After an 82-game regular season and a playoff season of oh-so-close games, the Miami Heat meet the San Antonio Spurs for the NBA crown tonight in San Antonio. The Spurs will host the first two games before the series returns to Miami.
This series, when you break it down, is a study in opposites. Miami, with its three outstanding players — LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh — can break you with their power game and the peerless play of James, who many consider the best player in the league. The Heat are going for a three-peat, three straight titles.
Last season the Heat beat the Spurs in a hotly contested seven-game series that went down to the final seconds.
James is going for legacy tonight. He wants to go down as one of the best players in NBA history. And, in a league that cherishes “that title ring,” only another one will cement his name in NBA history.
The Spurs have a lot of play for. If the they win this title, it will be the fifth time in the past 15 years they’d be the NBA champions. This is the sixth time Tim Duncan, their great big man, will play in the Finals. He is joined by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and a team that is rested. Parker has been able to rest his injured ankle and seems ready to go.
But if Parker is hurt, the Spurs will find a way to play without him. The Spurs preach team basketball, finding the open man with precision passing to get the ball to the shooter who has the best look. It is beautiful to watch. One is reminded of the old Boston Celtics teams in the ’60s … or the Harlem Globetrotters. They make basketball a beautiful game to watch and almost an art form.
The Heat, with James, often power their way to winning. He can take over a game by himself. When D-Wade is on his game, watch out, the Heat are tough the beat.
In his post-game press conference, Duncan talked about playing the Heat. “We’ve got that bad taste in our mouth still. Hopefully, we will be ready to take it this time.” The other day, James commented, “They wanted us. They got us.”
The Spurs’ bench will see a lot of minutes. They are good role players, and they have earned the trust of Coach Paul Popovich, one of the keenest minds in the game.
Boris Diaw, a versatile forward can play offense and defense. Patty Mills can come in and give the team some great energy in the point guard slot. Tiago Splitter can spell Duncan for key minutes. The Heat have Ray Allen, of the most deadly three-point shot-makers of all time. This series figures to be a long, intense battle and could easily go six or seven games.
The winner here is the fan who will have a chance to see some of basketball’s greatest players sweat it out on its biggest court.
Richard Kagan is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.