2013 NBA Playoffs
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are set to meet in the 2013 NBA Finals. It’s the third year in a row that Miami has reached the Promised Land, while San Antonio is making their fifth trip since 1999. The No.1 seed Heat won’t have much time off in between games, with just two days to prepare for their opponent. The No.2 seed Spurs, on the other hand, will have had nine days rest when they take the court for Game One.
Miami almost didn’t get a chance to defend their title. After needing just nine games to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Heat avoided an upset by beating the Indiana Pacers in seven games. Last year’s champs were dominant in Game Seven, winning by 23 on their home floor.
San Antonio’s only real challenge came in the second round against the Golden State Warriors. That series was sandwiched in between sweeps of the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. When the Finals begin on Thursday, it will mark 25 days since the Spurs last loss.
The teams met twice in the regular season, but the Finals will be the first in which the clubs square off at full strength. In their first matchup, the Heat barely got by a Spurs team that was without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. Miami won the second game by two, but this time they were missing their top stars. Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sat out with injuries.
Heat Key Players
LeBron James: In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat showed that they won’t win a second straight title if James isn’t, by far, the best player on the court. An injury to Wade and inconsistent play from Chris Bosh and Ray Allen has forced James to carry much of the load. James’ teammates are still better than those he had with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the way he must play in order for his team to win is very reminiscent of a few years ago.
Dwyane Wade: The two-time champ may be the most important player in the series. When he plays well, he gives Miami two legitimate superstars. If he struggles like he did against the Pacers, the Heat might not be deep enough to win the series. In the team’s three losses to Indiana, Wade averaged just 13.3 points on 35 percent shooting. He was one of the biggest keys in Miami’s Game Seven win on Monday, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Spurs Key Players
Tony Parker: Other than James and Kevin Durant, it might be hard to find a better player than Parker. After an ankle injury hampered him in the final month of the regular season, the point guard has returned to his mid-season form. If anybody on the Spurs is going to come close to matching James’s production, Parker is the guy to do it.
Tim Duncan: Indiana almost beat Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals because of their dominance in the paint. Duncan may not be the defensive presence that Roy Hibbert is, but he will have to do his part to turn the Heat into a jump shooting team. The Heat also had a tough time stopping Hibbert and David West on the offensive end, and a few similar performances will be needed from the future Hall of Famer.
Despite recent struggles, no team has the offensive weapons of Miami. With the best player in the NBA, the Heat can be, virtually, unstoppable at times. James has been terrific in the playoffs, averaging 26.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game on 51.4 percent shooting. When Miami is locked in defensively, they force turnovers and score easily in transition. The Heat, however, need to give James some more help against a team as good as the Spurs. If he’s forced to outscore Bosh and Wade combined, for a second straight series, Miami won’t raise their third championship banner.
San Antonio is the most balanced team in the league. They seemingly get a major contribution from different players every night, which is largely attributed to having an all-time great coach in Gregg Popovich. Even though Manu Ginobili has struggled from the field, the consistent shooting of guys like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green has gotten the Spurs back to the Finals. If San Antonio can continue to get the same level of play from their supporting cast, they have a good chance to pull off the upset. With James on the court, though, Parker needs to play at an elite level.
Game 1: at Miami, Thursday, June 6, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2: at Miami, Sunday, June 9, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3: at San Antonio, Tuesday, June 11, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4: at San Antonio, Thursday, June 13, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5: at San Antonio, Sunday, June 16, 8 p.m. ET, ABC *
Game 6: at Miami, Tuesday, June 18, 9 p.m. ET, ABC *
Game 7: at Miami, Thursday, June 20, 9 p.m. ET, ABC*
Miami-240, San Antonio+200 [Bet Online]
Miami in Seven