The upset hope for the Indiana Pacers ended last night as the Miami Heat powered their way to a dominating game 7 victory in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now in their 3rd straight NBA Finals, is their any doubt that LeBron James and his cronies will take home another title? There is a hope, although slim, and it comes in the form of Manu Ginobili.
The Argentinean shooting guard is the type of player that can awaken and shoot a team to victory, and against the dominating big bodies of the Heat, Ginobili will need to catch fire in this NBA Finals for the San Antonio Spurs to stand a chance.
The one aspect of this series that favors the Spurs is their experience winning championships earlier this decade, with 3 titles in 2003, 2005, and 2007. During those years, I recall Ginobili leading the team in clutch shots and terrorizing his opponents in the playoffs, which was often the Phoenix Suns.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Ginobili were a force back then, and while they certainly have aged, they are clearly experiencing a bit of resurgence late in their careers with this NBA Finals run. Although Ginobili is currently behind Danny Green on the starting roster, he still gets minutes and will need to come in and make the big shots in this series.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are still leading the Spurs well. This form will have to continue if the team is to compete in the series. Parker is scoring at the highest rate of his career and while Duncan’s numbers are down from his high point 5 years ago, he is still the leader in the paint for the Spurs.
By sweeping their Western Conference foes, the Spurs have now been able to rest ahead of this NBA Finals while the Heat has been forced into a long series with the Pacers. There is no doubt in my mind though that the Heat is the best team in the NBA. James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh (although he hasn’t been much of a playmaker these playoffs) are a monstrous force to be reckoned with. Additionally, they are young enough to handle the enduring schedule.
What inspires me to pick the Heat in this NBA Finals is their incredible game 7 domination. This was a tricky situation to deal with and Wade and James put the game beyond any doubt early in the second half. These players are big-game guys who thrive in close encounters. This is why I feel that Ginobili will need to emerge in the NBA Finals. When the Heat get going, he seems to me to be the one player capable of sinking a calm 3-pointer to slow those momentum shifts.
Another problem for the Spurs is that they haven’t really faced a powerful team in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers were a joke with Kobe Bryant, and were hopeless without him. Neither the Memphis Grizzlies or Golden State Warriors were really that talented, and now the Spurs will have to face the league’s best players. Therefore, I predict that the Miami Heat will claim their second straight title in 6 games, and LeBron will continue his reign as king of the NBA.
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