If game six of the 2013 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat is any indication, Thursday night’s game seven may be the most epic NBA Finals game we’ve ever seen. And even if it’s not the all-time most epic, it should at least send the internet world into a frenzy.
That’s the hope, at least, in such an unpredictable NBA Finals, that has seen the Spurs and Heat switch off each games with wins and losses. Actually, now that we think about it, the series has been somewhat predictable, even in it’s own unpredictable-ness. But that doesn’t mean the Spurs will automatically be the next team to win a game in this series. In fact, it’s been 35 years since a road team won a game seven in the NBA Finals, making an NBA Finals pick even harder to predict.
Or would them losing the final game of the series be even more predictable than them winning?
We can’t know for sure. All we do know is that just like game six, it’s an elimination game. Except this time it’s for both teams, and the winner takes home the NBA title. So, will it be the hometown Heat, or the aging, grizzled vets of the Spurs? Let’s take a closer look as we breakdown the matchup to see who might come out on top in Thursday night’s finale:
Why the Spurs Will Win
The Spurs started this thing off with a 1-0 lead in Miami, so why not end it that way, too? You can slam Manu Ginobili for a soft series or Tiago Splitter for his weak vertical, but in the end the Spurs are the more experienced, gritter group. That could actually be what kills them, too, as their chemistry and experience is what makes them so strong, but the age of this group that has been together for so many years is clearly starting to show.
This one isn’t really about strategy so much anymore, though. The Spurs did exactly what they needed to do in game six, but missed free throws and odd strategical decisions ended up costing them the game. This time around, if they want to seal the deal, they need to knockdown free throws and make sure their best players are on the court when it counts.
Tony Parker will have to pick his spots better. He can’t afford another 6-for-22 night. He may need to hit a couple clutch shots, but he will have to defend more and set other players up. Danny Green needs to return to form and hit more than just one three-pointer. Tim Duncan needs to be the Tim Duncan we saw in game six. And Manu Ginobili – he needs to be Manu Ginobili just one last time.
If all of that comes together, the Spurs just might pull off the upset. After all, they already admitted the obvious: there is no game eight. They have to bring their best game, or they’re toast.
Why the Heat Will Win
They’re at home, have the best player in the world in LeBron James and they’re easily the more athletic and explosive team. This series has largely been on runs – who can enforce their will on the opponent in stretches, and for how long. Both teams can play some nasty defense, but Miami’s has been stingier when it’s at it’s best.
As we saw in game six, Miami can coast for three quarters and get away with it. They really only needed one elite quarter of defense, and had they put in the extra effort for two, they probably would have never had the game be in question. That has to be the aim this time around. There is no way Tony Parker plays that bad offensively again, while the Heat also can’t bank on just one trey from a specialist like Danny Green, nor can they assume Ginobili will be as awful as an eight-turnover night again, either.
Beyond the defense, I think the Heat know what they have in their big three, but in all reality, it’s going to come down to LeBron James. Dwyane Wade isn’t himself, and might not be able to be counted on for heavy minutes again. If that means more Mike Miller, then he’ll have to bring his A game, as well.
But what it really comes down to for the Heat is execution and pushing the tempo. If they really put all of their energy into this one, the Spurs shouldn’t be able to keep up with them.
Verdict: Heat 102, Spurs 96
The Spurs are a very good, well-rounded team. They’re extremely effective on both ends of the floor and easily one of the best teams in the league when on top of their game. But on their best day they’re probably not better than the Heat. Miami has been lethargic and complacent at times in this series, and San Antonio’s defense has played a big part in that. However, if the Heat can just remain focused, their superior athleticism should show the world who the best team in the NBA really is. Although I get the feeling we knew that all along.