Game 1: Heat-Spurs playing for legacies


VIDEO: Sekou Smith looks at the legacies on the line in The 2014 Finals

SAN ANTONIO — Is it possible that we’re still hours from the opening tip for Game 1 of The NBA Finals and these two teams are already tired of each other?

LeBron James and the Heat say they sense some dislike from their opponents. Tim Duncan and the Spurs, who see perhaps a bit of entitlement from the Heat, simply dislike any memory of last June when they all but gift-wrapped a championship to the Heat by falling apart in the last 28.2 seconds of Game 6.

Oh well, it should be a beauty.

The basics

Game 1 tips off Thursday night at 9 ET on ABC.

Let’s face it. Thunder and Pacers fans aside, this is really the showdown everybody has wanted to see for the past 12 months: Round 2. It’s the NBA’s Model Franchise from San Antonio against the Runway Model Franchise from South Beach.

It’s the Heat trying to become just the fourth franchise in league history to achieve a “three-peat” against the Spurs trying to win their fifth championship. This is the first Finals rematch since Michael Jordan’s Bulls took down the Jazz of John Stockton and Karl Malone in 1997 and ’98. The Heat are the first team to advance to four straight Finals since Larry Bird‘s Celtics (1984-87).

The narrative

For so many familiar names of the past decade or more, this is all about legacies.

The 38-year-old Tim Duncan is seeking his fifth NBA title, which would cement his position as one of the best big men in the history of the game and would help erase the sting of last year’s seven-game loss to Miami, the only time he’s ever lost in The Finals. For Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, it would be a fourth championship and permanently stamp them as the most successful international players ever. Gregg Popovich could become only the fifth coach in league history to win a fifth championship.

For the Heat, the “three-peat” would, of course, rank them among only six teams in NBA history to accomplish the feat. The fourth overall title for Miami would jump them into the elite group with Celtics, Lakers, Bulls and Spurs as the only NBA franchises with four championships. A 29-year-old LeBron James would be halfway to Jordan with his third ring, Dwyane Wade would rank among the elite with four titles and Erik Spoelstra could jump into sixth place all-time for titles won by a coach. And don’t forget Pat Riley. As a player, coach and now team president, championship No. 9 would be a step closer to the bejeweled Phil Jackson (11 coach, 2 player) and Bill Russell (11 player).

The subplots

With all of the focus upon the Big Three on each side, it would be easy to overlook Spurs shooting guard Danny Green. Easy, but foolish. Remember, last year Green shot 27-for-49 (55.1 percent) from behind the 3-point line and might have been named MVP of The Finals if the Spurs had held on.

Keep an eye on Parker’s sore left ankle. If it can’t hold up, the Spurs could be in trouble.

Never mind that Ray Allen will turn 39 years old in July. He hasn’t lost anything off one of the prettiest jumpers to ever grace an NBA court. Nobody knows that better than the Spurs after that Game 6 dagger from the right corner snatched the Larry O’Brien Trophy right out of their hands.

Xs and Os

There’s no rest for Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs. He goes from Dirk Nowitzki to LaMarcus Aldridge to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Now he’ll once again be matched up on LeBron and tasked with trying to keep the best player in the game out of the paint, where he can do the most damage.

The Spurs would like the Heat to feed on a steady diet of 3-pointers, but that could become a problem if Chris Bosh keeps slinging them in from behind the arc.

Miami’s defensive weakness is in the middle and the Spurs could go to work there with Boris Diaw‘s interior passing and his ability to step outside and hit the jumper.

It’s strength on strength with the Heat’s gambling, aggressive defense wanting to jump into the passing lanes to create turnovers and transition buckets against the crisp passing game of the Spurs.

It won’t be the opening matchup, but if Parker gets rolling and the Heat need a stopper, Spoelstra will make the switch to LeBron to put on the clamps, just as he did a year ago.

Who’s hot?

