Tuesday, June 4, 2013

2013 NBA Finals Predictions

After a surprisingly quick series in the West and a surprisingly long series in the East, the NBA finals are finally upon us. Despite the fact that many NBA fans would've loved to see the Memphis Grizzlies or the Indiana Pacers in the finals, or possibly even both, the match-up we did get included neither team. Yet the match-up of the Heat vs the Spurs is a super interesting one that definitely includes the NBA's two top teams. Being honest, if it were a Spurs vs Pacers, that might be a fairly quick series. Also if it were the Heat vs the Grizzlies, that also might be a fairly quick series. A Pacers vs Grizzlies series would be super interesting, but it would be one of the least watched finals. Not that I am one that really cares about ratings and viewership when it comes to the NBA finals, but match-up we got certainly will optimize those TV ratings as it is the most interesting of the possible finals match-ups that we could've gotten.

Instead of jumping right into my predictions and thus ensuing in a fairly short blog post, I want to look at the journey of the two teams, starting with the Spurs, the first team to punch their ticket to the finals. Ever since they picked up Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA draft, the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich have been a dominating force in the west, winning the NBA finals four times, 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007. Tim Duncan and David Robinson in those early years were considered the two towers, but the success of the Spurs continued after the retirement of Robinson and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have continued to be the dominant corps of the Spurs team. For several years now people have written them off because they are getting old, but every year they continue to play well as if they just will never get young. This year they entered the playoffs as the number two seed as the defending Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, took the top seed. After struggling a bit going into the playoffs, the Spurs quickly became the favorite as Russell Westbrook went down for the Thunder, causing the Thunder to barely struggle past the eighth seeded Rockets. Despite the struggles going into the playoffs, the Spurs quickly shed off the rust as they swept the Los Angeles Lakers in round one. Next up was the surprise of the west, the Golden State Warriors, whose high powered offense was too much for the overachieving Nuggets team. Despite some serious struggles, including snapping their 29 game winning streak that they had against the Warriors in San Antonio, the Spurs snuck by Warriors in six. Last up in the west was the team that was supposed to give them the most problems, the Memphis Grizzlies, a team who had just come off knocking off the Thunder in five. Every game of the series against the Grizzlies was pretty close, but nevertheless the Grizzlies failed every single time to come out on top and thus the Spurs brought out the brooms again, leaving the Spurs with a 10-2 record in the playoffs so far this year heading into the finals.

The opponent that the Spurs having been waiting for will be the Miami Heat, the NBA defending champs. Everyone knows their story. Starting with the ridiculous live announcement by King James that had never been done before where LeBron announced to the world that he was taking his talents to South Beach and continuing with promise of not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven..., the Heat quickly became the NBA's most hated team. Criticisms were abound, but since then the Heat have managed to make it to the finals in all three years of the big three's existence in Miami, getting better every year. Year one they made it to the finals and lost. Year two saw LeBron finally winning his first NBA title and the scene of him jumping up and down like a 5 year old on Christmas morning will always be stuck in my head. Year three we obviously don't know the ending to, but in terms of the regular season, they had their best season yet as LeBron has been playing better than he ever has and the Heat enjoyed a 27 game winning streak, the second best in NBA history, during the second half of the season. They quickly disposed off the playoff-unworthy Milwaukee Bucks (their 38-44 record would've made them 11th place in the West) in round one. Choked against the Bulls in game one of the second round, but won the next four against the depleted Bulls. Then this past series, the Pacers stretched them to their limits, taking them to seven games while exposing some weaknesses. But in the end, the Heat took control and made it to their third straight NBA finals, something not too many teams have pulled off.

So who do I think is going to win? Honestly it's a huge toss-up for me. Both teams are super good and when playing at the top of the game, they are both hard to beat. I don't think that we are going to see any blowouts in this series. In deciding such a close series, I look towards the schedule in the NBA finals. Due to travel concerns with an East team playing a West team, the NBA goes for the 2-3-2 system and that actually favors the underdog quite a bit, which is the dangerous San Antonio Spurs. So the first two games will be in Miami, the next three will be in San Antonio, then the final two games, if necessary, will be in Miami. That three game stretch in San Antonio is going to be killer for the Heat and if they are going to win this series, I honestly think they are going to have to win both games at home. If the Spurs win one of those two games, it'll be really tough for the Heat and if the Spurs win both of those games in Miami, the series is over. The last time LeBron faced the Spurs in the finals was back in 2007 when he was with Cleveland and in that series it was essentially LeBron versus everyone else. That worked in the Eastern Conference, but when he played this Spurs team in the finals, the Cavs got swept. There have been times in these playoffs, especially in the Pacers series, where that's how it was. LeBron took over and did most of the work. If the Heat are going to win, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh need to step it up big time. Despite how good LeBron has been playing, if it is LeBron versus the Spurs again, this series will be quick. If it's LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all at the top of their game playing against the Spurs, the Heat have a chance. How I see it playing out is the two teams split in Miami, the in the San Antonio stretch I think the Spurs win two games there and the Heat sneak one. This will make it 3-2 in favor of the Spurs headed into Miami and I think the Spurs will take one of those games as well, winning the series. It could be 6 or 7, but for the sake of this blog, I will say the Spurs take it in 6.

Prediction: Spurs 4-2

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