FanPost

Spurs-Heat: A cast of contrasts

You knew it had to end this way.

Two unstoppable forces, polar opposites on the court, in the media, and to their fans, clashing in a legacy-defining championship series. Two dramatically different groups of stars. A longtime veteran heavyweight versus a recently reborn franchise. Grit versus glam. Prime athleticism versus practiced professionalism.

You knew it had to end this way.

The Miami Heat finally put together a complete game against the Indiana Pacers last night, icing a back-and-forth series and assuring a meeting with the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA finals. In many ways, this meeting was the inevitable final chapter to a season full of storylines.

The Heat are glitz personified, all flashy transition plays, highlight-reel dunks and soul-crushing isos. At their best, LeBron and Co. look electric and explosive, executing jaw-dropping moves with such regularity that they begin to lose shock value. An aggressive, poking defense that traps and suffocates opponents’ ball movement compliments the fluid, at times playground-like offense.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are masters of execution and game plan. Precision passing, penetration, carefully synchronized movement on and off the ball, and a newfound reliance on the three-pointer are the calling cards of this revamped San Antonio offense, while a methodical defense that cuts off passing lanes, forces opposing teams to take low-percentage shots, utilizes help D and protects the pain is safeguarding the other end of the floor.

Miami, synonymous with ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 and featuring the Decision-making LeBron James, is the media darling. Prematurely crowned the greatest thing since sliced bread, the Heat rattled off the second-most consecutive wins in NBA history, made small-ball lineups mainstream and fueled countless on-air hissy fits between talking heads (looking at y’all, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless).

Meanwhile, San Antonio is the small market team that has singlehandedly accounted for every one of Sweet Daddy Stern’s gray hairs and probably cost the NBA billions over the last 15 years. (Why don’t people love fundamentals as much as I do?) A perennial playoff fixture and title threat, the Spurs merely churned out their 14th straight 50-win season, made their 16th straight postseason appearance and completed their fourth playoff sweep in the past two seasons. Consistent, unassuming dominance.

As an NBA fan, I’ve always been fascinated by the finals, even if San Antonio isn’t playing. I can’t think of one in the last decade with more intrigue than Spurs-Heat (sorry, the “historical” aspect of the mercenary-laden Lakers-Celtics has never appealed to me). Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all blended together in a delicious contrast of identities and ideologies? It’s almost too perfect.

As a Spurs fan, I don’t think there’s ever been a more dangerous threat to San Antonio’s undefeated mark in the championship series. Miami’s intangible ability to seemingly up the ante at will, coupled with an equally mysterious ability to underperform, makes them a bipolar threat tougher to stifle than the Knicks, Nets, Pistons and Cavaliers of the past. San Antonio’s evolved from the defense-first teams that played in those finals, however. When all cylinders are firing, the Spurs can score at will against anyone in the league, unleashing a barrage of long bombs and jumpers that make basketball look effortless.

Enjoy every second, every timeout, every basket, every made (and missed) call of this finals. Tim Duncan spoke with James after the 2007 series, telling him that soon, very soon, the King would be able to call the NBA his oyster -- hinting at an imminent changing of the guard. With all due respect to the Big Fundamental, I think he was wrong. THIS is the series that defines the changing of eras, the rolling of credits and the beginning of new title sequences. As San Antonio rapidly comes to grips with the fact that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the earth (Duncan), fire (Manu) and ice (Parker) of the franchise aren’t immortal, this may well be the last time we see the Big Three on the biggest of stages. A soliloquy written in the stars. Treasure the moment, and the contrasts.

Old school and new school. Draft-crafted unity versus free-agent individuality. Precision and brute force. The Rebels and the Empire. Oil, meet water.

You knew it had to end this way.

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