The Heat as a group have been hot and cold, intense and disinterested at times through the playoffs. But Wade, who missed 28 games due to injury this season, has been a spark in their offense, averaging 18.7 points, 4.3 assists and shooting a career-best 51.9 percent in the playoffs.

Diaw went to work and was quite effective in the Western Conference finals against the Thunder. It’s been said in some corners that he’s playing as well as any time in his career. His confidence is surging.

Whatever happened to …

“Birdman” Chris Andersen struggled with injuries in the Eastern Conference finals. He got a pair of DNPs and played just 12 1/2 minutes in the Game 6 clincher against the Pacers.

Tiago Splitter‘s time went steadily down a year ago in The Finals as Popovich went with a small lineup. His minutes also shrunk drastically this year against OKC. He could be the odd man out again.

Bottom line

The Spurs have waited a full year to get redemption and need to make a statement at home in Game 1.

29 Comments

  1. Solomon says:

    Where is Lbj annoying

  2. fadeaway3! says:

    Lebron is not and will never be a Michael Jordan… He is Lebron himself… Dont compare.

  3. HeatFan1 says:

    I see a lot of people don’t like LeBron. Well he obviously is doing something right to have haters. People on here like dissing great basketball players. All I have to say is….actions are stronger than words. Let’s sit back and watch Heat win another.

  4. JJRedman says:

    Lebron will never be a Michael Jordan. Michael has 6 NBA Finals MVPs and that will never be rivaled.

  5. billybob says:

    LeBron is not a very good basketball player.
    he looks weird out there. not much coordination.
    his teammates make him look much better.

  6. fight0n says:

    Kawhi never guarded Dirk or LA for any stretch during either series. Splitter was the guy who shut those two down. Kawhi was all over in the Mavs series and played against Batum then switched to Lillard in the Portland series. Do your homework

  7. oeyjopezlay says:

    lebron has no finess in his game. he is and looks like a platapuss…

  8. Tony pat says:

    Michael Jordan his airness is the greatest player on earth.. no doubt

  9. Tony pat says:

    Lebron? KIng? That is too far from the reality…. Let’s just be honest to ourselves, he just can’t bring any team to championship without the help of the other superstar and not just 1 or two superstar atleast 3 superstars are are playing with lebron. Why not look for another team and bring this team championship level just like MJ his airness when he guided the bulls into 6 championships.. the comparison between LJ and MJ is that LJ enters the league already a superstar, while MJ enters the league from 6th or 7th pick place behind hakeem olajuwoon draft. So LJ is nothing compared to his airness MJ 23

    • Me says:

      There is so much stupid in this post. Kill yourself.

    • SF says:

      First of all, Jordan was the 3rd overall pick, not 6th or 7th.

      LeBron “entered the league already a superstar” because media coverage has increased exponentially since 1984 when Jordan was drafted. This is, of course, due in part to the transformation of the NBA which was brought about by MJ. That said, public perception of your potential has no bearing on your ultimate success.

      LeBron tried to create a championship team out of nothing in Cleveland, but he was surrounded by scrubs. The front office failed to surround him with the talent to help him win a championship. Despite what it seems you think, you cannot win championships alone in the NBA. Jordan had Scottie Pippen, one of the all-time great two-way players; Jordan had Horace Grant, a legit, stud big man; Jordan had Dennis Rodman, a nightmare on defense and an absolute rebounding machine. He also had Phil Jackson as his coach. Somehow you are overlooking every single one of these things.

      Jordan is Jordan, and LeBron is LeBron. The comparisons are more than a bit trite, but to say that “LJ is nothing compared to MJ” is just plain moronic.

    • Han says:

      Dude, not sure what you smoked, MJ was picked at no 3, and that’s because there were 2 prominent big men (which were rare, similar way that Oden was selected before Durant) to go before him. He was a superstar in the NCAA tournament, much like LBJ in high school before entering NBA, but guess what, which one do you think is more ready to enter NBA?

