It looks like deja vu happened in this year’s NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are, once again, competing for the championship. As a result, both teams have something to gain (other than winning a title): if the Heat win, they three-peat; if the Spurs win, they’ll get the revenge they long for after what happened last year. It will be a battle of wills, but will the same team win?
In my opinion, no. I think the Spurs are still bitter from last year’s game six and are going to come back harder than ever. Despite dealing with an ankle injury in Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Spurs guard Tony Parker is expected to play in the first game. Normally, this would be a weakness because the Heat can exploit Parker, the Spurs have proven they can play well without Parker (although they play so much better with him).
Injury or no injury, the match-up between Tony Parker and Mario Chalmers is a no-brainer. Chalmers does well in his position, but I believe Parker will be able to make more plays.
The level of talent the Spurs have had to play against in the playoffs also gives the team an advantage over the Heat. Miami’s playoff run consisted of playing against the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats. There were some very physical games, but the level of competition isn’t the same as what the Spurs had to face (Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks).
The Spurs also have a different team than last year, not in the sense of players, but in player development. Small forward Kawhi Leonard is a much more developed player and plays a bigger role for the Spurs than last year, averaging 13 points and seven rebounds so far in the postseason.
One advantage the Heat do have is if and/or when center Greg Oden plays. Oden hasn’t played much this season, but did see the court Friday in Miami’s win against the Pacers. He managed to get a rebound, assist and steal in the five minutes he played. At seven feet, Oden gives the Heat more height and dominance in the front court.
Another advantage for the Heat is, of course, LeBron James. The Heat will go as he goes and rally around him. The game will truly be the best player against the best team.