NBA Finals offers a study in contrasts

For the first time in a number of years, I have to say this year’s NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat actually interests me.
Granted, it’s not the traditional match-up between superpowers like the L.A. Lakers and Boston Celtics had in 2008 and 2010, and it’s not the mega-power rematch that many wanted between Heat superstar LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder sharpshooter Kevin Durant.
But with the way both teams were built and how they play on a regular basis, I don’t think you can have a better match-up than the one that’s scheduled to get underway tomorrow night.
On one hand, you have the Heat, who won last year’s title and arguably also could have hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2011 before they were shut down by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
Other than a hotly-contested, seven-game thriller with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference final, the Heat ran through their competition this season like a runway locomotive, compiling a 27-game winning streak from the start of February until the end of March.
Leading the charge (as he often does) was James as the league’s best player showed why yet again by turning in performances that made grown men weep.
The fact the James and Chris Bosh left Cleveland and Toronto, respectively, to join long-time Heat star Dwayne Wade during the 2010 off-season is something that still upsets many. But at the end of the day, there is no more entertaining team to watch on a nightly basis in the NBA than Miami.
But while the Heat may have the flash and dash, the Spurs are built upon a reputation of being a club that focuses more on the fundamentals of the sport—and that has shown in their four previous NBA title wins.
Having been a team in the past that was focused more on a defensive style of play, the Spurs are now one that’s merged precision passing and lights-out shooting, which has made them a tough squad to beat.
While the Spurs “big three” of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan have a lot of miles on their legs, the overall depth San Antonio has makes them a very tough team to beat.
If those players aren’t doing well, lesser-known names like Kawhli Leonard, Gary Neal, and Tiago Splitter are making contributions up and down the floor.
It’s often been said that the regular season means nothing when the playoffs come around, and on this occasion that saying actually has some truth to it.
During their two head-to-head meetings, neither squad was at full strength as Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich rested his big three players in their trip to Miami while James and Wade didn’t suit up for their visit to San Antonio.
I’m not sure that many people in Canada will pay much attention to the NBA Finals over the next two weeks, especially since the Stanley Cup playoffs still are ongoing in the NHL.
But if you happen to notice the game on your TV set while you’re channel surfing tomorrow night, you should watch it—if only for a few minutes—as I’m convinced the level of play will be enough to get you hooked.
I’m not even going to try and guess who will win this year’s title, but I will say that anything less than a six-game series would be an absolute stunner.