Tim Duncan is all business. He knows that this Finals is a chance for his team to redeem themselves after last years meltdown. All season long, ever since training camp, the Spurs have hoped to get the chance to get the bitter taste out of their mouth. Immediately after the game 6 win against the Thunder Saturday night, which clinched their Finals appearance, Duncan was asked about the rematch with the Heat and his response was simple, "We're excited about it. We've got for four more to win. We'll do it this time."
But the Spurs are going to have to stop Miami from the 3-peat without Tony Parker at 100%. He missed the 2nd half of game 6 against OKC citing soreness in his left ankle. I don't doubt that he'll be able to play, and contribute during the series, but it is going to be awfully tough to knock off the defending champs without having him at his best. That means Cory Joseph and Patty Mills are going to have to step up to take on Chalmers and Norris Cole. Can they do it? Absolutely. But no matter how well they do, over a 7-game series Parker would do better than anyone they replace him with. Mills has been hitting the three very nicely during this postseason, but he and Cole just can't match Paker's floor generalship. He knows how to get everyone in the right place and his ability to get the defense out of position with his quickness will be missed. Hopefully these four days rest before the start of the Finals will go a long ways towards healing those injuries.
What the Spurs will have to rely on is the one thing they do better than anyone else in the league; play team basketball. When they get into a rhythm and space the floor correctly it is almost impossible to shut them down because every man plays his role perfectly. They've shown they can drive and finish, drive and dish to outside shooters and use the pick and roll effectively. They have to focus on running when the opportunity is there because Miami has a stifling half court defense. If the Heat are able to dictate the pace of the game the Spurs are going to be in some trouble. Playing outstanding team ball is going to be more important in this series than most for the Spurs because the individual matchups don't favor them. The Heat already have the best player in the league in James and with Wade, Allen, Bosh etc. it's going to take team defense to get the wins. Luckily for the Spurs, they became one of the best teams in the last decade because of that very thing; putting the team first.
A big plus that the Spurs have in this series is home court advantage. Every team plays better at home, but it may be even more significant for the Spurs. With Parker not at 100% they're going to need Danny Green to step up. However, Green seems to be the disappearing man on the road. He has the ability to light it up from the 3-point line, but he only seems to do it consistently and effectively when at home. I think Adam Silver did San Antonio a favor also. This year the Finals will be switched back to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. That is how all the other 7-games series are played but for many years the Finals have been a 2-3-2 format. I think going to a 2-2-1-1-1 format favors the home team, which should have the advantage, they earned it by having the best record after all.
When it comes down to it, I think Sugar K Leonard will need to elevate his game for the Spurs to win. He will have the unenviable task of guarding Lebron James. He's the best defensive stopper the Spurs have, they matched him up against Durant in the last series. No one expects him to shut Lebron down, we know that isn't going to happen, but hopefully he can make life difficult for him. I highly doubt he'll try the Lance Stephenson ear blowing technique, but he should see some success nevertheless.
The loss last year was a tough one for any team to swallow, but probably even more so for the Spurs. They were within 10 seconds of walking away with all the hardware before they let it slip through their fingers. They're a proud bunch that prides themselves on staying strong and not making mistakes. That miraculous Allen 3-pointer last year won the Heat the title, but it also gave SA all the motivation they'll need. Look for their hunger and relentless play to lead them to another title.