Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.
> Pick a winner, Heat or Spurs. How will they do it? And how many games will it take them?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Way back in October, I picked Miami to three-peat, so I’m not switching now – that would be a weasel move. Better to just suck it up and accept being wrong, if it happens. But I don’t think it will. The Spurs are terrific and, yes, I expected them to be more traumatized by last year’s Finals — and as always, more decrepit by now than they’ve proven to be. It would make total sense if the machine they’ve been for much of this season and postseason tore through the Heat with breathtaking efficiency. To me, they’re deeper and they get more out of their many parts, consistently. But Miami has the best part in all of basketball and I think LeBron James is poised for a massive Finals. Something in the 32-36 ppg range, pulling casual fans into this NBA rematch. The rest of Miami’s roster knows how to play around him well enough by now. Dwyane Wade is healthier this year and Chris Bosh is at peace in his floor-spacing, opportunist role. Miami in 6.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Get out the DVD of the 2013 Finals and hit the “stop” button right at 28 seconds left in Game 6. The Spurs at their best will keep the ball moving crisply ahead of the Heat’s contesting, gambling defense. They’ll knock down open 3s, use Parker’s penetration to get the ball to Tim Duncan and count on Manu Ginobili to simply make things happen. Defensively, it will be up to Leonard to keep James out of the paint, force the Heat to shoot a ton of 3s and hope that Chris Bosh’s improved game behind the arc isn’t the answer to that strategy. They’ll rely on improved depth in the lineup. The pick is the same one that was a winner last year, that is until those last 28 seconds: Spurs in 6.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Spurs in 5. Oh, you think I’m crazy? If Tony Parker is healthy, this is my pick. If we come to find that he’s hobbling around out there and maybe even a detriment, well, then that changes everything. Assuming he’s healthy, the Spurs will methodically bludgeon the Heat with precision, depth and Tim Duncan. The only area I see that can kill San Antonio is if it starts getting loose with the basketball like the one game in the first round against Dallas when they had 24 turnovers. That, as everybody knows, is a recipe for disaster against the Heat. And I will say this, if LeBron James pulls this off, it will lift him to even a higher stratosphere in the pecking order of all-time superstardom because I think we can agree that, despite LeBron being the greatest individual talent in the series, top to bottom the Spurs are the superior team.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Spurs in 7. They will do it the same way they always do it: efficient offense, playing smart, hitting shots from everywhere, defending and getting production from the bench. They will do it by remembering last year and the pain of that June. It’s stopping the clock and pushing forward at the same time.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Both teams have been rather unstoppable (combined 17-1 and scoring at a ridiculous rate) at home in the playoffs. San Antonio has exactly the kind of offense that can take advantage of the Heat’s defensive scheme, especially if Miami’s effort and energy isn’t there consistently. And it hasn’t been there consistently all season. I was six seconds away from my “Spurs in 6” prediction coming right last year and I’ve been foreshadowing the Heat’s demise with most of what I’ve written over the last month. Spurs in 6.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Everything I’ve learned over the years about The Finals tells me that my pick should be the Spurs in 7. When Tim Duncan lays down a Finals guarantee, or what passes for one in his classy way, it’s hard to pick against the Spurs … (wait for it) … But everything I’ve learned about LeBron James and the Miami Heat over the past few years tells me that there is no way he allows anyone, not even Tim Duncan and the mighty Spurs, to interrupt the title march he’s on at this stage of his career. The Heat, with yeoman’s work from LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, overwhelm the Spurs’ older and slightly wounded Big 3 and find a way to secure their coveted three-peat. And they do it in 6, finishing things off a game earlier than they did last time. Revenge, redemption or whatever you want to call it, is a powerful emotion. Just not powerful enough to defeat an all-time great in his championship prime.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Of course, loyal Hang Time Podcast listeners will recall how I picked Miami way back in October. I’ve been riding with the Heat all season, and I really haven’t seen anything in their postseason performances to make me doubt them. HOWEVA, while watching the Spurs systematically dismantle the Thunder, I realized I was thinking with my heart, not my head. These two teams match up so well, and both play such smart basketball, and no fear of one another. I think the Spurs summon the ghosts for one more run. As much as I’d love my months-old prediction to be right, I think San Antonio will win in 7 games.
Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: The Spurs will do it. They’ll get their revenge! Why? The pain of last year still sits very deep. Tim Duncan dreams of a perfect end of this career. He is still very focused and motivated. In addition, the Spurs have the options to slow LeBron James down. Leonard, Diaw and Duncan can guard him over stretches. And one last point: San Antonio has the deeper roster. They have more options, more tactical weapons. The Spurs will do it in six games.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: A tough one. LeBron’s 3-peat would be a great story in his way to the GOAT pantheon. The same goes with the ring for the Popovich-Duncan era. Aaaaaah… I really don’t know what to choose. My heart hasn’t decided yet. My mind says Spurs in 7.
Rubens Borges, NBA Brasil: San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich learned a lot from last years Finals, the Big Trio is hungry and ready to dethrone Miami. Expect their defense to collapse on LeBron and their offense to through Timmy in the post. We deserve 7 games, we need 7 games. Can we have 7 games, please?
Akshay Manwani, NBA India: The Spurs in six. They are too deep, will have Boris Diaw playing extended minutes (perhaps even start) at the four-spot and have home-court this season. Think about it, in a Finals that went seven games last year, perhaps it was home-court that made the difference. This season, the Spurs have it all – they are a little better, Miami a little weaker, the Spurs play four at the AT&T Center and have Diaw, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili all playing better than last year. The Spurs it will be.