Why The Heat Will Win
I’m rooting for the Heat so this could very well be motivated reasoning. But I think of boxing history, where we find many examples of an aging champion having a tough fight with a young upstart and losing a contest that could have gone either way.
In this situation the two fighters almost always rematch within the year, and the fighter who won the first fight almost always wins the second fight easier than he won the first fight. The reason is fairly straightforward - the aging ex-champion is older, slower, and creakier, while the young champion is about the same.
He may even be better. Lebron is having his best, most efficient playoffs since he tried to take on the entire NBA by himself with the 2008-09 Cavs. The Spurs gave Lebron some trouble early in the series in 2013, but he may be ready for them this time. His shot selection and relentlessness have been the Scylla and Charybdis that have sunk some excellent Eastern Conference defenses, while Tim Duncan’s minutes and production have been dwindling for years.
What’s Wrong With This Reasoning
Basketball isn’t boxing. They let you bring other guys on the court with you to help you win, and the Spurs are better than last year with the addition of Marco Belinelli and the continued development of Kawhi Leonard. It must have pained other Western GM’s to see Belinelli go to the Spurs - he’s the perfect bench shooter for them and he makes the series just a little bit more fascinating.
The Spurs’ role players are mostly young guys, and the Heat’s supporting cast is practically an AARP meeting. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Shane Battier may all be too old to be expected to reasonably defend any position in the Spurs aggressive offensive scheme for more than a few minutes.
If that happens, the Heat don’t really have a plan B. James Jones can’t guard anyone either, so their other outside shooting option is Norris Cole, who creates super-small lineups when he’s on the floor with Chalmers, lineups the talented San Antonio frontcourt will be able to exploit.
Why the Heat will Win Anyway
Lebron James is very good at basketball. Kawhi Leonard had a decent time defending Lebron last year, but in the end James was too good shooting the jumpshot and lit him up in Game 7. There’s no real reason to think Leonard has James’ number. He has to prove it all over again, and it may be too much to ask a third-year player to be Lebron James’ primary defender in two straight Finals.
The even more important difference that’s easy to forget is that Dwyane Wade was a shell of himself last season. There’s a reason Spo created the “maintenance program” that saw Wade play just over half of the regular season. Wade wasn’t awful in last year’s playoffs, but he wasn’t Dwyane Wade - he was a solid two-guard, nothing more, nothing less.
This season he’s back and he’s killing teams with his ability to get EASY midrange jumpshots (and the death of the EASY midrange jumper is greatly exaggerated) and that little hook he uses as he dribbles across the lane out of the post. Not to mention the fact that Wade and James are still the most terrifying fast break force since Jordan and Pippen.
Chris Bosh, as always, will play a big role without necessarily needing to put up big numbers. The Spurs bench is clearly better, so the Heat stars will have to shine. But they will, and they’ll do it the same way they did it against Indiana - stealing one in San Antonio, winning both in Miami, losing game 5, and then closing it out in six. Game Six won’t be a blowout, though, and it’ll end on a controversial call. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!