Tim Duncan wanted the Miami Heat Again, now he has Them

tim-duncan-nba-finalsIt’s another year in the NBA, but not much has changed at the top. For the second straight year, the Miami Heat dispatched the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, taking the series in six games. The San Antonio Spurs also needed just six games to beat the more-youthful Oklahoma City Thunder. So now, for the second straight year, Miami and San Antonio will meet in the NBA Finals.

Last year’s series was a seesaw affair, with the Heat finally pulling away 95-88 on their home floor in Game 7. The Spurs had their adversaries on the ropes at one point in Game 6. However, LeBron James and Ray Allen sparked a heroic comeback that saw the series shift back to Miami for the deciding final contest.

Duncan can’t wait to play Miami

Given how close the series was, it’s little surprise that Tim Duncan relishes the opportunity to play the Heat again for the NBA title. “We’re happy that it’s the Heat,” said Duncan. “We’ll be ready for them. We’ve got some experience, obviously, from last year against them. And we’ll go back and look at some film. And we’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to take it this time.”

Duncan has won four titles with the Spurs, taking the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 1999, 2003, ’05 and ’07. He and the Spurs came agonizingly close to another one in 2013 as they led Game 6 by a score of 94-89 with just 28 seconds left. However, an Allen 3-pointer turned the tide of the game and, as mentioned before, Miami won the final two contests. “We were ready last year and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Duncan said.

Renewed Fire

tim-duncan-nba-finals-1Losing the Finals really seems to have motivated the aging Spurs this season as they topped the NBA with a 62-20 record, despite playing in the all-around-tougher Western Conference. The Heat, meanwhile, cruised to the second seed in the East after finishing 54-28. That said, San Antonio will have home court advantage in this year’s 2-2-1-1-1 format.

Aside from having home court advantage in the 2014 NBA Finals – a change from last season – San Antonio also comes into the series with more experience. Sure, you can’t get more experienced than the Spurs’ “Big Three,” Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. However, important role players like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter and Corey Joseph were all making their first trip to the Finals a year ago. Plus, there’s new help in Boris Diaw, who scored 26 points against the Thunder in Game 6, and sharpshooter Marco Belinelli.

“Last year was many guys’ first time to the Finals,” Green explained. “We’re lucky enough to go back. There is still a lot of work to be done, and we won’t be satisfied until we accomplish our goal. And that’s to be the last team standing.”

Stepping up

It seems that the San Antonio role players could have a much bigger impact this time around. This is especially the case with regard to Joseph, who started the entire second half of San Antonio’s 112-107 (OT) Game 6 victory over Oklahoma City. Parker sat out after his ankle began bothering him and he couldn’t cut on it very well. So head coach Greg Popovich chose to rest his star guard, rather than risk further injury. Parker, who averaged 14 PPG and 5.5 APG on the season, had just eight points, two rebounds and no assists in his limited Game 6 outing.

The one thing that Parker and older Spurs players have on their side is five days rest. The 2014 NBA Finals doesn’t start until 8pm ET on Thursday. This also favors those who are interested in 2014 NBA Finals betting because they still have plenty of time to research the matchups and make an informed decision. Furthermore, there’ll also be a number of NBA Finals prop bets and live wagering opportunities for bettors to enjoy.

Miami has Slight Edge in 2013 NBA Finals Game 5 Betting Line

2013-nba-finals-game5After going down 2-1 in the 2013 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat battled back by winning 109-93 on the road in San Antonio. With the series now even, Miami is actually favored in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, despite playing one more contest in San Antonio. Here’s a look at how GTBets.eu has the betting line for tonight’s game, which airs at 8:00pm EST:

Miami  -1.5  (-110)
San Antonio  (-110)

As you can see, the favored Heat need to cover 1.5 points in this road game. Based on the way the 2013 Finals have gone so far, this will be no small task. However, it’s definitely worth noting that Miami’s “Big 3” finally got going as LeBron James (33 points), Dwayne Wade (32 points) and Chris Bosh (20 points) carried their team to victory in Game 4. This trio scored all but 24 of their team’s points in the win. Veteran guard Ray Allen also had a nice game off the bench as he scored 14 points.

San Antonio didn’t shoot too badly since Tim Duncan (20 points) and Tony Parker (15 points) combined for 50% shooting. Danny Green (10 points) and Gary Neal (13 points) were once again lights-out from the 3-point line as they combined for 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. However, it was the Spurs ball control, or lack thereof, that did them in.

Miami’s defensive pressure forced San Antonio into 18 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Heat committed just 9 turnovers, which was the biggest difference in the game. The Spurs have to do a better job of taking care of the ball tonight since this will be the final game played in San Antonio. That said, here are a few keys for both teams if they want to win Game 5.

Miami Heat’s Keys to Victory

2013-nba-finals-game5-1-2Dwayne Wade needs to keep it up – Going back to the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade has struggled mightily compared to his normal superhuman self. And his kryptonite appears to be a knee injury that’s been nagging him over the past few weeks. Some people thought maybe he should even be benched for the remainder of the Finals. However, all of this is forgotten after a 14-for-25 shooting performance that saw Wade pour in 32 points. If he keeps this up, Miami is a lock to repeat in 2013.

Keep swarming Tony Parker – Parker is what makes the Spurs offense click, but it was hard for him to get San Antonio into a rhythm with the Heat’s speed and length on defense. Many thought that Parker would create a huge mismatch with Mario Chalmers guarding him. However, Wade and LeBron have done an excellent job of helping trap the Frenchman and forcing the ball out of his hands. Wade was especially effective all over the floor after collecting six steals throughout Game 4.

