Besides the first round, I've been Fraternizing with our "enemies" through the playoffs. Dave of Blazers Edge and I had our epic exchanges even if the Portland series didn't live up to expectations. J.A. Sherman's Thunder gave the Spurs a scare by evening up the series and we had a blast covering every ebb and flow of that classic matchup. But now it's time to turn to the Miami Heat, which means a conversation with Surya Fernandez of the excellent Hot Hot Hoops.
Prepare yourselves for a West vs. East edition of Fraternizing with the Enemy.
Well, Surya, looks like we're right back where we were at this time last year. The teams might be a bit different and the Spurs have home court, but for the most part it's the same cast of characters. I guess we might as well start this off by pointing out the differences between last year's squads and this year's.
San Antonio's Big Three are largely unchanged. Tim Duncan had another in his incredibly long series of amazing seasons -- so much so that you don't even need to say he's playing well for his age. The man simply plays well, he just doesn't average as many minutes as he used to. But as you can see from Game 6 against the Thunder, he can still put in a good 39 minutes for a 19-15-2-2-1 when called upon.
Then there's Manu Ginobili who's having a far better season than last year. He was walking away with the Sixth Man of the Year award before he pulled his hamstring. But unlike last year, he came back from it strong. Outside of a bit of inconsistency from distance, he's playing very well.
Bringing us to Tony Parker, the one who's been banged up this year. He took about three weeks of the season off in order to heal up from a "variety of maladies" and still pulled a hammy at the end of the regular season on top of the sprained ankle he's healing up from right now. Whew. But when he's all there, he's still the same guy.
Who's not the same guy? Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, who are both at least 15% better than they were last year. Mills gave himself an Extreme Makeover: Fitness Edition and earned the job of backing up Tony. And Diaw became Aggressive Boris after ... well after realizing that he hates losing in the Finals, it turns out.
Then there's the loss of Gary Neal more than made up for by Marco Belinelli, NBA Three Point Contest Winner, who's having the best season of his career even if it's not his best postseason so far.
So, what about your guys? Bring us up to date on the changes to the Heat since we last saw each other in the playoffs.