The NBA Finals are finally here and they present a fascinating contest between a pair of well-matched teams. The Miami Heat needed seven games to get past the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern conference final, while the San Antonio Spurs have been off since May 27 after sweeping aside the Memphis Grizzlies in just four games in the Western conference finals.
The trajectory of these two teams through the playoffs could hardly have been more different either. The Spurs entered the postseason seemingly banged up and looking like a team just waiting to be knocked out. San Antonio didn’t get knocked out. Instead, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili got healthy and this team showed improvement through each of the rounds. Gregg Popovich’s roster is playing in its first NBA finals since 2007.
Meanwhile, the Heat entered the postseason looking just about invincible. They had charged to the regular season title and there were some who even felt that LeBron James and co could sweep through the entire playoffs. Miami faced far stiffer competition than they expected on their way to a third straight NBA finals. They were tested by the physical Chicago Bulls in round two, and then they were taken all the way to a Game 7 by Indiana.
Popovich and Tim Duncan are searching for their fifth NBA title. After the way San Antonio have played in these playoffs and with some flaws in the Heat roster being revealed, they will probably fancy their chances. This postseason has shown the depth in San Antonio’s roster. Parker is leading the way as the man orchestrating the offense, Duncan is playing brilliantly at both ends of the court and Popovich is maximizing the play of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter.
Leonard and Splitter will be particularly important in this series. It looks like Leonard will have the task of defending against James, which will be no easy task, while Splitter needs to support Duncan if the Spurs are able to take advantage of Miami’s front court deficiencies, which were clearly highlighted by the Pacers in the conference finals series.
The focus understandably heading into this series for the Heat has been the play of the ‘big three’. James continues to be a dominant all-round basketball player, but it is very clear that he needs some help. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade both endured one of the worst series of their respective careers against the Pacers.
Wade and Bosh need to be better, but there are others that will need to step up on this team as well. Perimeter shooting has been a big part of Miami’s game plan all season long and the ice cold play of Ray Allen and Shane Battier just about completely nullified that threat. Allen and Battier need to make some shots opening up floor space for the team’s stars. Popovich is pretty close to a defensive genius when it comes to basketball. If he doesn’t have to worry about Miami’s depth players too much or at all, he will find a way to win this series.
Betting Preview: Miami (-5) vs. San Antonio
This series is likely to go down to the wire. In the long run, the tiring and tough series against Indiana could have a negative impact on Miami. However, in Game 1, against the rusty Spurs, in front of what should be a hyped home crowd, the Heat will take this game and should beat the current five-point spread.
The Pick: Miami (-5) (5dimes.eu)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 19-11