Miami Heat on Collision Course with San Antonio Spurs to Meet in 2013 NBA Finals
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That is, to say, the script is pending if the stars finally align.
Last season, it appeared fans would finally get to see this marquee matchup after each squad went up 2-0 in their respective conference final series. That prospect was thwarted as the Oklahoma City Thunder reeled off four straight victories to stun the Spurs, breaking San Antonio's 20-game winning streak, before ultimately falling to Miami in the NBA Finals in five thrilling games.
2011 saw the top-seeded Spurs ousted in the first round by the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Miami succeeded in reaching the NBA Finals, but succumbed to the Dallas Mavericks' superior ball movement and coaching adjustments, losing in six games.
Back in 2006, the 63-win Spurs were likely a Manu Ginobili foul away from representing the Western Conference in the final round. Up by three points late in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, Ginobili fouled Dirk Nowitzki as he drove in and converted a lefty lay-up. His foul shot tied the game and Dallas prevailed in overtime.
In 2005, it was the Heat who were unable to carry the burden of their conference's top seed as they lost to the defending champion Detroit Pistons in seven games after taking a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Each team finished the 2004-05 season with an identical 59-23 record, and after the Spurs toppled Phoenix and MVP Steve Nash, it was the Heat's turn to punch their ticket to the championship round.
It was not to be.
But basketball fans cannot be denied this matchup any longer.
Consider that San Antonio's last title in 2007 came at the expense of a Cleveland Cavaliers team led by a 22-year-old LeBron James. The Spurs swept the young Cavaliers and Tony Parker was named NBA Finals MVP.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan are undefeated in four trips to the NBA Finals (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). The problem in recent seasons has been getting there.
In fact, the Spurs have failed to reach consecutive NBA Finals during their prolonged stretch of success (14 straight seasons of at least 50 wins), prompting some to question their merits as a dynasty.
So, what would this matchup look like?
Recent history hasn't given us much to go on.
The Nov. 29 matchup lost its luster when Popovich sent his top four scorers home before the game, choosing to rest them and prepare for conference rival Memphis rather than have his key cogs play a fourth game in five nights.
Heat won NBA-record 17 games in March. I've covered two Heat seasons when they didn't win that many in a season. Staggering stuff.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 1, 2013
Miami needed a 12-2 game-ending run to overcome a Spurs team led that night by Patty Mills, Matt Bonner and Nando De Colo.
The second matchup on Easter Sunday had Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra respond in kind, resting LeBron James (hamstring) and Dwyane Wade (ankle) with ailments previously unreported. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers also missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
The Heat won anyway—again in dramatic fashion—to sweep the season series and put a stranglehold on the No. 1 overall seed heading into the playoffs.
This, of course, would give Miami home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Not a bad crutch for a team currently sporting a 32-3 record at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Last year's shortened season had the teams play each other just once.
In that Jan. 17, 2012 contest, the Heat used a 39-12 third quarter to blow out the Spurs, 120-98. Dwyane Wade and Spurs guard Manu Ginobili also missed this game due to injury. San Antonio outrebounded Miami 36-33, while the Heat connected on 16 threes to the Spurs' 10.
Each matchup in 2010-11 saw the home team win by 30 points. It's difficult to gauge much based on the last five meetings.
Essentially, neither coach has revealed his hand or his primary strategy in going against a likely fellow NBA finalist.
But what a star-studded NBA finals it would be with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh going against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Throw in Gregg Popovich and Heat president Pat Riley and you have the recipe for a dandy.
Let's just hope the stars align—and are in uniform—when this dream matchup finally materializes.
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