What: The 2014 NBA Finals
Who: The Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat (54-28 in the regular season, 12-2 in the playoffs) versus the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs (62-20 in the regular season, 12-6 in the playoffs).
When and Where:
- Game 1 in San Antonio on Thursday, June 5 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
- Game 2 in San Antonio on Sunday, June 8 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- Game 3 in Miami on Tuesday, June 10 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
- Game 4 in Miami on Thursday, June 12 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
- *Game 5 in San Antonio on Sunday, June 15 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- *Game 6 in Miami on Tuesday, June 17 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
- *Game 7 in San Antonio on Friday, June 20 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT
*Games 5-7 will only be played if necessary
TV: All games will be broadcast on ABC with Mike Breen serving as play-by-play voice and Jeff Van Gundy & Mark Jackson serving as analysts. The incomparable Doris Burke will be on the sidelines and longtime NBA official Steve Javie will round out the broadcast crew.
The Heat and Spurs split their two games during the 2013-14 regular season with the home team winning both (Miami 113-101, San Antonio 111-87). That said, the real series history here is the 2013 NBA Finals in which the Heat took down the Spurs in seven games in a series in which the Spurs led 2-1, then 3-2, then we were given Game 6. Forever known as “The headband game” by some, we were all left with the remarkable image of Ray Allen grabbing an offensive rebound, stepping back and hitting a corner three to send the game to overtime, a play we will surely see replayed numerous times over the coming days and weeks.
How they got here:
San Antonio Spurs:
- Defeated the Dallas Mavericks in seven games in the first round
- Defeated the Portland Trailblazers in five games in the conference semifinals
- Defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games in the conference finals
- Defeated the Charlotte
HornetsBobcats (though it has officially changed since, they were the Bobcats at the time) in four games in the first round
- Defeated the Brooklyn Nets in five games in the conference semifinals
- Defeated the Indiana Pacers in six games in the conference finals
|G||Mario Chalmers (7.1 ppg, 3.9 apg)||Tony Parker (17.2 ppg, 4.9 apg)|
|G||Dwyane Wade (18.7 ppg, 4.3 apg)||Danny Green (9.3 ppg, .481 3-pt pct)|
|F||Rashard Lewis (4.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg)||Kawhi Leonard (13.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg)|
|F||LeBron James (27.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg)||Tim Duncan (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg)|
|F/C||Chris Bosh (15.2 ppg, .692 3-pt pct)||Tiago Splitter (7.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg)|
San Antonio: PG Tony Parker is probable for Game 1 after aggravating a left ankle injury in Saturday’s Game 6 win over OKC.
Heat: C Chris Andersen is questionable for Game 1 with a bruised left thigh.
This years’ NBA Finals features two head coaches who are highly regarded as among the best in the game, though that is probably where the similarities end. I discussed both coaches previously in the respective conference finals previews, but I’ll try and summarize the matchup. On one side is a 65-year old named Gregg Popovich, known for his tough and straight-forward interactions with the media and who has amassed six western conference titles, four NBA championships and three NBA Coach of the Year awards. On the other sideline is a man 22 years Popovich’s junior named Erik Spoelstra who has been a head coach for 12 less seasons than Pop but is already chasing his third NBA Championship and having won four eastern conference championships.
Teams’ NBA Finals History:
For the Miami Heat, this will be their fifth trip to the NBA Finals and they will be seeking their fourth championship trophy. In the “Big 3” era however, this is already their fourth trip to the Finals and they’re seeking to be the first team to 3-peat since the Los Angeles Lakers who accomplished the feat from 2000-2002.
The San Antonio Spurs are making their sixth trip to the NBA Finals and are seeking their fifth Championship trophy with all appearances and championships coming during the Gregg Popovich-Tim Duncan era, the first in 1998-99.
The Spurs play their home contests at the AT&T Center on the east side of San Antonio. The AT&T Center opened in October of 2002 and was originally known as the “SBC Center.” AT&T Center seats 18,581 and the Spurs averaged 18,415 during the regular season. The Spurs announced capacity crowds in each of their home games in the western conference finals.
American Airlines Arena, which opened in December of 1999, plays host to the Miami Heat. The 19,600 seat venue is located in downtown Miami along the Biscayne Bay. The Heat averaged 19,781 during the regular season and averaged 19,974 in their three home games during the eastern conference finals.
What (Else) You Need To Know:
- Though he finished second in the MVP voting to Kevin Durant, LeBron has “brought it” in the playoffs so far, posting a league-best 31.22 PER in the postseason, more than six points higher than the next highest player (minimum two series). James has posted a line of 27.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.0 apg in the postseason and his .562 FG% and .809 FT% are both playoff career highs for LeBron. So what I’m saying is Durant may have won the MVP, but LeBron is still the greatest player in the world.
