SAN ANTONIO– When the Heat and Spurs met in the playoffs last year for the 2013 NBA Finals, one word could be used to describe the series; Legendary.
With the Spurs thrilling overtime victory against the Thunder last night, the stage has been set for a finals rematch. Many of the things remain the same from the but there are some differences.
Things stay the same:
- The Big 3 for each team is the same. The Spurs still have the seemingly ageless trio of Tim Duncan (38), Manu Ginobili (36), and Tony Parker (32). The Heat still have the dynamic trio of Dwayne Wade (32), Chris Bosh (30), and LeBron James (29).
- The teams have mostly the same rosters that they had in last year’s finals. Returning for the Spurs are Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, Aron Baynes, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, Danny Green, Cory Joseph, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and Tiago Splitter. Returning for the Heat are Wade, Bosh, James, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis.
- The head coaches are the same. Greg Popovich of the Spurs and Erik Spoelstra of the Heat are two of the Best Coaches in the NBA. Popovich has won the NBA championship 4X as a head coach, NBA Coach of the Year 3X, been a Western Conference champion 6X, and been the head coach of the All-Star Game 3X. Spoelstra has won the NBA championship 2x as a head coach and 1x as an assistant coach, been an Eastern Conference Champion 4X, and coached the NBA All-Star game 1X.
- The Spurs and Heat have each gained and lost important players from their championship appearance last year. The Spurs have constantly changed role players during the era of their Big 3. DeJuan Blair, Nando De Collo, Tracy McGrady, and Gary Neal are gone and have been replaced by Jeff Ayres, Marco Belinelli, Austin Daye, and Damion James. The change in tole players isn’t a big deal to the Spurs. Coach Popovich has been constantly replacing role players for nearly two decades and has had great success every year.
- The change in role players for the Heat is a little different. The Heat replaced Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard, Mike Miller, and Jarvis Varnado with Michael Beasley, Toney Douglas, Justin Hamilton, and Greg Oden. Mike Miller was a key rotation player for the Heat in their last two titles and was amnestied after their last championship to save money. Miller was an excellent 3-point shooter and play maker for the Heat and his talents will be sorely missed in the finals this year. The Heat attempted to replace Miller with Beasley and Oden, a gamble that has failed so far. Neither play got that much playing time during the regular season or the playoffs. Now that the finals have arrived it seems highly unlikely that Beasley or Oden will be able to make any difference at all, if they are even given an opportunity to play.
- The Spurs have home court advantage this time. Last year the Heat had home court advantage and still needed a miraculous 28 seconds at the end of Game 6 to take the game to overtime and eventually win the series in 7. This was all made possible by having the support of their home crowd behind them in both games. That won’t happen this year. If the Heat want to win their third straight title, they can’t allow the Spurs to get a 3-2 lead over them. If the series reaches Game 7, the odds are greatly in favor of the Spurs.
- The finals format has changed. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the finals format is 2-2-1-1-1 instead of 2-3-2. There are people who argued that the 2-3-2 format gave an unfair advantage to the team with the weaker record. The 2-2-1-1-1 format is the same format that is used in the other rounds of the playoffs and won’t require an adjustment period for the teams to get used to.
Both teams have are fighting to cement their place in history. Tim Duncan, regarded by many as the best Power Forward of all time, may be playing in the last series of his career. Many speculate that Duncan may retire after this season and there’s no better way for him to ride off into the sunset than with his fifth ring. LeBron James, arguably the best Small Forward of all time, is looking to build his legend and create a dynasty by doing something that hasn’t been done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers coached by Phil Jackson, 3-peat. Another championship and Finals MVP would have people seriously debating whether he or Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time. No matter who wins, this year’s finals will be a showcase of some of the best players to ever play the game of basketball giving it their all to build upon their already impressive legacies. It’s a treat for any NBA fan.