It may be a rematch of last year’s finals, but its the best possible matchup any NBA fan can ask for. It will once again be the western conference champion San Antonio Spurs against the eastern conference champion Miami Heat. It’s the team you hate to love in San Antonio against the team you love to hate in Miami.
There are many storylines built into this finals matchup, which include a potential three-peat for the Heat, the legacies of Lebron James, Greg Popovich, Tim Duncan and much more.
Last year’s finals ended in the most improbable fashion you will ever see, which resulted in the second-straight title for the Heat.
San Antonio was up five points with less than a minute to go in a championship, clinching game six, until the Heat made a furious comeback and tied the game with 5.2 seconds left with a miraculous 3-pointer from shooting guard Ray Allen. The Heat would later win the game to force a decisive game seven, which they also won to clinch back-to-back titles. Legendary Spurs power forward Tim Duncan missed a layup with under a minute left in game seven to tie the game and give the Spurs a chance at forcing overtime, but missed it.
The agony of defeat still lives within the Spurs to this date and the revenge of letting a title go away will fuel them to play better against the Heat this time around. Revenge will play a big factor in this series. Here are other factors and match ups I’m looking forward to.
The health of Spurs point guard Tony Parker
Tony Parker is the the driving force for the Spurs. As Parker goes, the Spurs go. Parker played throughout the playoffs with a bum hamstring, but in game six in the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he injured his ankle in the second quarter and did not play the rest of the game. Parker has been given the go to play in the finals and start game one, but how much he’ll be limited is the real question.
How the Spurs will defend Lebron James
It is no secret that Lebron James struggles against the Spurs. This ranges back to the 2007 NBA finals when James faced them while he was with Cleveland. James shoots a lower percentage in his career against the Spurs than any other team in the NBA. How will the spurs limit James offensively?
They’ll have to rely on 22-year-old small forward Kawhi Leonard to limit James on the court. In last year’s finals, with Leonard on the court, James shot below 50 percent. With Leonard off the court, James shot 53.1 percent from the field. The Spurs even experimented putting 6-foot-2 Tony Parker on James throughout the finals. As a team, the Spurs gave James space in front of him while guarding him to make him shoot jumpers instead of attacking the basket, and it proved to bother James a bit.
There are many tactics the Spurs can use to defend the best player in the world.
The legacies of both San Antonio and Miami
This finals trip marks the fourth straight appearance in the finals for the Heat and they’re looking to win their third straight title. They’re looking to join the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and the 1990’s Chicago Bulls as the only teams to three-peat.
Lebron James is looking to become the greatest player of all time and winning his third title in three seasons will help build his resume.
A lot is at stake for the San Antonio Spurs also. The Spurs are looking to add their fifth title in the history of the franchise. The Spurs are widely considered the most well-run franchise in the NBA, winning four titles in nine years in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007.
The stability of the head coaching position with Greg Popovich has helped the Spurs build a strong core between Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobli, who have been together since 2001.
Last year’s finals appearance was the first that the Spurs lost.
Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade is finally healthy
Dwyane Wade was troubled in the playoffs last year by his bad knees. Wade had his knees drained at points throughout last year’s playoffs, but fought through the pain and helped his team win the title.
Wade looks healthy this time around, averaging almost 19 points per game this postseason on almost 52 percent shooting, similar to his number during the regular season this year and better than his postseason numbers last year.
The Heat will need Wade to contribute at a high level to beat the Spurs this time around.
The Spurs came into the 2013-2014 season with a bad taste in their mouths after losing game six of last year’s finals in heartbreaking fashion. The Heat may have a three-peat on the line, but San Antonio will not let this one get away from them.
Spurs in seven.