- LeBron has also posted a True Shooting Percentage of .664 in the playoffs, good for third among players who played in two series, but the two players he trails are teammates — Shane Battier (.706) and Chris Andersen (.689). You always know what you’re going to get with Battier — an experienced veteran who is intelligent and will leave everything out on the floor. But this bullet point is dedicated to Chris BIRDMAN BIRDMAN Andersen, one of the key role players for the Heat. Andersen is averaging 6.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg in 17.5 minutes while making 2/3 of his shots from the field. But there’s also the intangible — the craziness. In yet another one of his fantastic appearances on The Dan Patrick Show on monday, Reggie Miller discussed how every great team has that one guy who is crazy. That said, Miami has what Indiana did not; the one or two guys you also need to be able to control or rein in that craziness. In South Beach it’s LeBron and Spoelstra, and Andersen certainly needs the control considering the issues that have arisen previously in his life. But his contributions on the court for the Heat have been solid in the playoffs.
- I got one more guy I gotta be sure to mention for the Heat, and his name is Rashard Lewis. Rashard averaged eight minutes per game against the Bobcats and 14.6 per game against the Nets, but Spoelstra had apparently been saving him for the Pacers. In fact, Lewis didn’t even appear until the Heat returned home to Miami for Game 3 when he played 17 minutes and recorded only an 0-2 from the field and one block in the box score. However, Lewis would provide a preview of the value he brings in Game 3 as the Heat outscored the Pacers 21 when he was on the floor. Lewis also played great defense on David West, forcing three turnovers and limiting West to 1-of-3 from the field. Game 4 was not very significant for Lew Lew but Game 5 – though it was a loss – he was HUGE. Rashard had 18 points while shooting 6-9 from three-point range and grabbing four rebounds. His touch from beyond the arc made him a threat and allowed the Heat to spread the floor, which is what they did in Game 6 as Rashard had 13 points on 5-11 shooting and 3-7 from deep, as well as two boards, a block and a steal. As much as I love Rashard, this is what makes the Heat so great. People evaluate the Heat roster – especially lately in comparisons to Jordan’s Bulls rosters – and say, “Well you got LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh is a good player…and Ray Allen is a hall of famer but he’s 38.” That is why this Miami Heat team is so amazing. Heading in to Game 3 or 4 – or in general, really – you would not have gone to the arena saying, “Rashard Lewis is going to come up big tonight.” There are six or seven different players on the Heat roster whose names aren’t James, Wade or Bosh, that could do great things on any given night.
- I’ll use that deep bench/deep team point to segue to the Spurs, who enter having also avoided a Game 7 by winning in Oklahoma City. The Spurs’ non-Big 3, if you will, has a different feel about them. It’s not so much, “Any guy can kill you,” as it is every guy on the team who isn’t Duncan/Ginobili/Parker has something they can contribute. The Spurs are like a potluck dinner; Tim Duncan is the entree, Tony Parker is the dessert, and Manu Ginobili is the drinks. All the other guys are different dishes that people have brought, and they can all be quite delicious.
- San Antonio plays at the quickest pace of any team that reached the conference finals, averaging 96.2 possessions per 48 minutes. This ought to serve us with a clash of styles as the Heat have averaged the fewest possessions per 48 minutes in the postseason at 87.3, though both teams are among the Top 2 in offensive rating (Miami – 113.7, San Antonio – 111.2), which measures how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. San Antonio is also ranked second in defensive rating in the playoffs, allowing an average of 101.0 points per 100 opponent possessions.
- The Spurs have also done a great job of holding on to the ball in clutch situations — last 5 minutes of games, either leading or trailing by no more than 5 – ranking 2nd in the NBA playoffs in those situations with 0.8 turnovers.
- I discussed the Spurs a bit more in previewing the Western Conference Finals, so here’s the bottom line: they know they’re getting older and they don’t care. Tony Parker’s health will certainly be a key factor and if the Spurs are trailing big at any point in the second half, Doc has shown he’s not averse to benching his best players and getting ready for the next one.
- Revenge is a great motivating factor, or so I’m told. It was certainly what was driving the Pacers and look how far it got them. But these aren’t the Pacers — this is an efficient team that knows what they want to do and will do it. This is a team with an offense, unlike the Spurs. The Spurs – or at least their core – have also experienced winning a title before. So if the chance to get revenge isn’t enough of a factor, the experience factor is also in play here.
PREDICTION: The mantra repeated time and again by the pundits, experts, and other members of the media is that this is a better Spurs team and a worse Heat team. I don’t know how much I buy that and in fact I would say there are few things I’m sure of going into this series. I do know this should make for a very interesting matchup between two very good teams. Neither team is letting this series go less than six games…I’m gonna come back to some sentiments spoken by LeBron, Bosh and others in these playoffs in saying that yes, they had played well so far, but they had another gear left in ’em. I’m an optimist, so I’ll say this NBA Finals will be the stuff of legend. Heat in 7