The 2014 NBA Finals kick off tonight in San Antonio and there will be something for everyone, from the NBA cognoscenti to the casual, Johnny-come-lately roundball fan.
This Finals rematch between the Spurs and the Heat is the first since 1998, when the Bulls topped the Jazz for their second threepeat.
This series features 17th-year Tim Duncan, possibly the greatest power forward of all time, against the current best player in the world LeBron James, possibly the greatest forward of all time.
A series win would give Duncan and coach Popovich five titles, equaling league royalty like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant among others.
The Heat are participating in their fourh consecutive Finals and going for the illusive three-rings-in-a-row, not done since the Lakers’ triple championship run from 2000-2002. However, if the South Beach Big 3 come up short this year, massive speculation will be focused on the possible break-up of LeBron and company, as they all can become free agents this summer.
Throw in the fact that San Antonio was just a few ticks away from taking Game 6 and the title last season before Ray Allen’s unbelievable 3-pointer saved Miami. It was possibly the closest a squad has come to winning the title and then having it ripped away in modern times. That ultra-disappointment and outcome has admittedly haunted Coach Pop and his players for the past 350 or so days.
With all of this layered-background and historical hoops significance, this year’s quest for a ring will come down to X’s & O’s, team and individual execution and poise. The Spurs have home-court this championship rematch courtesy of their league-best 62-20 regular season. Both sides finished a protective 32-9 on their respective courts, so ‘stealing’ a game on the road will be crucial, especially for Miami.
Some factors to consider about the Heat this series: How many times will LeBron just take his game to a level no one else in the series can match? Will Dwyane Wade show extended flashes of ‘Flash’ and step up when James is overburdened? Who on the Heat’s 2014 production-weak bench will score, steal or board his way to significant floor time? Having lost a mere three post-season games thus far, how will Miami react if and when their backs are against the proverbial wall?
Some factors to consider about the Spurs this series: First and foremost, how will Tony Parker’s sore left ankle affect his ability to break down Miami’s switching and swarming defense? 14X NBA All-Star Tim Duncan is 38 years old – will he be able to continue to elude Father Time and play extended, intense minutes this series? Will all the year-long hand-wringing and second guessing about last year’s Finals be more of a weight or motivation for the cerebral veterans on San Antonio?
The professional prognosticators are split as to who will take home the 2014 Larry O’Brien trophy. However, all agree that this series will be one for the ages.