It all comes down to this final series and it has played out just as most expected. For the second year in a row, the defending champion Miami Heat will take on the San Antonio Spurs with the NBA championship on the line (Thursday 9pm EST on ABC).
A Decade of Dominance: In the 2002-03 season, the San Antonio Spurs led by youthful all-stars, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan (pictured), won head coach Gregg Popovich his second NBA championship. They defeated the Brooklyn Nets in six games in the NBA Finals behind huge offensive and defensive performances from Duncan.
Two years later, in the 2004-05 season, the Spurs did it again and once again, Duncan was at the center of everything. He, Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 56 points in the final series’ game seven, leading the Spurs to defeat the Detroit Pistons in seven games.
The next year, a surprise Miami Heat team was crowned NBA champion. Led by the young, talented superstar Dwayne Wade, who recorded games of 42, 36, 43 and 36 points in the series’ final four games, Miami won their first ever franchise championship.
And in the 2006-07 season, it was once again the Spurs that were victorious as the best team in basketball. This time, it was a quick four game series sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who themselves were led by a 22-year-old Lebron James, that left the Spurs as NBA champions.
And while James, who was just making a name for himself back then, did not win the title in 2007, he would get another crack at it in each of the following six seasons. He would even go on to win two, back-to-back in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Since 2002 the Heat and Spurs have combined to win six of the 11 NBA championships awarded and after this year, that number will bump up to seven in the last 12. Not since the dynasties of the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers combined to win eight titles in nine years in the 1980s has there been such dual-oriented dominance in the NBA.
Both teams have made postseason runs in at least 10 of those 11 years and both teams have also won at least 50 games multiple times in that span. These have been the two best teams in the NBA in the last decade and it is only fitting that once again, we get to see them compete for the title.
A Matchup of Legacies
When it comes to the Heat-Spurs, more is on the line than just a championship. Both teams are closing in on history-making and legacy-cementing milestones.
If the Spurs win, Duncan will become the 26th player to have won five or more rings in a career and Popovich will become just the fifth coach to accomplish the same feat.
But if the Heat win, Wade will join the list of players with four or more championships and he, James and Chris Bosh, will be members of only the second team in the post-Jordan era to three-peat. Perhaps, most importantly though, if the Heat win, it will be ring No. 9 for Pat Riley, putting him only one behind Phil Jackson for most all-time rings by a player/coach/executive.
So much history is at stake and no matter which team emerges victorious this year, there is no doubt; it will be great for basketball and great for the state of the game.
A Rematch We’ve All Been Waiting For
Last year, the winning team won the first five games by no fewer than 10 points. In fact, only one game, game six, was decided by less than double digits. The storyline typically featured one team getting off to a lead that was insurmountable by halftime. And yet still and as strange as it may sound, last year’s NBA Finals ended too soon.
Yes, they went the distance, but as fans, seven games weren’t enough. We were treated to a high quality of basketball, one not seen in the finals in quite a few years. The series easily could have gone back and forth for three, five or even seven more games. Even then though, it probably wouldn’t have been satisfying.
But that is what this year is for. The basketball gods have looked down on us with favor by gifting us another Heat-Spurs finals. Considering that these teams are no strangers to this stage, expect first and foremost that the on-the-court basketball will be the one and only story.
Making a Case for the Spurs
For the Spurs, revenge and redemption is on the mind. They had last year’s championship won save for a last minute mistake that cost the team what would have been the sixth and final game. The Spurs ended up losing the seventh game pretty handedly as their championship hopes were dashed in devastating fashion.
It is clear that the team is determined to see a different outcome this year. The team won a league-high 62 games during the regular season, posted a better point differential over their opponents and had better production from their bench. And as Popovich said, the team grew from last year’s loss and they know they don’t want to go through it again.
A big question for the Spurs will be regarding Parker, whose mastery of the pick-and-roll was a big reason San Antonio was so successful this year. Parker is nursing an injury and while he is expected to play in game one, his production could be hampered.
Heat at Spurs Betting Picks
These are two very similar, solid teams that know how to play mistake-free basketball. Both teams have more strengths than weaknesses and both teams have a wealth of superstars. There are role players too and guys like Ray Allen and Danny Green both could have significant impacts.
In the end, it could come down to home field advantage which this time belongs to the Spurs. San Antonio was perfect in the month of May at home and won each of those games by at least 17 points as well. That is not to say that they will blow out the Heat each time, but for a team as well-built as San Antonio, dealing with home field advantage too, might be a little too much for Miami.
I foresee this series going the full seven games and ending with San Antonio winning their first championship since 2007. However, it all begins with game one. Don’t expect a blowout in this one but do expect to see the Spurs power through and get the win at home. More than anyone, they know just how important it is to start off strong, especially against a team as talented as the Heat.