Help me Tony, Tim, and Ginobili. You’re my only hope.
While the NBA Finals rematch between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat is likely to be an epic series, there is a lot on the line for a certain population of basketball fans nationwide. The people that I am referring to are the haters of the team residing in South Beach. A third consecutive title for the Heat could be the official beginning of a dark period for many NBA fans. Yes, you read that right and no I am not on drugs.
In watching Miami’s dismantling of the Eastern Conference one thing is clearly apparent, virtually no one can match up with the defending champions. Look at how the playoffs have played out thus far.
A season ago, Indiana felt that their two year progression had elevated them to their foe’s level. Not having home court in the decisive seventh game last year was perceived to be the ultimate difference maker and had the Pacers owned it, perhaps they would have advanced to The Finals. Equipped with the home court advantage this year and a deeper bench featuring CJ Watson, Evan Turner and Luis Scola made absolutely no difference as the Heat reminded everyone how wide the gap is between these two teams.
In my opinion, the window of opportunity for the Pacers to dethrone the Heat has closed. When you get the chance to knock out the champs in three consecutive years and fail, then you have all but proven that your squad cannot advanced past theirs. With big money invested in the current core of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and George Hill, fans of Indiana may have to get used to finishing a distant second for years to come.
If not the Pacers, then who can pose the biggest threat to Miami’s dominance? The Nets? The Bulls? The Raptors? The Wizards? As hopeful as a fan can be, do you really think your team is suited to beat the Heat come post-season? Brooklyn fans, myself included, were proud that their five-game series defeat showed that the Nets could play competitively until the Heat decided to suffocate them with their defense during the closing minutes of the game. Is that really something to hang your hat on? Sad, isn’t it?
It’s not as if time will be the ultimate equalizer and eventually this Heat team will fall off due to old age. Both LeBron James and Chris Bosh are under the age of thirty, and although Dwyane Wade has endured a lot of wear and tear over the years, he still has the ability to unleash his superstar talents when healthy. Credit the Miami coaching staff for devising a part-time work schedule during the regular season to preserve Wade’s health for the post season.
The fact that the Bosh has openly admitted that he would consider a pay cut means that Miami’s Big Three will most likely stay intact for years to come. When they initially joined forces many wondered how they would fill out the rest of the roster. As we have now seen, established players in the “back nine” of their careers are willing to play for nothing for a chance to win the title. Obviously Ray Allen could play elsewhere for more money and when he ultimately retires there will be another former star or future Hall of Famer eager to take his spot.
If anything, time is having the opposite effect of equalizing things. Any elite competition that once existed for the Heat is dying off one by one – the Celtics, the Lakers, and soon enough the Spurs once Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili call it a career.
Out of all the team sports, basketball is the one that closely resembles an individual one in that the best player usually wins. Opposing teams in baseball can pitch around the most dangerous hitter, who only gets four chances per game to make an impact. In football, a team playing a ball control offense can strategically reduce the amount of time an opposing offense can be on the field.
In basketball, someone as dominant as LeBron can play nearly every minute and have a major influence on every offensive possession. With a healthy Wade, Miami has two players that can command a double team. Factor in the consistent open looks from Bosh and Allen and you have an unstoppable offense. Think about that for a second! A top-tier player and arguably the best pure shooters in league history are afterthoughts on most possessions!
Miami is the varsity team playing against the JV at this point. During The Big Three era in the postseason, the Heat has accumulated 58 wins with only 25 losses—against playoff competition! If your horse in the race isn’t Miami, you have to wonder what the point of even watching is.
Some NBA fans will fantasize that Oklahoma City can defeat them in a series, but haven’t you seen enough by now to realize that there’s something lacking from the Thunder? Would you really bet on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka over James, Wade, and Bosh if your life depended on it? I wouldn’t either.
The team that is capable of beating the champs will have their opportunity for redemption over the next few weeks. They are the ones with the championship pedigree, experience, depth, leadership. The Heat may have the best weapon(s), but the Spurs have the better army.
It’s now or never for these Spurs and a nation of desperate fans can only hope that San Antonio can win three more games.