After a five day wait, the NBA Finals begin tonight, and not a moment too soon. The desperate attempts to manufacture trash-talking between the media-vanilla Heat and Spurs had gotten a little silly and both teams seemed a little bored with the attempts.
The fact of the matter is simple; the two best teams in the NBA, each loaded with classy future Hall of Famers are pretty evenly matched and should deliver two great weeks of basketball. ESPN has run some projections and numbers showing the supposed lack of effect if Tony Parker were to be injured and miss some of part of the series. They have the Spurs as the favorite no matter what. But what those numbers fail to account for (aside from feeling dubious in the first place. You don’t replace Tony Parker with Patty Mills and feel no effect. Just sayin’) is what if Parkers PLAYS but just doesn’t play effectively. THAT would be a whole new complication and could be a potential pitfall for the Spurs and their bid for redemption.
We will deal with the Title at a later point. For now, let’s focus on the more pressing question: Who will win Game One and take early control of the series?
2014 NBA Finals – Game One
Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs -4.5 (Total: 198.5)
Any attempt to use the regular season contests between these two teams in fruitless, as neither played their real teams their regular minutes. Meanwhile, looking back on last season seems a little misguided as well; Ray Allen is a year older. Shane Battier feels several years older. Mike Miller is gone. Rashard Lewis is suddenly revived and contributing, and most importantly, Dwyane Wade is healthy and looking like an elite player once again.
Things are similarly different for the Spurs. Yes, Parker is banged up and Ginobili is a year older, but so is Patty Mills, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green – all in a good way. The Spurs are deeper than they’ve ever been and require less from their stars. Yet the stars, namely Timmy Duncan, can still swoop in for stretches of dominant brilliance like in their dramatic Game Six closeout win in Oklahoma City.
I think home court advantage will be big in this series, just as it was last year. San Antonio and Miami, not surprisingly, are two of the best home teams in the NBA. Both are exceptionally well coached, though Popvich will garner far more credit from most in that category. Both teams will make adjustments throughout the series and I’d be surprised if it didn’t go six or seven games.
I like the Spurs to open up strong at home tonight. Look for them to lay off LeBron and force him to shoot jumpers. Maybe he will make enough to burn them, but it’s still a big stylistic adjustment for him to make, and I think he will grow more comfortable throughout the series but will struggle at times tonight. Look for the Spurs to pound the ball inside and force the Heat to double team. Once they do – the Spurs have plenty of guys out on the arc who can make you pay, especially when they are playing in front of the home crowd.