Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
The Heat were taken to the limit in the conference finals. The Spurs are well-rested after a sweep. What do you expect from Game 1 of The Finals?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I anticipate a double-digit Miami victory in the Finals opener that will have people jumping to conclusions they probably shouldn’t. The Heat are all lathered up and in rhythm, and the adrenaline of a third straight Finals trip, with the home court and crowd, should carry them through the opener. Then things can get interesting in this Finals.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: There is no such thing as too much rest for a team that relies on a 37-year-old, a 35-year-old and a 21-year-old (Kawhi Leonard) with an aching knee. It was just what the Spurs needed. That’s not guaranteeing they’ll win Game 1, but that rest will pay dividends over a long series.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: This is so hard to predict. We’ve seen Miami come out flat after a long rest before the Chicago series and San Antonio, too, against Golden State, only to complete that remarkable Game 1 comeback. The Spurs, no doubt, are going to have to shake off the rust, get a good sweat going and get back into the swing of things — and hope they’re not down 15 after the first quarter. The Heat paid a physical price for going seven games against the Pacers, but the fact that they didn’t have to travel after Game 7 and have two days off before Game 1, I don’t expect them to be too taxed. Once we get past the first 12 minutes, I expect a highly entertaining and competitive game.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: San Antonio will not have its ideal rhythm, but the Spurs will be able to deal with it. The problem won’t last the entire game. That is the benefit of experience. The LeBron James problem will, however, last the entire game for the Spurs. That is the Miami benefit of having the best player in the world.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s probably good for the Heat, because they struggled early in Game 1s against the Bulls and Pacers after long layoffs. The Spurs will likely be out of rhythm early, but that won’t be too big of a deal, because the Heat aren’t as good in the first half as they are in the second half and both teams will be feeling each other out in those first 24 minutes on Thursday.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s The Finals, the best of the best going at it for all the marbles. I expect both teams to find a groove early and trade blows. I assume the rest has done the Spurs’ bodies good, even if they have to shake off a little rust to start Game 1. The Heat didn’t strike me as a team that was fatigued by what the Indiana Pacers did to them in the Eastern Conference finals, they were simply being challenged by a worthy opponent. They’ll get all that and more from the Spurs, a team that executes like no other in this league. What do I expect? How about a triple-overtime thriller with a game-winning shot at the buzzer to set the table for six more thrillers?
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I am going to go with a tactic I’ve learned over the last decade covering the NBA: Forget conventional wisdom. The Spurs have had this long break, they’ve had the chance to rest and scout and game plan. Meanwhile, the Heat will be tired and their effort inconsistent. So the Heat will probably win Game 1 going away, right?
Pawel Weszka, NBA Africa: Way too much rest for the Spurs, but an awesome opportunity to study the defending NBA champions for coach Gregg Popovich. I expect an early Spurs lead with the Heat stealing the opener at home eventually. San Antonio will move the ball a lot, but the Heat will be ready to force some turnovers down the stretch and test Tony Parker’s creativity. Tiago Splitter and Duncan will dominate the paint and it will take LeBron to bail out Miami again as coach Erik Spoelstra will be getting ready his big men for Game 2.
Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: Watching Gregg Popovich for a long time now, I believe he could not ask for a better scenario for his squad. Pop is known to rest his players in the regular season in favor of protecting their health for the brutal postseason grind. With Miami taking seven games to dispatch a very tough Indiana squad, it will have an effect — minimal or not — on their mental and physical stamina. Meanwhile, the Spurs have had a chance to recuperate and rest their older players. Pop will never let his squad be out of sync and their offensive and defensive game plan will be perfect for the upcoming series. They may struggle in the first few minutes of Game 1 but once they remember it’s just another basketball game, the machine-like approach of the whole Spurs system will kick in.