Going into any matchup, one generally has an idea as to what to watch for. We know what we’re going to get from LeBron James and Tony Parker. They’re the undisputed stars of their teams, the players whose fingertips will be all over the outcome of the series between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs fans are wondering whether or not the wheels have finally fallen off one of the stalwarts of their Big Three dynasty, Manu Ginobili.
Here are the X-factors for each team, the two players most likely to tilt the balance of power for their respective teams.
Miami Heat: Chris Bosh
Fortunately for him, James bailed him out.
If Miami hopes to win this series, the Bosh who was signed to complement James and Wade will have to reemerge. The Spurs are too good of a team to allow one man to beat them. James will need help, help that Bosh must provide.
On defense he must handle the ominous task of checking Duncan, a task that many have withered under. Bosh cannot wither. For Miami to win, he must prevail in his individual matchup with Duncan.
A timid Bosh won’t cut it, not against a team with the championship pedigree of the Spurs. The fiery (annoying?) passion that he shows after seemingly every made shot must emerge more often.
San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili
Unlike Bosh, who at 29 years old is in the middle of his prime, Ginobili has an excuse for his diminished play: He’s old. Years of his hardcore style of play, crashing to the ground with reckless abandonment, have taken a toll on the 35-year-old Argentinian.
He’s not done yet, though. At least that’s what the Spurs are hoping.
Ginobili must have one last run of brilliance left in him if the Spurs are to earn their fifth championship. The high-arching shot must fall. The European two-step must find its way to the basket. The flops must be sold with Shatner-like precision.
Ginobili can’t play old if the Spurs want to win. He must play like the Ginobili of old. Parker, Duncan and Ginobili have engaged in numerous battles together in the past, battles in which Ginobili played a critical role.
In this series he will most likely see himself matched up against Wade and James for the majority of his minutes. The old Ginobili would have relished those matchups, rising to the occasion and holding his own in the battle.
If he can muster up one last hurrah, pestering them on defense and attacking them on offense, the Spurs' Big Three will be restored one last time.
We’ll see if there’s anything left in the tank. If we hear Charles Barkley yell GINOBILIIIIIIII! once more, we might have an answer.