The Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row and steadily trying to prove to the pundits that they were correct when they assumed they would win multiple titles.
The Big Three is not the way this story should flow, though. It's more like LeBron and The Other Two now. That's not a slight on Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. It's just a fact because of the greatness of LeBron James.
With Wade and Bosh seemingly struggling, the question is... Will LeBron be enough for the Heat to win?
With home-court advantage against Indiana in Game 7, I knew it wouldn't be difficult for Miami to send the Pacers packing. But the Spurs are an entirely different animal. This will become the Heat's biggest test since the Big Three came together.
I picked Miami before the season began, I picked them before the playoffs and I am staying on the bandwagon for five reasons:
1. LeBron James
Just like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard is a very good young player, but this man can make you look extremely weak and inferior. I expect James to dominate this series. He has a vendetta because the Spurs embarrassed him as a young player in 2007 when he was in Cleveland.
2. San Antonio is not that physical
Quite frankly, the Heat were beat up in the series vs. the Bulls and Pacers. They have to be excited about being able to move freely without an elbow to the head. This will become a cerebral series. James has become the smartest player we have seen since Magic when it comes to controlling the flow of the game. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are not chopped liver, but James is on another level.
3. Wade will have a good series despite knee issues
Although Danny Green will run and maneuver through a plethora of screens, he will not get enough shots to make the Heat pause. He only attempts eight per game. Neither Green nor a struggling Manu Ginobili can guard Wade in the post and I suspect that's where he will inflict most of his damage. If Ginobili starts to heat up, then expect Wade to shift defensively to Leonard.
4. Defense on Tony Parker
Miami will throw many defenders at Parker in hopes he wears down come crunch time. Maybe even James guards him late. Parker is smart enough to not fight 94 feet of pressure, so he will relent and allow Leonard or Ginobili to advance the ball and thus run defenders off screens into a plethora of pick-and-rolls. This is what the Heat is hoping for because then he would have less than 12 seconds to operate and make decisions with the ball. I expect double-teams forcing the ball out of his hands and a mandate to put him on the floor with hard fouls when he attacks the rim. The Spurs have relied on Parker tremendously during this run, but I believe the Heat learned the lesson last year dealing with Russell Westbrook and they will be ready.
5. Tim Duncan
If any player enjoyed this break waiting on the Heat, it was Duncan. He will be tested continuously on defense with LeBron and Wade attacking the basket, Bosh standing at the three-point line and Chris Andersen running and attacking the offensive glass. Duncan is averaging 34 minutes in the playoffs. If the Spurs are going to win this series, he needs to play at least that many... But I believe the Heat will wear him down.
So easier said then done, right? One thing is for sure: This will be a great series. I expect the mental grind will produce a few games with scores in the 80's. If that happens, the Spurs will have a great chance to win the title.
Anyway, my money is on the Heat.