It took seven games and countless cut-ups of LeBron James doing what he does best, but the Miami Heat finally edged out the Indiana Pacers to secure their spot in the NBA Finals.
What awaits them, however, is a well-rested San Antonio Spurs squad that has been here before.
The Spurs cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs with little resistance, dismantling the Memphis Grizzlies in four games in what ultimately proved to be a tune-up series for a veteran team in need of a little extra time to rest and repair.
Miami, on the other hand, will be fresh off a grueling seven-game set that raised more questions than it answered. Indiana played the Heat well all season, but no one expected the Pacers to actually come within one game of upending them—or perhaps one LeBron James layup if you’re counting what happened to close out Game 1.
Two very different paths—traveled by two very different teams—will converge on Thursday, but the goal of both remains the same. When the dust settles, only one team will be left standing with another NBA championship in its trophy case.
Let’s take a closer look at the series and offer up some predictions for what to expect when the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat square off.
|San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat||1||Thursday, June 6||9 p.m. ET||ABC|
|San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat||2||Sunday, June 9||8 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs||3||Tuesday, June 11||9 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs ||4||Thursday, June 13||9 p.m. ET||ABC|
|Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs ||5||Sunday, June 16||8 p.m. ET||ABC|
|San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat ||6||Tuesday, June 18||9 p.m. ET||ABC|
|San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat ||7||Thursday, June 20||9 p.m. ET||ABC|
According to R.J. Bell, Miami is heavily favored to upend the Spurs in the NBA Finals:
SpotBet.com also lists the Heat as 4.5-point favorites to win Game 1 and -255 favorites to win the series.
Unlike the first three series of the playoffs, the finals present a 2-3-2 format with Miami holding home-court advantage. The first two and last two games will be in Miami at AmericanAirlines Arena.
What that means for the Heat is a little extra rest before going back on the road. It may not seem like much, but Miami can use all the rest it can get after a tough seven-game set with the Pacers.
Game 1 Prediction: San Antonio 102, Miami 98
Yes, the game will be in Miami. And yes, Miami just won by ___ on their home court.
But San Antonio is rested, well-coached and extremely experienced, especially on the NBA's biggest stage. While some teams would come out rusty and unprepared after a 10-day layoff, don't expect Gregg Popovich's squad to be one of them.
Led by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the Spurs have incredible veteran leadership and plenty of poise. For Miami to leave Game 1 with a victory, it will have to get a near perfect performance from James and his cohorts.
The Heat looked like a complete team in Game 7, but that wasn't the case throughout the Eastern Conference Finals. They certainly won't be able to exploit the Spurs in the paint as they did against the Pacers Monday night.
It's no secret Miami doesn't have a frontcourt capable of hanging with the elite units in the league. With Duncan and Tiago Splitter firing on all cylinders, Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen will be facing a test they may not be ready for.
But as always, James will be the determining factor in Game 1. He's been untouchable for much of the postseason, and there's no reason to believe he can't put together another tremendous performance in the opening game of the finals.
In the end, the Spurs get the edge based on extra rest and prior postseason performance, but that long layoff will yield diminishing returns as the series wears on.
Series prediction: Spurs in six