnovers and a very clutch performance by Parker. It has been shown in the history of Heat in the Finals, that when they lose Game 1, they go on to win the championship. But it’s also shown in Spurs’ history that when they win Game 1, they go on to win the championship. So the big question now is who will rise to the occasion?
With all of these being said, I am rooting for Spurs to win in 6. It may be the last ride for Tim Duncan at 37 years old. I would like to see him possibly end his career getting his fifth and possibly last championship.
But I never doubt King James.