As I see it, the best way to look at this series is to analyze last season’s Finals, this regular season for both teams and the way that teams made till the Finals and of course, the match ups.
I think that regular season is the least important factor for obvious reasons. Having said that, obviously Spurs impressed a lot more during regular season than the Heat.
Spurs broke franchise record for most consecutive wins and finished the season at the first place in the league, while Heat were really not impressing at all and finished second in their Conference.
But, Heat were focused on the playoffs and couldn’t care less about regular season.
As far as last year’s playoffs go, we need to remember that Manu and Wade were horrible, especially Wade. Manu was in bad form, while giving few good games. Wade was injured and too often, more of a liability than advantage for the Heat.
On top of that, Green and Neal went nuts behind three point line in the Finals.
68 points in 4 losses 96 points in three wins (though Green was much bigger factor than Neal, averaging 21 points per game in the three wins by the Spurs and only 8.75 points per game in 4 losses)). Neal is gone and I really doubt that Green will be able to average 20+ points again.
Obviously this time, they have Mills, Diaw and Splitter in much better form than last year, but still, last time, Green stepped up hugely. Not sure if Pop has another joker in his pocket for this NBA Finals.
Spurs were seconds away from winning the title and if it wasn’t for Pop’s dumb mistakes and missed free throws, they would have been the champions, but Heat managed to get things done and that is something that you can’t take away from them.
In the crucial moments, the “veteran” team, with “much better” coach, made all the possible mistakes and Heat took advantage of them.
If we look at this season’s playoffs, Heat went 12 – 3 SU in the playoffs and 11 – 4 ATS. Spurs went 12 – 6 SU and 9 – 9 ATS in the playoffs (though we need to remember that Spurs started the playoffs 4 – 3 SU and 1 – 6 ATS, while Heat started 4 – 0 SU and ATS in the first round).
I believe that Nets and Pacers by no means easier rivals than Portland and Oklahoma and while it’s possible that Thunder are better than the Pacers (though we can argue about that), Nets are better than Portland, especially on defense and that what wins playoffs series.
I really like the way that Spoelstra handled this postseason. I think he is really emerging as one of the best coaches in the league at the moment and while I will admit I had big doubts about him, the small things he managed to change from game to game in the Pacers series, proved that he understands the game and knows how to change the small things.
While everyone is talking about Pop and his ability to suddenly take a bench player like Bonner, insert him in to the line up and he will play well, no one is speaking about Spoelstra and his ability to use his bench players. He placed Lewis suddenly in to the starting line up and Lewis played really well on both sides of the floor.
Spoelstra didn’t use Haslem against the Nets, but when he needed him against the Pacers, he played and played decent (just not as Lewis at stretching the offense).
Jones played well against the Nets, didn’t play against the Pacers, but I’m sure he will be ready to play in the Finals, if Spoelstra needs him.
Bottom line is that we can easily compare Spoelstra and Vogel – two coaches that did almost the same way their climb to the HC position and have similar experience and while Vogel proved he can’t change and can’t adapt, Spoesltra proved that he can and even more surprisingly, he tweaks his team’s play even after wins, trying to get better.
That brings me to the final part and that’s match ups and conclusion.
I really want Spurs to win it, because I don’t like the Heat and I think that it would be a nice story to see Spurs win this one.
But, I will have to back the Heat on this one.
Heat still have the best player in the league. This time, Wade is healthy and ready to play, while there are health issues on the Spurs side, with Parker and Leonard.
In last year’s Finals, many times, player guarding Wade, left him open to help on LeBron. This time, they just can’t do it, since Wade will punish them.
Also, with Allen being that hot, Lewis suddenly in the rotation and hitting three pointers and Bosh adding three point shots to his arsenal as a permanent thing, Spurs won’t be able to close the paint against LeBron, as well as they did in last year’s Finals.
Bosh was amazing in the last three games against the Pacers and Duncan/ Diaw/ Splitter – someone will have to go out at him and with Allen and Lewis on the florr, Spurs won’t have as much bodies in the paint as they had last year and that will hurt them.
Wade is much more than space opener for LeBron. He proved against the Pacers, that have at least as good of a defense as Spurs do, that he can carry the load in the minutes that LeBron rests.
LeBron seemed really tired at some points of last year’s Finals and I believe that with Wade healthy and in form, Spoelstra will be able to give him 3 – 4 minutes of rest more than in last year’s Finals.
To have a shot at winning this series, Spurs will need not 90% from Parker, but 110% from him and I’m really not sure he will be able to do just that. The same goes for Kawhi that was limping in the end of overtime in Game 6 against the Thunder.
My bet here:
Heat to win the series 4 – 2, 4.95 odds – 10 units play – Pinnacle
Best of luck everybody!!!