Blakely: Heat, Spurs ready to go in NBA Finals

Blakely: Heat, Spurs ready to go in NBA Finals
June 4, 2013, 12:00 pm
Share This Post
C E L T I C S  P L A Y O F F  P I C T U R E 
in Eastern Conference

BOSTON — Near the end of a long road trip in November, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich opted to send his best players -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and reserve Danny Green -- home prior to a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat.

The decision drew the ire of NBA commissioner David Stern who hit the Spurs with a $250,000 fine.

Fast forward to the NBA Finals between San Antonio and the Heat, and maybe Popstradamus was on to something after all.

Popovich is a brilliant tactician, so the idea of him planning for this moment dating back to that Nov. 30 game which came at the end of a six-game road trip, isn't that far-fetched. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be the first time this season that the Heat will see San Antonio's Big Three -- Duncan, Parker and Ginobili -- on the floor for the same game.

In their second regular-season matchup, Ginobili (hamstring) did not play. But the Heat were less star-studded in that game as well with LeBron James (hamstring), Dwyane Wade (ankle) and Mario Chalmers (ankle) all sitting out in Miami's 88-86 win.

"It's crazy that it worked out this way that we are both in the Finals," Wade said shortly after Miami crushed Indiana 99-76 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday.

With the stakes as high as they are now, whatever gamesmanship these two NBA Goliaths engaged in during the regular season won't matter now.

Miami is looking to repeat as NBA champions, something that has not happened since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2009 and 2010. An Eastern Conference team hasn't won back-to-back NBA titles since the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998.

"They've got a bunch of Hall‑of‑Famers," LeBron James said of the Spurs, "so I look forward to the challenge."

While San Antonio certainly has its share of proven, championship-caliber veterans, it's not like the Heat are new to this stage.

"This is our third year advancing to The Finals. So we're very experienced as well," James said. "We're not young, we're not inexperienced. We understand the opportunity that we have."
Ditto for the Spurs who will be looking for their fifth NBA title, and first since 2007.

“We kind of know it’s a great opportunity,” Ginobili told reporters recently. “Maybe the last, because you never know when you are going to have another opportunity like this. So we’re all very appreciative and we want to do our best.”