After what was an extravagantly exciting first round and what’s been a hodgepodge of entertainment to this point, we wind up with the rematch that’s been predicted all year long.
While Miami has waltzed through the Eastern Conference bracket with a 12-3 record, including a perfect 8-0 at home, the Spurs have been battle tested. They’ve had future Hall of Famers, extremely talented young superstars, and even the league’s MVP thrown at them.
It’s only fitting that we have the two major dynasties of the Post-Jordan era battling in the Finals for a second straight year. Led by the ageless 38-year-old Tim Duncan and All-Star Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs hope that their “boring” team-oriented play will settle the score with the best player in the world.
The last time they tried, LeBron James simply destroyed their hopes with great behind-the-arc shooting. With a pivotal three pointer in Game 6, to set up Ray Allen‘s notorious shot, and 5 of 10 three-point shooting in Game 7, the King got his revenge of the Spurs with his second ring.
Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginoboli are looking for their fifth NBA Championship, which would tie Kobe Bryant with the most decorated careers since #23 himself.
Many have questioned the Spurs as a dynasty simply because they haven’t won consecutive titles. Anyone would have a tough time validating that argument; any team that has been this good for this long deserves their glory.
Establishing themselves as a true dynasty no doubt weighs just as heavily on the Heat.
Let’s not forget, James didn’t come to Miami to win just one or two championships. Not four, not five, not six or seven either. His ambitions have been sky-high from the start, as they should be. A player of his caliber is capable of just about anything. With perplexing comparisons to Jordan lingering in the periphery, LeBron will always feel as though he has something to prove, and with very few willing to admit his legacy as one of the best ever, he will always have something to prove.
What nobody is noticing about these playoffs, is Dywane Wade’s resurgence. Since when is age 32 old? Certainly not in Wade’s case, or Tony Parker’s. He had this to say of the critics who perplex Wade for his best days being behind him:
“I don’t know why. I think I’ve been good for the game. I don’t know why anybody would want to get me out of here. I don’t know. I have noticed that. And they’re quick to move me out of the way. But, you know, it just makes the story better. Because I won’t let them move me, I won’t leave. I mean, I’m only 32 years old. Like Chris (Bosh) said (to the media), it’s not like I’m 40-something. So, I don’t know. I guess it’s just the way they want to do me.”
Wade’s constant knee injuries were consistently lingering him away from what he used to be, but throughout the playoffs we really can’t tell. Wade has averaged just under 20 points a game while shooting a phenomenal 55% from the field. He’s certainly heated up in the moment he’s needed to most.
Both teams have brilliant depth with excellent role players. Any of these bench players, from Ray Allen all the way to Patty Mills, can step for their respective teams in big moments. We witnessed Miami’s Rashard Lewis make 9 threes in the final two games of the ECF, and we witnessed San Antonio’s Boris Diaw score 26 in Game 6 against OKC. Need I say more?
LeBron James versus Kawhi Leornard is a key matchup in this series. When it comes down to one-on-one talent and game, nobody can handle LeBron. However, it’s also a game of X’s and O’s. Leonard is a rising star in this league, a great perimeter defender and a versatile scorer. Sugar K Leonard, Shaq came up with it not me, has the capability to stretch James with his perimeter shooting and keep him off balance with solid driving and finishing. It’s a team effort when handling the King, but we will see how the 22-year-old does at his second go around with him.
It will be utterly shocking if this series ends in less than five games. Both teams are almost equal in many aspects, this is set to be pure will and emotion, blood, sweat and tears warfare. There’s so much on the line for both these franchises, the stadiums should be shaking with emotion.
Prediction: Spurs in seven.
- Justin Hodges is a Staff Writer for ProSportsExtra.com¬†