NBA Finals predictions: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs
The NBA Finals are here with the Miami Heat set to face the San Antonio Spurs. Who will win the 2013 title? SI.com writers Ian Thomsen, Lee Jenkins, Chris Mannix, Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney make their picks.
Heat in 7. I don't feel great about this pick. Tony Parker is going to cause all kinds of problems and the Spurs have the size to exploit the air space around the basket. At the same time, Chris Bosh is going to be more productive and Dwyane Wade should find more space. The tempo of the series will liberate the Heat, and in a Game 7 I'm going with LeBron James.
Heat in 7. A year ago, Boston pushed Miami to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals, but the Heat still rallied to win the championship. This time around, Indiana made Miami appear vulnerable, but the Heat's frontcourt disadvantage won't be as glaring against the Spurs as it was against the Pacers. This is still the team that won 27 games in a row not too long ago. Even if Dwyane Wade is still limited by his bothersome knee, Chris Bosh should be more effective in this matchup, and LeBron James will not leave another title on the table.
Spurs in 6. For all the hype Miami gets, remember this: This is the best Spurs team since 2007. The development of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green has helped restore San Antonio's defensive identity. Consider: Golden State, which shot 40.3 percent from three-point range during the regular season, was held to 36.8 percent in the second round, including 25 percent in the Game 6 clincher. Memphis, which averaged 42.6 points in the paint during the regular season, was held to 36 by the Spurs; Zach Randolph, who torched San Antonio in 2011, was held in check. Tony Parker is the kind of blurring, efficient point guard who has plagued Miami in the past, and, unlike Oklahoma City last year, the Spurs won't be intimidated by the moment.
Spurs in 6. The Heat's recent peaks and valleys make this an exceedingly difficult Finals to prognosticate. Their highs are unbeatably high, as the basketball world was reminded over and over again during their 27-game winning streak. Their recent lows, born of an occasional lack of focus and shaky supporting contributions, made them susceptible to a strong pounding from a solid Indiana team, and also a few fear-inducing moments from a hobbling Chicago outfit.
Rested, experienced, balanced, intelligent, disciplined and potent, San Antonio is a nightmare matchup for any opponent, particularly one struggling with team-wide inconsistency and, possibly, a series-altering health concern in the form of Dwyane Wade's ailing knee. This remains Miami's series to lose, if only because of LeBron James' continued brilliance, but San Antonio makes for a steady, special underdog that's well positioned to upset the reigning champions.
Heat in 7. I'm compelled to pick the Heat based on a potential return to normalcy. Lost in the micro-analysis of the Heat's up-and-down Eastern Conference finals was the fact that Miami had compromised its small-ball style and changed its lineup structure out of necessity against Indiana -- a concession that deprived the Heat of optimal spacing and sapped their scrambling defense of its effectiveness.
As fantastic as the Spurs are, their big men won't be able to force the Heat out of their comfort zone. Tim Duncan should have a great series, and Tiago Splitter will be essential in guarding the rim. But neither is enough of a low-block threat nor so prolific an offensive rebounder as to push Miami away from what it does best.
Even with that in mind, this should be a wonderfully competitive series. Tony Parker remains one of the postseason's unsolvable problems, and with his shooting and penetration the Spurs should pose a considerable challenge. But the fact that Miami has the best player on the floor and will likely play in its preferred style doesn't bode well for San Antonio. All of that tilts the series slightly in the Heat's favor.