by Justin Carter
Twelve months later & here we are again– Miami vs San Antonio for the title, the winner cementing a place in history. For the Spurs, it would be their fifth title since 1999, & their consistency over the non-title winning years puts them firmly in control of the “best post-Jordan dynasty” title, while the Heat are looking to be the first team to win three straight titles since the Kobe/Shaq Lakers. Miami is in their fourth consecutive Finals, the first team to do this since the Celtics of the ’80s. A win probably ensures that the Big 3 are back next year, looking to be the first team to win four straight since the Celtics won eight in a row back in the ’60s.
So, yeah, this is an important Finals for a lot of reasons. LeBron’s not getting into the MJ conversation if he leaves this season with a 2-3 record in the Finals, right? MJ never lost a Finals. LBJ losing three of his first five? Fair or not, I think the LeBron vs MJ debate is effectively dead at that point, unless James does a Decision part-two & takes a third team to the Finals.
Alright, on to the series.
Last year, it took some Ray Allen heroics to keep Miami in the series.
I was sitting in a bar with my girlfriend & a few other friends when that shot happened. A year later, I still remember the bar, where I was sitting, & I’m pretty sure I remember what I was drinking. With the Heat in danger of losing, I started thinking about how maybe LeBron can’t win the big one, maybe the Thunder series was a fluke & LeBron only won a title because the Thunder weren’t ready to win one. Instead, the series went to seven, the Heat won, & I went back to thinking LeBron was the best player of our generation.
This year, the immortal Spurs are somehow better. The Heat are asking Rashard Lewis to play heavy minutes as the new Mike Miller. RASHARD LEWIS.
All logic points to the Spurs in this one. Tony Parker is hurt, but Manu is healthy this year, Boris Diaw is playing some of his best basketball, & Tim Duncan = Tim Duncan.
While the Heat’s bench continues to look thinner than a Manute Bol/Shawn Bradley hybrid (they’re an injury or two away from having to watch Toney Douglas or Greg Oden play basketball & Ray Allen is shooting below his career averages on both FGs & threes this year, though the Birdman has provided a big life), the Spurs have found unlikely contributions this season from Patty Mills & Marco Belinelli.
Still, the Heat have LeBron James, along with Bosh & Wade. Mario Chalmers & Norris Cole aren’t that bad anymore.
Before I make a pick, I’m turning to some friends/ Poets On Sports contributors to see what they think about the series.
Justin Carter: Who do you think will win & why?
Karissa Morton: The Heat bc The Heat
Matt Rowan: The Heat, yes. LeBron James is this generation’s single greatest player (and so is in the discussion for greatest of all time). This is coming from an ardent and unapologetic Michael Jordan fan. I still prefer Jordan, but to pretend he’s definitely better is no longer possible.
Justin Brouckaert: The Spurs came closer to winning a title last year than any team that’s ever lost a title. This year, they’re better. Miami is a little bit worse. There’s no reason to pick the Heat, other than LeBron, but maybe LeBron is enough of a reason. I say Wade plays the last really good playoff series of his career, Rashard Lewis fills the much-missed Mike Miller role, and LeBron becomes legend. Heat in 7.
KM: I’M STILL IN CAMP MJ, Rowan. BUT YES. I also say it’ll take 7. For what it’s worth.
JB: If LeBron wins a third title here, I’m ready to start having the MJ debate. (I’ve refused to engage so far.)
Nathan Kemp: The Spurs because Tim Duncan needs this so he can retire.
KM: Same page, Brouckaert.
JC: Tim Duncan might never retire. Can you imagine if the Spurs stay together, somehow defy the whole idea of aging, & we get a third straight Spurs/Heat Finals next year?
JB: I think this is as worn down as Duncan’s going to get. He’ll probably average 15 & 10 for another ten years.
Andrew East: The Heat because there isn’t a god.
KM: Plot twist LeBron is God.
Dillon Welch: Spurs in 7
Megan Peak: Spurs all the way.
Neal Kitterlin: I like the Spurs to take it in 6 (I was going to say 5, but that’s just my Heat hate coming through). I used to hate the Spurs too – I always thought David Robinson was one of those guys who seemed like a boy scout but was secretly a dick, and I thought it was unfair that they were able to get Duncan when they already had a pretty tight roster. But the Heat taught me to appreciate the Spurs. I think they are the better team and the team that plays the game “right,” whatever that means in 2014. Then again, maybe the NBA is like Game of Thrones and the Spurs are Oberyn Martell, doomed to be crushed like a grape by the Miami Lannisters in their quest for revenge. Really, I’m picking the Spurs because I can’t handle another round of this Lebron/MJ stuff. Lebron lacks the indomitable will of Michael Jeffrey Jordan and at this point I still consider all suggestions that he is in Jordan’s stratosphere blasphemous. But it won’t be that way if Lebron gets 3 straight, so this pick is for the MJ legacy. Don’t let me down, Timmy.
KM: I think I might be rooting for the Spurs now. Just because of that comment.
DW: Solid write-up, Neal. Reason I say Spurs in 7 is because no way the Heat go down in 6. But the Spurs bench is the best in the league, hands down. Any number of players on that roster can defend LeBron, but he’ll still score. So you let him, and outplay the rest of the team. If a team can get BORIS DIAW to not only be PRODUCTIVE, but be one of the MORE IMPORTANT PIECES of their roster? Plus, let’s not forgot about the coaching match-up: Gregg Popovich vs. a tuna sandwich in a ziploc bag.
The Spurs are the better team, but James is the best player in the series. The key, like is ALWAYS the key for the Heat, is finding a way to play small ball. Lucky for them, the Spurs only have one true center to back-up Tim Duncan, & when you’re relying on Tiago Splitter, you might have a problem. The Heat will get a chance to play small, with Rashard Lewis at the four & Bosh at the five. Tony Parker not being at full strength hurts. Miami needs Allen & Wade to hit shots, & they need Wade to have a much better Finals than he did last year, to match the resurgence of Manu Ginobili. Will he? My money’s on yes. The smart bet in this series seems to be someone winning in seven, & the NBA is going to try to make sure it goes to seven, but I’m going with Heat in six– the Spurs have home court this series, & the Heat know they aren’t getting as lucky as they did last year. They’ll need to finish this series off before it gets back to Texas for Game Seven & I think they will.