The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are set to kick off Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals tonight (Thursday) at 9:00 pm ET. This is no doubt a hotly anticipated series because Miami barely eked out a championship when these teams met in last year’s Finals. So is LeBron James and Co. going to win their third straight title or will San Antonio’s “Big 3” capture another championship as their careers wind down?
This is a hard question to answer because of all the variables in play. For starters, San Antonio has grabbed the home court advantage, which means Game 1 will be taking place in South Texas rather than South Beach this time around. And the NBA Finals format has been switched from the old 2-3-2 version to the 2-2-1-1-1 format. Provided there is a Game 7 again, it would be at the AT&T Center, rather than Miami’s American Airlines Arena.
The Spurs having home court obviously gives them an edge. But what about some of the other factors that we might see play out tonight. Anybody who’s betting on Game 1 between San Antonio and Miami will want to pay attention to the following:
Upside for Miami: Dwyane Wade is Healthier
Wade did pretty well in the Finals last year, averaging 19.6 PPG and shooting 47.6%. But he was held back at times, especially on defense due to his bad knees. This prompted coach Eric Spoelstra to rest the 32-year-old more during the regular season as he averaged 32.9 MPG. The plan seems to have worked because Wade is averaging 18.7 PPG on 51.9% shooting in the playoffs, and he’s looking better on defense. We wouldn’t be surprised if he takes an even bigger step up in the Finals.
Upside for San Antonio: Manu Ginobili is playing Better
Ginobili had a forgettable performance in the 2013 Playoffs as he averaged 11.5 PPG on 39.9% shooting – hitting just 30.2% of his three-point attempts. And nowhere were his struggles more apparent than in the Finals, where he committed 8 turnovers during Game 6 when San Antonio had Miami on the ropes. Will he melt down in the 2014 NBA Finals? If the first three rounds are any indication, no. Ginobili is averaging 14.3 PPG and shooting 38.9% from beyond the arc, making it much more likely that he’ll show up.
Downside for San Antonio: Tony Parker may not be 100%
Cory Joseph played the entire second half of San Antonio’s Game 6 victory over Oklahoma City since Tony Parker’s ankle was hurting. Parker has already told the media that he’ll be suiting up for Game 1. The big question now is if five days of rest will be enough for tonight’s contest. Assuming Parker struggles with his ankle, the Spurs lose one big advantage they have in the series at point guard.
Downside for Miami: Their Defense hasn’t been as dominating
The 2013 Playoffs saw Miami hold teams to 102.9 points per 100 possessions and 43.6% shooting. This year’s version of the Heat has allowed 107.7 points per 100 possessions and 46.2% shooting. So are we to believe that the Heat’s defense is worse this season? It’s hard to tell whether they’re playing weaker defense as a unit or they were just lackadaisical against lesser competition. Miami rolled through the Eastern Conference, blowing out Charlotte and Brooklyn, then getting a little resistance from Indiana. That said, we may not truly know what the situation is with Miami until after a few games in the San Antonio series.
2014 NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Prediction
The Spurs are coming into the Finals with a vengeance. As Tim Duncan says, they wanted to play the Heat this year. Well, Duncan’s wish has been granted and with home court to boot. Given that San Antonio is a motivated squad and they’re out for revenge, we like them to come out strong in the first game and win by a score of 102 – 95. But even if they do win Game 1 like we expect, the entire series should be a close battle.