Sure, Indiana Pacers could have rolled into the NBA Finals with their languid offense, and star that wants to fool everyone.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, with little to no coaching discipline on the defensive end and a bench that hasn’t quite grasped the concept of scoring, could have joined them.
However, the basketball community, and sports fanatics in general, would have been robbed.
The matchup we have for June is not only the proper one we’ve waited for in the last 12 months, but it’s the one that ultimately decides the true title holder of this league. Sports that offer seven game series are far more intriguing than the vile NCAA format of single-elimination, because the better team never fails to advance. Oklahoma City, even with the momentum they claimed in Games 3 & 4 of the Western Conference Finals, ran into a team that snapped back into reality.
Reality in today’s NBA says the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are two first-class organizations. Ran by R.C. Buford and Pat Riley, respectively, both franchises have familiarity at being on top. The Spurs are headed to their sixth Finals in 16 years, while Miami returns for the fifth time in nine years. In fact, each Finals since 1999 has included either Tim Duncan, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. Pick one, and you’re headed to the big stage.
In the grand scheme of things, the focus has become “The Rematch.”
Each individual in the San Antonio locker room, to this day, still remembers Game 6 last June. They think about it every day, and the thought of Mr. Allen burying their hopes and dreams has to bring sickness.
How different would it be if San Antonio grabbed the defensive rebound? How different would it be if Kawhi Leonard connected on one more free throw? Would we put Duncan’s name in the discussion for Top 5 of All-Time? I would. I still will if they finish their goals in two weeks.
With a win, either Duncan or James will break the tiebreaker the two have in the Finals together (2007 & 2013).
Oh … this series is much more than just Duncan vs. James. It’s two benches that are actually worth watching, and two coaches that come from different periods, teach different styles, and know the feeling of holding the gold ball. It’s a trio trying to finish what they came together to do — 3-peat — and a trio that just wants to go out on top. Retirement is upon Duncan (38) and Ginobili (36), and the Ray Lewis outing seems inevitable. It’s a shame history can’t be written for Miami in the midst of San Antonio closing what they started in June 1997, when David Stern introduced Duncan to the league.
With this series, comes a lot of complexions when it comes to basketball. Unlike Indiana & Miami, the two don’t hate each other. But it’ll sure feel that way when this one comes to a close.
What’s in store for this epic showdown that tips off Thursday?