One the NBA’s most decorated dynasties takes on the team perhaps in the midst of one, as the San Antonio Spurs look to reclaim their championship ways against the defending champion Miami Heat in Game One of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
The main storyline involves Heat superstar LeBron James seeking revenge on Tim Duncan and the Spurs organization that thwarted the four-time MVP's first shot at a ring in 2007.
Already a superstar at 22 years old, James had led a patchwork Cleveland Cavaliers club through the Eastern Conference gauntlet, only to be swept in four games by Duncan and point guard Tony Parker.
It was the fourth title for the Spurs in eight seasons, but the quiet, unassuming club hadn’t made a return trip to the Finals since.
No. 2 seeded San Antonio barreled through the regular season for a 58-24 record, and did much of the same during the postseason. Parker torched all comers as the Spurs swept the Lakers in the first round, silenced crowds in six games against Golden State, and punished upset-minded Memphis for another sweep in the conference finals.
The French national has averages of 23 points and 7.2 assists on 47.5 percent shooting, and Duncan has been just as dominate with 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds during the playoffs.
Heading into the postseason it was seen as Miami’s title to lose, after James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh ripped off a 27-game winning streak to close the season, and had lost two times since the All-Star break.
After dispatching Milwaukee and Chicago in a total of nine games, the Indiana Pacers pushed the Heat up against the wall for seven games and made them look vulnerable for the first time this season.
James continued to play his best even with the rest of his team struggling, and he was even quoted saying he was reminded of his days in Cleveland. Just like the regular season, James leads the Heat with 26.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in the playoffs.
Wade, and particularly Bosh, struggled to find their offense against the long and athletic Pacer defense led by center Roy Hibbert. Wade has also played through nagging knee injuries this season, but still scored 21 points in the deciding seventh game that clinched a third consecutive Finals appearance for Miami.
Miami holds home court advantage with the first two games at American Airlines Arena.
Game One starts at 9 p.m. Eastern time and will broadcast by ABC.
Despite possessing the unanimous best player alive and most predictions in their favor, this series is not seen as a sure thing for the Heat.
ESPN’s Marc Stein predicted a San Antonio victory in six games, and analyst Tim Legler also picked the Spurs in six. And even those who picked Miami believe its going to be a long series. J.A. Adande said Miami in seven, and so did Jon Barry.
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann believes the San Antonio’s offense is “the perfect counter” to Miami’s, and fellow scribe Jeff Caplan predicted San Antonio in six.
CBS New York’s John Schmeelk also took the Spurs, but in seven games.
Game One Betting Odds: Miami is favored by 5 points
Game One Over/Under: 189 points
Game One Prediction: San Antonio 92, Miami 88