2014 NBA Finals Preview
It had to be this way, didn’t it? After last year’s blockbuster NBA Finals, we absolutely had to have a rematch. I remember tweeting during game 7 of last year’s series that we should get a best out of 14 between these two teams, and that’s essentially what we have here. It’s The Spurs vs. The Heat. Fundamentals vs Flash. Hard work vs. shortcuts.
Yep, this is what we as basketball fans wanted needed. We need to know if last year’s championship for Miami was a fluke. We need to know if Tim Duncan is a top 5 player of all time. We need to know what LeBron will really do under pressure, when the expectations are highest.
But be prepared. Be prepared for the idiotic storylines. “Is LeBron the best small forward of all time?”, “Are the Miami Heat the best team of the last 30 years?”, “Is LeBron human?”. It’s almost enough to turn me off watching, but not even the most ridiculous sensationalism from ESPN can make me turn away from this. We have a heavyweight championship of the world, so let’s get right down to some observations and a preditiction.
Who saw this coming? I mean, really saw this coming? The Spurs suffered perhaps the most heartbreaking loss in the Finals that I can remember (Mavs in 06 and Celtics in 2010 are also up there) that I actually thought they would be done in the first round before the season started. But, and think about this for a minute, they are actually better. That is insane. They look genuinely pissed off about the loss, and I can only say “hell yeah!” to that. It’s about time a team in pro sports stopped taking the game so seriously and brought back some genuine emotion. I love it. Leonard has played brilliantly all season and has matured into an all-star calibre player. Parker is, despite the ankle injury, capable of completely terrorising Miami all by himself. Diaw is so underrated off the bench that he could actually be the mismatch that decides the series. Manu, whilst being older, still seeks out the big moments in the biggest of games and has no hesitation in stepping on an opposing team’s throat. Danny Green (along with Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli) has also displayed great shooting and have to be respected which open things up for Splinter and Duncan. If San Antonio didn’t have to go through so many powerhouses (Dallas, Portland and Oklahoma) and Parker was healthy, I’d predict this to be a short series. The problem is, they can’t change the reality that Parker is banged up and we could be seeing Mills at point guard for extended periods of time.
It is beyond impressive that any team in any sport can make 4 straight championship appearances. But I need to ask this: has there ever been a luckier team than the Miami Heat? In 2011, the year they lost in the finals, they had by far their toughest road to the finals, but even then, Rondo dislocated his elbow in game 3 of their conference semi-finals showdown with Boston. In 2012, both Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose missed the entire playoffs, and despite that, the Heat barely made it to the finals (they struggled against Miami and were pushed to 7 games by a depleted and banged up Celtics team). Last season, they benefited from Rose being injured again but were also pushed to the brink by an over achieving Pacers squad. And this season, they went through Charlotte, Brooklyn (who were so injured it wasn’t even worth watching) and Indy who were imploding since their trade of Granger. I’m really not impressed by a team that consistently gets pushed to the brink by Indiana and injured squads like Boston and Brooklyn. But they did make it through, so kudos to them.
My heart is telling me Spurs. It’s not the depth, the mental toughness, or even the coaching. It’s just the style. This Spurs team reminds me of the Knicks of the 70’s where they just moved the ball around the court so effortlessly. Each Spurs player is empowered to see a mismatch and exploit. They don’t rely on one individual. Miami loves to play and jump passing lanes, but they can’t really do that to this team. They’ll get burned by skip passes and threes. This will open up pick and rolls for Manu and Parker with Duncan. The Heat have Lebron, Bosh, and Wade, but I don’t think that’s enough. San Antonio will get their long awaited revenge and win in 7 games.
Last round: 2-0