Can the Heat and Spurs meet in the NBA Finals again?
It’s not that far-fetched. Both teams remain mostly intact from their June meeting. You have to believe the Heat will be there again until someone actually beats them in May or June. And no matter what anyone says, the Spurs have put themselves in position to contend in the West again. It definitely will be tougher this year, but not completely out of reach.
The road to get there in the 2014 postseason should be much tougher for both teams than the 2013 playoffs.
Miami has to deal with some determined, formidable teams.
You have the Indiana Pacers squad that pushed Miami to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. They have upgraded their backup PG with CJ Watson. They upgraded their front court with Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. And in case you forgot, they are hopefully getting a healthy Danny Granger back this season as well. The new look Pacer bench probably poses the biggest problem for the Heat.
Don’t sleep on the Chicago Bulls either. If Derek Rose is healthy… and can STAY healthy… the Bulls will be right there in the mix. The Bulls lost Free Agent SG Marco Belinelli to our San Antonio Spurs (he’s a better fit for the Spurs anyway) and signed sharp shooter Mike Dunleavy. Also, if Rookie Tony Snell (6’7” 200 lbs… that’s not a typo, he is a wiry string bean) can bulk up, continue to hit 3’s at near 40%, and use his 6’11” wing span to play lock down defense, he will be a great weapon off the bench for Coach Tom Thibodeau.
The New Jersey, uh, Brooklyn Nets (I still can’t get that in my head) got A LOT older by trading for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry… BUT, they also went in to “win now” mode. They are taking a huge risk that those 3 can play at a high level for another year or two and contend for a championship. It could actually work. The addition of AK47 Andre Kirilenko adds serious depth to an already decent Nets roster.
The New York Knicks round out the top 5 teams in the East. Their offense should be high-scoring again, but it’s their defense that holds them back from contending for the East Finals. Not sure if the addition of Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert is the answer. They could show flashes and disappoint again this year.
Until any of these teams close out a series against the Heat… you have to give the Heat the benefit of the doubt they will be there in June again.
San Antonio had a much easier time with the West in the playoffs due to other teams’ injuries and upsets, but that’s how it goes right? It’s happened to the Spurs before too, so you never know. If every team stays healthy, their road back will be much more difficult.
The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered the worst luck of the 2013 playoffs with the injury to Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant is an assassin, but even the deadliest shooters can’t overcome 5-on-1. With the loss of Kevin Martin during the offseason, you wonder how much of a threat they will be, but Westbrook and Durant are one of the best, and youngest, duos in the NBA. If Jeremy Lamb can step, if Serge Ibaka can return to 2012 form, and if recently signed Ryan Gomes can give them his career average (10 pts, 5 reb per game), they will still be one of the top 3 teams in the West.
The Los Angeles Clippers remain a top 4 team in the West just be re-signing Chris Paul long term. The addition of Head Coach Doc Rivers makes them a smarter team. They have been an extremely athletic and talented team for a few seasons now. Can they get over the hump and at least get to the West Finals? That remains to be seen and is a question Chris Paul would love to answer this year. Their offense will always be full of highlights, but their defense remains to be their Achilles heel. If Doc Rivers can get Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to play twin towers defense and stop over-rotating looking for highlight blocks, they can build around that and be even better in 2013-14.
The Houston Rockets were the big winners in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Can Howard and James Harden be the new big duo to compete in the West? Will Howard be the Superman ON the court that NBA fans want him to be? Or will he be the prima donna, locker room disease OFF the court that carries over ON to the court that he has been the past two seasons. Everyone thinks he took the easy way out by bolting from the bright lights in LA. Can he prove everyone wrong and return to being a dominant 20-10 big man? I think this will be a “growing pains” season for Houston, but they should still be one of the top 5 teams in the West.
Don’t forget about the Golden State Warriors that upset the Denver Nuggets in the 1st round and gave the Spurs all they could handle in losing in 6 games in the 2nd round. Stephen Curry is a joy to watch on offense and with the addition of Andre Iguodala they will be even better this year. The huge elephant in the room will be can Andrew Bogut stay healthy and contribute rebounds and defense they need to contend in the West.
It won’t be easy… unless upsets and injuries take their tool again at opportune times… but if the Spurs play at the top of their game all year and during the playoffs, and stay healthy… DON’T BE SURPRISED if the Spurs and the Heat are going at it again next June.