Welcome to this special edition of the Daily NBA Fix, another 5-On-5 HoopsHabit Roundtable! In the last round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, our writers gave their predictions for the conference finals. With the 2014 NBA Finals rematch set to tip off tomorrow night between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, we’re back to do it again. Before we get started, let’s take a look at how everyone fared with their predictions to this point. As you can tell, we’re all still pretty close to even:
Michael Dunlap, Hoops Habit Editor-in-Chief: 11-3
Phil Watson, Hoops Habit Assistant Editor: 11-3
Shane Young, Hoops Habit Staff Writer: 10-4
Nathan Giese, Hoops Habit Staff Writer: 11-3
Will LeBron James and the Heat cement their place in history with a three-peat? Will Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich ride off into the sunset by exacting revenge for last year’s Finals defeat and winning their fifth NBA title? Will Tony Parker be at full strength? Is Dwyane Wade going to be a difference maker after looking much healthier this postseason? Is Kawhi Leonard going to step up on the big stage again? No one knows the answers to these questions yet. But here are our best attempts to predict the future.
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Miami Heat:
Regular season head-to-head record: 1-1 all
Dunlap: One would think the Spurs have all the motivation here, after losing to Miami in the 2013 NBA Finals. I actually think the Heat have more motivation, because they’re up against history, hate and hubris. Miami has the two best players in this series in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and they’ve also got the most veteran role players. The Spurs’ inside advantage won’t be enough and Tony Parker’s ankle injury is worrisome. Not to put any shade on what the Spurs have done over the years, but they aren’t stopping the Heat. It’s going to be two straight years of huge disappointment, no matter what Tim Duncan says. Prediction: Heat in 6
Watson: I’ve ridden this theory this far, so it remains — the Heat are the champs until they’re not the champs. Prediction: Heat in 6
Bourguet: If the 2013 NBA Finals were set in the Game of Thrones universe, it would’ve been the jaw-dropping duel between The Mountain and the Red Viper: LeBron James is the terrifying, physically imposing specimen that has spared no mercy in his last two seasons, while the Spurs are mostly foreigners that play fluidly and beautifully, as renowned for their reputation as winners as Prince Oberyn is for his graceful skills as a warrior. In 2013, the NBA Finals went much like the show’s duel went (SPOILER ALERT): The Spurs had the Mountain on the ropes, but they fumbled the killing stroke. Then this happened in the final moments of Game 6 and Game 7:
I don’t see 2014 being the same story. Oberyn’s brains may be splattered all over the pavement of the Red Keep, but the Spurs came back stronger this season and when you combine their championship pedigree with extra motivation for revenge, this team won’t hesitate to land the final blow this time. A lot of this depends on Tony Parker’s health and no one can deny the Heat have the best player on the floor. But consider three things: 1) The Heat don’t have Mike Miller anymore and Shane Battier is a shell of himself this time around, 2) The 2-2-1-1-1 format provides San Antonio with a big home court advantage and 3) You don’t want to play a pissed off and motivated Tim Duncan (no matter what age he is). The team that nearly dethroned a superior Heat team in six games last year is better this year. Prediction: Spurs in 7
Young: All of that basketball since Oct. 29 for the inevitable rematch? Get out of here! But in all seriousness, this series is for more than just a trophy. Legacies are at stake. Not in a bad way, however. LeBron, with a three-peat, would join some insane company. Duncan, with his fifth title, would join Kobe Bryant as a superstars in this era with five ch’ips. When it comes down to it, this series is also about more than pick-and-roll action, although that covers a lot. It’s about 3-point shooting, getting enough space for your guys to come through. Ray Allen, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green, Shane Battier, we’re looking at you! Tony Parker is feeling better about his ankle and Popovich is feeling amazing about grabbing those 62 wins in the regular season. Why? It gave him the first two games at home and a possible Game 7 in Texas. It won’t go the distance, though. Prediction: Spurs in 6
Giese: Two legacies are on the line for two different Big Threes. Will the Spurs’ trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker win their fifth ring? Will the Heat’s trio of LeBron, Wade and Bosh make it three in a row, doing exactly what they said they’d do when they got together? Depending on who wins or loses this battle, they both could face massive team overhauls this summer. If San Antonio wins, then maybe Duncan and Ginobilli think that they’ve accomplished all they can in the NBA and decide to call it a career. If they lose, then they probably stick together for one last shot.
If Miami wins, they join the ranks of few teams to win three straight championships and rest on their future with the offseason decisions of LeBron, Wade and Bosh. The Spurs appear to be heavy favorites in this series, but it’s really hard to say who really has the edge. San Antonio is playing beautiful basketball since Game 6 against the Mavericks but Miami has lost a total of three times in the playoffs. Both are locked in and know what’s at stake. My gut tells me San Antonio, but the rest of me thinks “Don’t count out the Heat for the first time in four years.” My gut may be big, but it’s been known to lie to me. A healthier than normal Wade could be what brings the Heat back to dominant form. If Miami wins the series, it’s going to come in six games because they won’t be winning a Game 7 on the road. Prediction: Heat in 6
What do you think? Are you going with the best player in the world or the best coach in the NBA? Let us know your predictions in the comments or holler at us on Twitter!