After five weeks of playoff action, the NBA Finals is ready for take off. NBA fans have the matchup they have wanted all season: a rematch of last season’s epic Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. As we all know, it looked as if the Spurs were on their way to a fifth championship last year. The ropes lined the court for a celebration and the Larry O’Brien trophy was ready to be hoisted. However, the Heat made a comeback for the ages in Game 6 to tie the series up and took Game 7 against a physically worn down Spurs squad to capture their second-straight championship.
The characters from last season’s showdown remain the same, but an important plot shift exists in this year’s rematch: the Spurs hold home court advantage. In addition, for the first time in almost 30 years, the format for the Finals is 2-2-1-1-1 rather than 2-3-2. However, there are two important factors to this series that will decide whether the Heat complete a “three-peat” or the Spurs capture a fifth title in 15 years.
The first and most important key is which team’s supporting cast outplays the other. One of the main reasons why the Heat and Spurs are in the Finals is because of their role players. We know all about how both teams’ “Big 3” will be Hall of Famers someday, but it is the other guys who make the difference. Both teams have two of the highest scoring and deepest benches in the league, so something is going to have to give. Each team has guys who can step up and answer the bell when their name is called. In addition, both teams excel at keeping their opponents’ supporting cast from going off. While Miami was able to dismantle the supporting cast of the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio did the exact same thing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. We know the superstars will perform well in this series; therefore, it comes down to the role players to decide which team is crowned a champion.
The other important key to the series is the battle in the paint. Both teams’ bread-and-butter on offense is scoring in the paint and moving the ball around to get a good shot. The team that is able to get open shots in the paint and effectively run its offense will win this series. In addition, the team that controls the paint should also be able to open up opportunities for themselves along the three-point line. Both teams love to get up and down the court and shoot, so expect a lot of firepower in this series.
Because of the importance of the paint, defense will have the final say. Whichever team’s outstanding defense forces the other team’s offense to primarily shoot outside shots should win the series. As we have seen before, championship teams do not and cannot live and die by the three.
However, one huge advantage in this series could be in the rebounding department where the Spurs are a much better rebounding team than the Heat. Indiana was supposedly a stronger rebounding team than Miami, but the Pacers allowed Miami too many second-chance opportunities. The Spurs will need to prevent Miami from controlling the glass in order to win the series.
And, of course, the importance of taking care of the basketball in this series cannot be stressed enough. Whichever team is able to force its opponent into many turnovers will win the series.
Both teams are extremely well-coached and exceptional on both ends of the floor, but the Spurs’ home court advantage could be the difference. As a result, I am going with San Antonio over Miami in seven games. Along with having home court advantage, the Spurs’ motivation to reclaim what the Heat stole from them last season still stings to this day. However, if Miami can steal a game on the road and take care of business in South Beach, this series will go in Miami’s favor. Nevertheless, with many NBA legacies on the line in this series, the rematch should be a battle for the ages.