The Miami Heat was on the cusp of giving us a record-setting winning streak of the ages at 27 games (by the way, this was proof-positive that the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers’ winning streak of 33 games will not be broken – at least in my lifetime). My beloved New York Knicks had a resurgence that was more than 10 years in the making. The Lakers gave us off the court drama night in and night out (thank you very much Dwight Howard and Jim Buss!). And finally, two wrongs were righted at seasons’ end: New Orleans dropped the Hornets name and Charlotte reclaimed it).
Alas, the Finals are here and I must say it is an intriguing match-up. Let’s examine this, shall we?
#1 Miami Heat vs. #2 San Antonio Spurs
The Miami Heat are coming into the Finals a battered team. Dwyane Wade is fighting a bad knee. Chris Bosh has a bad wheel – plus the fact that he is Chris Bosh. However, Miami has that LeBron James fellow – and he’s pretty damn good. They have the frontcourt muscle to at least compete with the Spurs with Udonis Haslam and “The Birdman” Chris Andersen coming off the bench.
What else can you say about the Spurs? They are what a solid NBA team should be: hard-working, fundamentally sound, and team-oriented. It doesn’t matter that the average age of the roster qualifies them for AARP membership.
The fact remains that the Spurs are one of the best run-organizations around. Tim Duncan is still a star and still has a lot left in the tank at age 37. Manu Ginobili is still Manu. Tony Parker is still balling in spite of a nagging lower leg injury. San Antonio’s role-players are solid and could push for a starting spot on most teams in the NBA.
And of course, there is head coach Gregg Popovich. He is a mastermind in terms of X’s and O’s and is an expert tactician who could out-coach anyone not named Doc Rivers in any series. Hell, I’d tune into a Spurs game just to see Pop embarrass sideline reporters.
As how both teams match up in this series, I think Miami is not only better on paper – their leader is ultra-motivated. James remembers the last time he faced the Spurs in the NBA Finals: his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs in what was the worst-rated Finals ever. He is determined to get revenge on San Antonio, and this time he has the squad to do it.
The Spurs do not do well against athletic teams that get up and down the floor. Even though they beat the Golden State Warriors in six in the Western Conference semifinals, the Warriors played the Spurs tough – Golden State should have won Game 1. San Antonio’s veteran leadership helps compensate for that weakness. It just won’t help but so much in the Finals.
Miami is a matchup nightmare for the Spurs. James and Wade are athletic, Bosh could beat Duncan off the dribble, Ray Allen stretches the defense with his 3-point shooting, and the Haslam/Birdman combo should provide the Heat enough nasty to compete with the Spurs’ frontcourt. The only thing the Spurs have on the Heat is better coaching. Pop will out-coach Erik Spoelstra on most nights, but in the end talent will prevail over heart.