  10. Abe says:

    Hey Steven A. Smith, I challenge you to the octagon of ideas

  11. Abe says:

    All I have to say is this, LeBron is the greatest basketball player to come out of Cleveland. But don’t forget that the greatest player to come of the world of basketball is Micheal Jordan. He transformed the game of basketball aand transformed the game as we know it. His athleticisim timing and sheer determination can still be felt today. Lebron may be the games modern day Jordan, but Michael transformed the way we interepret the game, redefing the moments which define our existence

    • justsaying says:

      MJ was a great player, however, take some time out your day and check into the playing years of the original sky walker. Dave Thompson, drafted #1 overall in the same year by the ABA and the NBA. Now he was a bad man. Don’t believe me check it out for yourself.

    • Han says:

      Actually the one credited to bring fame of NBA were Magic/Bird rivalry. Though yes, MJ brought it to another lv. Not sure what you meant by transforming/redefining stuff, but clearly you’ve been biased bcoz you’re MJ fan

  12. rafael says:

    this year is tim duncan and spurs go spurs.

  13. Eddy says:

    I have to admit spurs has a great shooting team, but relies in specific players for beyond arc shooters. all heats have to do is control the paint and put effort in offensive rebound and heats got the gold. Heat pretty much have all around players who can do almost anything aside from anderson. I give all confidence to the heat winning this year. Spurs are a great team but lack the all around players. Lets go Heats!!!

  14. NYK says:

    discontrol……?

  15. Revolt626 says:

    Miami is 9-10 men deep, they just need to keep the defensive pressure on Duncan and Parker out of the paint.
    The key for Miami will be to keep the intensity up both physically and mentally, so they don’t have downfalls like
    most of the 4th quarter in last years game 6 championship. Go Heat Go!

  16. AM says:

    What kind of nonsense is this guy writing about birdman? He had a thigh injury on those two DNP. And why would he log more minutes in the game 6 blowout?

  17. Ben Mawel says:

    it does not matter what Tony does this time…..Miami knows that SAS wants to revenge….They will do anything to get a win…but LBJ and Co. will not allow that to happen….I think the series will finish in 5 or 6 in favour Miami. three peat no doubt!!!

  18. Ben Mawel says:

    I think Miami Heat will take it again this year……I know SAS will try to get redemption this time around, but they will fail just like last year.

  19. Tyrone Slothrop says:

    Somebody wake up Blinebury. Anderson was hurt for those two games. Did you even watch the games?

  20. exocast33 says:

    I get a bit tired of people saying the Spurs “fell apart” or “choked” last year. I am a huge San Antonio fan, but I give the heat credit. If you want to blame the Spurs then it’s Khawi or Manu missing the FTs … Not the Bosh rebound or Ray Allen shot. Bosh is a 6’11″ all-star and Allen isn’t exactly a scrub left open for a “lucky” 3. I give the Heat credit for making big plays and a huge clutch shot. Looking forward to the Spurs “winning” not “redeeming”. Go Spurs Go!

    • thespectator says:

      people refer to the choke more so to the free throws, thats what allowed rays allen 3 to be meaningful. had they made their freethrows, spurs woulda won the title. ray allen hitting a three wasnt spurs fault..what if he missed it? again spurs win the title.

  21. atlantico says:

    The key to win Miami is a tight defense on Wade and three point shooters (Alen, Batier). It´s imposible to stop Lebron, he´s simply the king.

  22. atlantico says:

    If Pop controls Tony Parker, and get him sharper at defense, I´m sure Spurs going to win. Any discontrol on Tony is crucial.

    • thespectator says:

      that ankle will be the biggest factor for the spurs, tony helps create offense, his ability to take to the rim is just sick, hes not fast or athletic but very quick and a very good finisher…if his ankles are not up to the task then spurs will have a big problem…cant see patty mills leading the offense for 20 + minutes…miami d will suffocate him and put him into traps..and we will see d wade on the fast break lob it to lebron.