It took a miracle Ray Allen three-point shot in last year’s NBA Finals to pull the Miami Heat from defeat to champions against the San Antonio Spurs. The teams meet again for the title, and Tim Duncan said he welcomes another shot at the Heat.
Duncan and the Spurs may have wanted a chance for redemption from last year, but LeBron James has other ideas. And here are five reasons why James will do a championship dance at the end of the series:
1.) LeBron James
The King, as magnificent as he has been the last three years, has become a stronger player because he’s becoming more like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant: a ruthless leader that smashes an opponent once he senses vulnerability. Credit Lance Stevenson and his antics in the Eastern Conference finals for igniting James’ sometimes-dormant fire.
This NBA Finals appearance is the Heat’s fourth in a row. Playing this time of year for these stakes has become routine, meaning the magnitude of the occasion does not faze them. The San Antonio Spurs are experienced in their own right. But their experience amounts to aging with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli in particular, who are primed to get fatigued and ineffective late in games and the longer the series stretches.
On both ends of the court, the Heat can use various lineups to create either mismatches or tough covers. For instance, James can play four positions and can guard four spots, too. So, if Miami wants to go small and put more speed on the court, James could play power forward on one end and defend point guard Tony Parker on the other. Moving James from position to position when necessary could force the Spurs to match up in ways that would mitigate the few advantages they have.
4.) Chris Bosh
The lesser of the Big Three can be a huge difference-maker because of his range on the court. Bosh can be a tough cover for Duncan because he can extend to the three-point line, pulling away Duncan’s ability to protect the rim, thereby making the Spurs susceptible to forays to the basket by James, Dwyane Wade and others.
5) Parker’s Injury
Spurs point guard Tony Parker has an ankle injury that might not keep him out, but certainly will slow him down. Worse, there will not be time to rest and get the ankle right, so it’s likely the injury will not get any better as the games pile up. Without Parker as effective as usual, San Antonio’s offense–against a strong defensive team like Miami–will have periods of trouble scoring. And that will be costly.
LeBron James and Tim Duncan share an inspiring moment after the ’07 finals below.