By Robert Woolf

This year, we are set for an epic NBA Championship series. There has been a total of  days, and finally the NBA is ready to crown a champion. After sweeping the Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs are back into the Finals for the fifth time under great coach Gregg Popovich. The Miami Heat are back in the Finals for their third straight year. Two years ago, they lost to the Mavericks. Last season, they finished unfinished business, knocking off the Thunder, finally giving “The King” his well deserved ring. Can they repeat as champions? Or will Popovich’s crew pull out their series for his fifth ring? One thing is certain, both teams will fight immensely hard, trying to pull out the victory.

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The Spurs finished the regular season with a 58-24 record, winning over 50 games for their NBA record 14th straight season. They were the 2 seed in the Western Conference behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder, clinching a spot in the playoffs for their 16th consecutive season. It’s no coincidence that Gregg Popovich has been their coach for the last 16 seasons. In the playoffs they faced a somewhat tough first round opponent in the Los Angeles Lakers. But with Kobe Bryant out, the Spurs swept the depleted Lakers. Their next test was the upset minded Golden State Warriors led by Stephen Curry. But again, the Spurs were just too much, as the Big 3 of Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili prevailed again. The Western Conference Finals were supposed to be the toughest test for them. The Memphis Grizzlies were coming off a comeback series win against the Clippers and losing only one game the Oklahoma City Thunder, the number one team in the Western Conference. As somewhat expected, the Spurs took the first two games at home. They had a 2-0 series lead as the series shifted to Memphis, where the Grizzlies had not lost a single game in the postseason. In Game 3, the Grizzlies started off hot, outscoring the Spurs 29-13 at the end of the first. They cooled off a bit in the second, as they got outscored 27-15. Nevertheless, they were leading at half and didn’t lose the lead the entire quarter. But in the NBA you can’t just lead for 3 quarters and expect to win. What you do in the fourth quarter usually decides how the game will go. The Spurs started hot, with Danny Green nailing a three right out of the gate to take their first lead of the game. The game stayed close the entire way. With just 54 ticks left on the clock down by 1, Manu Ginobili went to the line and drained both to give the Spurs a one point lead. However back on the other end, Ginobili fouled Tony Allen with 33 seconds left. Allen missed the first free-throw and made the second tying the game up. After a few missed shots, the game went into overtime, where the Spurs dominated finally winning 104-93. Just like that, the series was over. San Antonio went on to win 93-86 in Game 4 and tallying their 2nd sweep of this postseason. This was first sweep in a conference final since the New Jersey Nets did it to Detroit in 2003. As it so happens, the last two teams to sweep in the Western Conference Finals (1999 Spurs, 2001 Lakers) went on to win the NBA championship.

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The Miami Heat started the season as reigning NBA champions. This season was not disappointing to any of their fans as the totaled the NBA’s best record at 66-16. This great record helped them easily take the one seed in the Eastern Conference by a whopping 12 games over the New York Knicks. Their leading scorer was LeBron James. The All-Star, MVP forward put 26.8 points a game, good for fourth in the NBA. James was also led the Heat in rebounds (8.0) and assists (7.3) per game. In the first round, they got an easy opponent in the Milwaukee Bucks. They swept them in four games, including a big Game 3 by three-point specialist Ray Allen. The next round the Heat faced the Chicago Bulls, who had ended their historic 27-game win streak back in March. After resting from April 28th to May 6th, the Heat came out rusty in Game 1, losing by 7. The big story surrounding this series was will Derrick Rose come back from injury to face the Heat? In the end he didn’t and chances are even if he did, the Heat still would have found a way to win. Miami ended up winning the next four, taking the series in 5 games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat faced and immensely tough challenge against the Indiana Pacers. The Heat won Game 1, then the Pacers won Game 2, then the Heat in Game 3, and the Pacers in Game 4. Then came Game 5. In a 2-2 series, Game 5 is usually the deciding factor. In Game 5, the series moved back to Miami. Indiana started up quickly, taking a 23-19 lead after the first quarter. Both teams put up 21 in the second quarter, giving Indiana the upper hand going into the second half. With the score at 44-40, King James went insane. LeBron scored 16 of his 30 points in a quarter for the history books, fueling what turned out to be a 20-point turnaround. The Heat ended up beating the Pacers 90-79, to take a 3-2 series lead. That game was, as most Game 5’s are, the deciding factor of this series. Even though the Pacers took Game 6 and forced a Game 7, there was no way the Heat were going to lose back-to-back games for the first time since January 8th and 10th. They dominated Game 7, winning 99-76, earning their Eastern Conference Champions three-peat and a trip back to the NBA Finals.

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This series might come down to which Big 3 performs better. Will it be the Spurs trio of Duncan, Parker, or Ginobili or the Heat’s trio of James, Bosh, and Wade. If you go position by position, no team really has the upper hand. There are a few factors, that will decide this series. The first one is the size of San Antonio. Besides Game 7, the Pacers completely beat the Heat on the boards. Miami got outrebounded the Pacers by a margin by 54. With Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have a chance to repeat Indiana’s performance and dominate the glass. The big question surrounding the Heat is, will the production of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh increase? No one can deny that Wade is hurting because of his knee. If you just check the stats, you’ll see that he went 12 straight games without scoring 20 points or more, which was the longest streak of his career by three games. In fact, without Wade on the floor this postseason, the Heat have been 5.2 points better. Bosh on the other hand, has no real injury that he can say his performance is being effected by. In Game 7, where almost everyone on the Heat was great, Bosh went just 3 for 13, for 9 points and 8 rebounds in the 30 minutes of which he was in the game. Even with the decreased play of two of the Big 3, there is still one more person the Spurs have to worry about. That person is 4-time MVP LeBron James. He has been averaging over 26 points this post-season. Even though that does not seem like that many points, James has been phenomenal this year and I see his performance carrying his team in this year’s Finals.


Prediction- Heat win the series in 7, LeBron James wins Finals MVP, Heat win back-to-back champions and take their next step on the way to a dynasty

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