The great, relatively old star versus the unparalleled young superstar. The NBA Finals begin tonight (Thursday) with the San Antonio Spurs’ incredible 38-year-old Tim Duncan and the Miami Heat’s 29-year-old superhuman LeBron James, both arguably among the 10 greatest basketball players ever, seeking to add more treasure to their already remarkable chests.
The Heat are the defending champions, but with home court advantage in the best-of-seven series, the Spurs will open the Finals with the first two games in San Antonio, poised to reward Duncan with a fifth title. The rematch of last year’s Finals—which the Spurs lost four games to three despite being up by five points with 40 seconds to go in Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead—will have a profoundly different outcome.
One of the four most significant reasons is that one year ago, Game 7 was played in Miami. If it goes that far this time around—and the prediction here is it won’t—the deciding game will be in San Antonio.
Secondly, the Spurs are better and deeper than they were in June of 2013. Even if All-Star point guard Tony Parker is not in peak form due to a sprained left ankle, the Spurs’ versatility off the bench with Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli will provide enough points and playmaking to offset Parker’s reduced production.
Third, the Heat are not as equipped as the crew that summoned extraordinary will and resilience to vanquish the Spurs in a tremendous seven-game battle in the previous Final. Most of the Heat’s role players, including Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem, have been mediocre. The minimal resistance they faced in winning three series leading up to the Finals is a testament to the brilliance of the amazing James, a one-man wrecking ball.
And lastly, the Spurs will win in six because Duncan-as he showed in overtime in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he was dominant-refuses to be denied in what may be his closing opportunity to earn another ring.