By Andrew Oak
Last year was one of the more epic finals we have witnessed in our era. Game 6 of the 2013 Finals will forever go down as one of the greatest games ever to be played in NBA Finals history. This year, most of the storylines and players are the same, but the result of this series could foresee some great changes in each organization, as well as the NBA itself.
Now everyone knows that Big 3 of Miami are going for the "3-peat" and I am sure everyone either loves the dynasty they put together or they want their asses handed to them this summer. But there is one edge that Miami doesn't have. That's revenge.
Last year, most NBA experts thought that the Spurs were the one team to beat the mighty Heat. However that took a turn for the worse obviously. Having said that, you would assume San Antonio would have a hangover of being a free throw and a rebound away form a NBA Championship, but they almost exceeded expectations this year and got back to promise land for another shot at the title. They took their Texas rival Dallas to 7 games, followed by a dismantling of the Blazers in 5 and ending their conference tournament by beating the MVP of the league in 6. There is only one last step. BEAT THE HEAT.
The Spurs are slight favors this year (according to Bovada) and home court advantage probably has something to do with it. You would honestly think that the Heat would be a favorite going into any postseason series, but Bovada might be on to something. Lets break it down.
Heat: The obvious answer is LeBron James. D-Wade isn't a bad second option as well but ultimately the ball is in LeBron's hands at the end of the game.
Spurs: Manu Ginobili. Time and time again, the Spurs count on Ginobili to make the big pressure situation into his moment. Popovich has trust in all his players, but don't expect any other plays thats aren't ran through Ginobili down the stretch.
Heat: Led by Birdman, Ray Allen and Norris Cole, the Heat's bench depth has been plenty helpful to them this year. Haslem and Rashard Lewis can also be factors here as well, depending on the match ups.
Spurs: Since Ginobili comes off the bench for the Spurs, they have the better edge here. Add guys like Diaw and Belinelli to insert the chemistry and this is one of the best benches in the league.
Heat: Chris 'Birdman' Andersen - Let's be real for a second. Miami's only really interior presence this year has been Birdman. Bosh is more of a perimeter defender which will make him a good matchup versus Diaw. But you certainly cannot count on Greg Oden or Rashard Lewis to step up their game defensively this series. Believe in the Birdman.
Spurs: Boris Diaw - The term X-Factor to me, means someone who isn't a main player but still has a significant outcome in a game on a daily basis. I would have gone with Tony Parker's ankle as the X-factor but everyone knows what type of player he is when he is healthy. Diaw presents some unprecedented mismatches for the Heat. He can shoot the 3, defend pretty well and is excellent pick and roll player on both sides of the ball. He was the leading scorer in the Western Conference Finals clinching game (with 26 points) which shows how much promise he can provide in a series against a team without a legitimate center.
Heat: Transition Game. When the Heat force turnovers and push the ball, they are almost unstoppable. They also lead the postseason in fewest turnovers per game.
Spurs: Versatility. When you can have all 12 players play in the game at any point in time, your team is pretty reliable and versatile. Many players can play multiple positions depending if the Heat go small or (relatively) big.
Heat: Rebounding. Currently this postseason they rank dead last in RPG. It does help when you have the best 3P% in the postseason, but this team rarely crashes the glass and fight for offensive boards.
Spurs: Consistency on Defense. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty tough to find a glaring team weakness for the Spurs. One thing that does catch my eye is that they do allow their fair share of points. Granted they play in the Western Conference so they have to play teams with high octane offenses, but the Spurs don't mind if they have to win games 120 to 115. They prefer to keep it in the 90's but they almost allow 100 PPG this postseason, while Miami's defense allows about 92 PPG.
The Heat will win if.... Lebron and DWade play like superstars.. If one of them isn't playing a high level, it's very noticeable. When these guys are on their A games, its basically playing a video game at times. If they can play up their hall of fame potential, this series will just add to their legacy.
The Spurs will win if.... Tony Parker plays in every game this series. We all know these 'old guys' have it in them, but can Duncan and company continue to have success against a highly athletic Miami Heat team. Possibly, but having his healthy buddy Parker will be the real key to winning.
Prediction - Spurs in 7