It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a rematch in the NBA finals, as the San Antonio Spurs, holding home court advantage this time, are hoping to get over the tragic ending of last year’s series and finish the job against the Miami Heat, although this rivalry isn’t bubbling with bad blood and hatred.
Some teams just don’t have it in for each other like we see between others. Maybe when there’s so much good basketball to be spread around, the animosity and attempts at physical violence don’t matter that much. Tim Duncan and his teammates feel like they need to repay the Heat for last year, but this isn’t about getting even in a bad way. It’s about winning a championship, one they feel slipped away from them last season.
The Miami Heat, win or lose, have done something special. They’ve made it to four consecutive NBA finals, hoping to win it for a third straight time. This puts them along the lines of the Lakers from 1982 to 1985 and the Boston Celtics of 1984 to 1987. LeBron James and Chris Bosh join Bob McAdoo (Lakers) and Dennis Johnson (Celtics) as the only players to arrive on a new team and immediately make four straight finals.
A look at the numbers might try and help us see who is actually better. The Spurs have the best net efficiency in the postseason with a +10.1. The Miami Heat come next with a +8.3, by far the best two teams in the playoffs. However, In 5 of the previous 7 seasons, the team with the best playoff Net Efficiency entering the NBA Finals failed to win the title, including the Spurs from last season. The Miami Heat in 2012 were one of the only two teams to enter the finals with the best net efficiency and lift the trophy at the end of the Finals series.
As for injured players, the Heat seem to be healthy, including Chris Andersen and Ray Allen, while the Spurs are treating Tony Parker like he is completely healthy. With him or without him on the floor, the Spurs are doing well. Numbers are slightly skewed because of garbage time interference and obviously a smaller time frame to sample. However, the Spurs simply don’t start falling apart because Patty Mills and Cory Joseph are good players, while giving the ball handling duties to Manu Ginobili, maybe the Spurs’ best player in this postseason (14.3 points, 4.1 assists) is never a bad idea.
The Spurs never leave anything to luck, chance or random statistics which say that usually, when we have a finals rematch in consecutive seasons, the team that lost the NBA finals in the previous year gets to avenge that loss. Tell that to the Utah Jazz, the last team to lose consecutive NBA finals to the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998. Frank Vogel called LeBron James & the Miami Heat the Michael Jordan & Chicago Bulls of this era. Make of that what you will.
LeBron James is who he is, and there aren’t going to be any surprising coming from him. The rest of the players are what matter – will we see a much better Dwyane Wade than last year? Is Chris Bosh going to be the one from early in the Pacers series or later on, when he made the shots given to him? Is the Rashard Lewis trick going to work again? The Heat will once again try to force the Spurs into a lineup they don’t want to use, although the Spurs showed an even greater flexibility as the finished off the Thunder in the conference finals.
These are the best two teams in the league in these finals, going through very different paths. The West was tougher this year, there’s no denying it. However, it doesn’t make the Miami Heat any less deserving of playing in the finals or winning the NBA title. As always, legacies and myths are born in these kind of encounters, and players who shouldn’t have anything to prove are once again put in a situation where it’s all or nothing for them in a best of seven series.