Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Daily News writers predict NBA Finals

LeBron James (6) drives to dunk the ball over Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland (22) during the second half Game 6 in the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals on Friday, May 30, 2014, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
LeBron James (6) drives to dunk the ball over Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland (22) during the second half Game 6 in the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals on Friday, May 30, 2014, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Bob Cooney

OVER THE WEEKEND, I was on a radio show and was asked to predict the outcome of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. I didn't anticipate the question, and hadn't given much thought to the rematch of last year's finals, won by the Heat in seven. My prediction this weekend was the Heat would win in six, maybe seven.

I've changed my mind.

There are unquestionable stars in this series in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for Miami, with San Antonio boasting future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. So let's just say that those three will pretty much be a wash, though James obviously has the most potential of those six to carry a series on his back.

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  • So the contributions of the second-tier players will be the key to this series, and that is where San Antonio has the advantage. Kawhi Leonard is playing so well right now that coach Gregg Popovich is saying he will be the one who carries this organization into the future. Boris Diaw is playing the best basketball he has in quite some time and Tiago Splitter just seems to always be in the right place at the right time on both ends of the floor. Former towel-waver Patty Mills has also given Popovich a big lift off the bench. I see this as a big advantage for the Spurs.

    There are two intangibles in this series that can't be overlooked. The first is that there are rumors that if he wins the title, Duncan, at 38, could call it a career, and Popovich may move on as well. That is pretty good incentive. Also, San Antonio plays such a team game that it really doesn't make a big difference if a player or two is having an off shooting night. Their ball movement is unmatched in the NBA, and that overcomes an individual's struggles. Should Wade and Bosh both have off shooting nights, I don't think even LeBron could carry the Heat through.

    Like last year, it's going to be another good one. Unlike last year, San Antonio takes this one.

    Spurs in 7

    Marcus Hayes

    YOU WANT IT to be the Spurs.

    They have a crotchety old coach and an ancient star and a hatefully perfect point guard who, sacre bleu, is French, but they make the extra pass and they hit midrange shots and each player has a role and he fills it.

    This international hoops cartel should be seen as the greatest of the free-agent era, and, as such, the greatest team in history. After all, Red Auerbach didn't have to worry about Argentina's relationship with Brazil.

    A fifth title raises Tim Duncan to Bill Russell's level. Not as many titles, true, but as strong a defender, a superior scorer and successful in an era of gimmicky three-point shots and constant officiating changes (hand checks, charges, replay).

    There is a strong argument that Duncan is the best player of his era, coach Gregg Popovich the greatest coach of all time and the Spurs the equal of the Bulls, Lakers and both editions of Celtics. An argument made stronger if the Spurs win this series.

    They will not.

    Heat in 6

    John Smallwood

    SAN ANTONIO was a bad-bounce rebound and a miracle shot by Ray Allen from beating Miami for the NBA title last season.

    Neither team has changed all that much since then.

    LeBron James is still the best player every time he steps on the court and his ability to take control of a game means the Heat is always just a "LeBron Moment" from winning.

    But overall, the Spurs are a more complete team.

    Their brand of basketball is more conducive to making the adjustments and readjustments needed in a long series.

    San Antonio's star players - Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - showed they have plenty in the tank to get the job done and the Spurs have more reliable role players.

    It is no easy task to keep James from beating you, but San Antonio is the team that is best equipped to do that. Game 7 is in San Antonio.

    Spurs in 7

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