Are Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs Destined to Meet Again in 2014 NBA Finals?

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Are Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs Destined to Meet Again in 2014 NBA Finals?
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Hopefully, the basketball world isn't bound by the same rules that govern the silver screen.

When the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs square off for an NBA Finals rematch in a few weeks—notice that's when and not if—we can only hope the sequel is half as good as the original.

If we've learned nothing else these past few weeks, we've learned this: the NBA power structure hasn't shifted over these last 11 months. If anything, these two teams have moved even further from the rest of the pack.

 

East Can't Match Miami's Championship Muscle

The Heat have logged 288 minutes of playoff action, and they're yet to break their first sweat.

There have been a few flashes of greatness every now and again (a 15-5 run over the final 6:55 to close out Thursday's 94-82 win, for instance), but these have been no different than the switch flicks Miami made in spurts during the regular season.

The Heat have looked closer to hitting their high gear than before, but maybe that's because they spent so much of their 82-game trek in cruise control:

"For sure," Chris Bosh said when asked if his team had been awakened, via Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. "I hope everybody can tell that."

Try suspending disbelief and pretending what he said is true. It isn't easy, is it?

This group's still moving at nearly the same controlled marathon speed we saw all season. The defense has tightened a bit (although the Charlotte Bobcats and Brooklyn Nets aren't exactly the most potent offenses), and the intensity of those brief bursts has risen, but we've yet to see Miami's championship stride.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

"The Heat clearly have played to the level of the competition, just as they did in the opening round," Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote. "...The Heat have done in these playoffs what they've needed to do."

There's a certain absurdity in what we're seeing. The Heat are going through the motions—and steamrolling what's thrown in front of them. Miami is 6-0 in the postseason, having only once allowed an opponent to close a contest with less than a double-digit difference on the scoreboard.

The Bobcats fought as hard as they could in the opening round, but an insurmountable talent gap grew even wider when Al Jefferson tore his plantar fascia early in the series. The Nets haven't backed down from a challenge in this series, but the Heat have outperformed them at both ends of the floor.

Momentum could shift as the series moves to Brooklyn for Game 3 Saturday, but nothing we've seen so far would indicate that kind of turnaround is coming. History is strongly on the Heat's side, and the Nets seem several roadblocks away from bucking that trend.

"Do the Nets have players who can score enough against the Heat? Do they have someone who can limit James' impact even just a little?" wrote USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. "Brooklyn is a proud team, not ready to concede just yet, but the answer is unfolding quarter by quarter."

LeBron James has provided a couple bail-out games to Miami (31.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists over the final three games of the opening round), but nothing too extreme by his standards. For the most part, this has been a balanced, sustainable attack that should be good enough to dispatch whatever the Eastern Conference throws its way next round: a fragile Indiana Pacers team or a Washington Wizards group that may be one year (or more) away from handling the bright lights.

A slip-up might be welcomed for the Heat at this point, just to give this group a wake-up call, but even that might not happen before the championship stage is reached.

 

West Can't Solve San Antonio's System

The Spurs aren't waiting for their alarm to sound.

They snoozed it so many times in their first-round series with the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, yet another dream-like 50-win season (15 straight and counting) nearly became a nightmare for Gregg Popovich's team.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle (predictably) crafted a master strategy for the series, but something—energy, execution, focus, whatever intangible isn't easily seen through a TV screen—was missing.

Then the curtains rose for a winner-take-all Game 7. When San Antonio doubled a 13-point edge after the first quarter into a 26-point lead at intermission, one thing became strikingly clear: the machine was back in action.

"We know we didn't play well against Dallas except that seventh game," Manu Ginobili said, via ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon. "I don't know if that triggered something or not, but for sure we started well this series. The aggressiveness, the concentration for 48 minutes, was off the charts."

The numbers say something was definitely triggered. Almost to an unfair degree, to be honest:

After dicing up Dallas in the series finale, the Spurs have shredded a potent Portland Trail Blazers team to the tune of back-to-back wins by an average of 20.5 points.

The stars that carried Portland past a top-heavy Houston Rockets team in the opening round have crash-landed back to Earth. LaMarcus Aldridge has as many shots as points through two games (48 each). Damian Lillard is shooting 40 percent from the field for the series and has nearly as many turnovers (seven) as assists (eight).

USA TODAY Sports

Like Miami, San Antonio hasn't needed a major dose of hero ball from its top guns.

The Spurs have exploited perhaps their biggest edge heading into this series: second-team scoring. San Antonio had the highest-scoring bench in the league this season (44.5 points), Portland had the NBA's worst (23.9), via HoopsStats.com.

Somehow, the canyon between these reserve units has widened over the first two games:

"They have so many threats," Aldridge said, via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. "Every guy's an option. Every cut is live, and they never stop playing."

Yeah, that sounds like the Spurs.

Kawhi Leonard led San Antonio in scoring (20) during Thursday's 114-97 win. Tony Parker carried the torch in the series opener (33 points, nine assists), but the Spurs got another 39 points out of Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.

The Blazers have potent scorers in their ranks, but the Spurs have methodically curtailed their production. Throw in San Antonio's monstrous depth advantage, and it might be time to grab those brooms from the Spurs' snake handlers and get ready to start sweeping.

"After watching the Spurs systematically dismantle the Blazers two times in a row at home, you almost have to wonder if this series will even return to San Antonio for a Game 5," Fox Sports' Sam Gardner wrote.

The Spurs will have a tougher test to pass in the Western Conference Finals where either the 59-win Oklahoma City Thunder or 57-win Los Angeles Clippers will await. With the way San Antonio is rolling now, though, it's hard to think Pop's group wouldn't be the favorite in either matchup.

OKC relies heavily on a few dominant scorers and takes what it can get from an inconsistent support staff. (Sound familiar, Blazers fans?) L.A. has tons of weapons, but it's prone to the type of defensive lapses the Spurs can exploit over the course of a seven-game series.

If Father Time wasn't banned from the Alamo City, one might worry that this aging core couldn't clear the hurdles still in front of it. The basketball world knows better—or should at this point, at least—setting the stage for a colossal clash between the two true NBA elites.

 

Better Than the Last Time?

It's hard to even hope for a more scintillating series than these two teams provided last season.

Are Miami and San Antonio destined for a Finals rematch?

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There were photo finishes (three games decided by seven points or less), knockout victories (three decided by 16 or more) and enough memorable moments to fill an entire wall inside a hoop head's man cave. From "The Shot" to "The Block," it was truly one for the ages.

As is often the case with any follow-up to a classic, the screenwriters will have a hard time scripting something better the second time around. As long as it bears some semblance to the original, basketball junkies should get their fix.

Will Tim Duncan pick up that fifth ring for his collection? Might the King's crew add a three-peat to its legacy?

Those questions and so many more will be answered in time.

"Heat vs. Spurs: Volume II" is coming to an NBA arena (hopefully) near you.

 

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