Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2014 NBA Finals

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #2 Miami Heat

Spurs vs. Heat II, the rematch. Last season's series was phenomenal, going to seven games and filled with memorable moments. You had Tony Parker hitting a buzzer beater in Game 1, Danny Green coming from out of nowhere and setting an NBA Finals record for most three pointers made in a series, the Heat looking dead and buried in Game 6 before Ray Allen hit a three to save their season, and then the Heat holding off the Spurs in Game 7. Each team is back this year with most of the same supporting cast and another long, thrilling series is anticipated.

The biggest question entering the series is the status of Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Parker left the Spurs series clinching win against Oklahoma City early, but all signs point to the break between the end of the Conference Finals and the start of the Finals as allowing him the necessary time to heal to be ready to go tonight. Parker had a strong showing in last year's championship and with him once again facing an overmatched Mario Chalmers the results should be the same this year, even if Parker is hobbled. You can bet that the Heat will be paying much more attention to Green this season than they initially were going into the series last season. Green was a huge difference maker in the series, and it is no coincidence that the Spurs lost the final two games of the series once Miami figured out how to defend Green and made him a non factor. The Heat are hopeful that with the rest they have given Dwyane Wade throughout the course of the season that he will be an effective player throughout the series. In last season's Finals he had his moments but it was obvious that he was hurt and looked a shell of his former self. All eyes will be on the LeBron James/Kawhi Leonard matchup. Leonard is a strong defender, excellent rebounder, and overall did an admirable job against James last season. One difference this year is that Lenoard has improved his offensive game, and will make James work harder on the defensive end. Shane Battier is headed towards retirement but is still a starter on the Heat because he can hit the occasional three pointer and he still flops and draws charges with the best of them. Tim Duncan is phenomenal at the age of 38. He took over Game 6 in overtime against the Thunder, and you have to think that missed bunny he had in Game 7 last year against Miami still haunts him. Duncan wants another ring bad, and I expect a very good series from him. Chris Bosh hasn't been talked about much this year in the playoffs as in previous years. He was having a strong playoffs but did have his problems with the Pacers. He has almost completely morphed into an outside shooter, and is not a traditional center in any sense of position. Thiago Splitter is that more traditional center, and he is one reason that the Spurs will likely have a major rebounding advantage.

The Spurs have a major advantage with their bench against the Heat. Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and hell even Matt Bonner are all capable of logging significant minutes and contributing. Diaw led the Spurs in scoring in their Game 6 win at Oklahoma City. I will be watching Ginobli closely in this series. His sloppy play really hurt the Spurs towards the end of last season's series. It got so bad that I was openly questioning why Ginobli was still playing late in games. He has to make the smart passes and avoid turning into a turnover machine. He has to let the game come to him and not force the action like did last season. For the Heat the guys that will see the most time off the bench are Ray Allen and Chris Andersen. Rashard Lewis was resuscitated in the Pacers series and actually was able to hit some shots, so he could see some extended playing time as long as he is helping on offense.

This is a series that is very tough to call. I think most people agree that they would be surprised if it goes less than six games. Both teams have their reasons of motivation, but what makes the difference in my mind is I think the Spurs have gotten better as a team since last year, while the Heat have slightly regressed. I also think that homecourt advantage, something the Spurs didn't have last year and cost them, will make a difference this year, especially if the series goes seven as I expect. James is Superman and he will get close to pushing the Heat to a three-peat but ultimately I expect Ginobli to play better this year, Duncan to play better this year, and Parker to be MVP as the Spurs win their fifth NBA championship.

Prediction: Spurs over Heat, 4-3

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