Chris Bosh needs to remain a Force Inside – Another one of the Spurs’ advantages was negated when Bosh came through with a big game. He scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots in a performance that overshadowed Duncan’s production. If he can continue giving Miami a big presence inside, it takes away just one more edge that San Antonio figures to have.

San Antonio Spurs’ Keys to Victory

2013-nba-finals-game5-1Taigo Splitter must do Something – Starting center Taigo Splitter has not exactly looked his best the past few games. But he reached a new low on Friday night after shooting 0-for-3, grabbing 3 rebounds, and committing 3 turnovers in 14 minutes of play. He was playing as if this were his first game in the NBA. Splitter must get back on track for San Antonio to have any chance.

Tony Parker needs to be Healthy – There were concerns over Parker’s hamstring injury going into Game 4, but everything seemed to be fine in the first half. However, Parker didn’t look quite as good in the second half and admitted that he stiffened up a bit. Much like Wade did last game, Parker needs to get some excellent pregame treatment and remain at full speed for San Antonio to win.

Manu Ginobili has to provide Support – San Antonio’s “Big 3” has become the “Big 2” after Ginobili’s disappearing act in the Finals. He’s been sporadic throughout the 2013 NBA Playoffs and has only provided glimpses of himself in certain games. Hopefully for the Spurs’ sake, he shows more of these glimpses in tonight’s contest because there’s no way San Antonio will win two straight series-deciding games in Miami.

NBA Power Rankings for Feb. 7th, 2013

tony-parkerOver the past couple of years, NBA analysts and fans have questioned if the San Antonio Spurs are too old to compete with the league’s best teams any longer. And the Spurs have responded to this questioning by winning 11 straight games and grabbing the NBA’s best record. This being said, it was a no-brainer to rank San Antonio number one in our latest power rankings. As for how everybody else fared, take a look below.

1. San Antonio Spurs (39-11) – While the Spurs haven’t played any truly elite teams over the last two weeks, they did grab quality victories over Golden State, Atlanta (road) and Memphis during their 11-game win streak. A primary catalyst behind San Antonio’s recent surge is improved play by C Tiago Splitter (10.8 PPG, 5.8 PG) and SG Danny Green (10.0 PPG, 41.9% 3P). Overall, seven Spurs are averaging at least 9.7 PPG.

2. Miami Heat (32-14) – LeBron James and company have had a fair amount of success since mid-January. They’ve won 8 out of the last 10 games, including road victories over the Lakers, Nets and Warriors. James (26.8 PPG) has stepped up his scoring production in February and is averaging 30.3 PPG this month. Unfortunately, Ray Allen (10.7 PPG) has seen his scoring dip down to 3.3 PPG during the same span.

kevin-durant3. Oklahoma City (37-11) – The Thunder have stumbled from first to number three since our last power rankings. They’ve won 5 out of the last 9 games, which is pretty mediocre for this team. Furthermore, Oklahoma City lost to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers just three games ago. One big culprit for the average play of late involves the Thunder playing 12 out of their last 17 contests on the road.

4. New York Knicks (31-16) – After going through some rough patches in December and January, the Knicks appear to be back on track. They’ve won five out of the past six games and are chasing Miami for the East’s best record. Amar’e Stoudemire seems to be working his way back into the New York lineup nicely following a long injury recovery. He’s averaging 14.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG, which is far better than what he was doing a couple weeks ago.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (35-16) – Once the story of the season after winning 17 straight games, Los Angeles has struggled worse than any other NBA team lately. They’ve lost 7 out of the last 10 contests, which includes dropping games to bad teams like Phoenix, Toronto and Washington. Much like Oklahoma City, the Clippers appear to be victims of a rough road schedule, which includes playing 11 out of the last 14 games away. Things won’t get any easier since four out of the next five contests will be played on the road.

danilo-gallineri6. Denver Nuggets (31-18) – The Nuggets are definitely the league’s hottest team right now. They have been victorious in the last 13 out of 15 games and are quickly climbing the Western Conference ladder. This has truly been a team effort since nine Denver players are scoring 8.0 PPG or more. Danilo Gallinari (17.1 PPG) has really been doing well as of late since he’s averaged 21.8 PPG over the past five games. Rumor has it that Denver may be trying to further bolster their lineup by adding Kevin Garnett.

7. Indiana Pacers (31-19) – Indiana went through a three-game losing streak towards the end of January. But they’ve since rebounded by winning five straight contests, including wins over Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. Paul George (17.6 PPG) is really backing up his first All-Star selection by averaging 20.6 PPG during his team’s five-game undefeated run. David West is also pitching in 17.2 PPG and some crucial late-game baskets.

joakim-noah8. Chicago Bulls (29-19) – The Bulls have done a decent job of battling through some tough road games recently and are still looking good in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Derrick Rose still isn’t back from injury, so SF Luol Deng (17.2 PPG) continues to lead this club. C Joakim Noah has also been a force since he’s averaging 12.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. Assuming Rose can come back soon and get in shape for the playoffs, he’ll definitely have a nice supporting cast.

9. Brooklyn Nets (29-20) – While the Nets are certainly a strong playoff-bound club this year, they’ve yet to truly crack that elite team barrier. Don’t tell this to PF Reggie Evans though, who downplayed how good King James was and questioned the Heat’s lockout-shortened season title. LeBron responded scoring 24 points, grabbing 9 boards and dishing out 7 assists. Looks like Brooklyn still has a ways to go before they can back up Evans’ boasting.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (30-18) – We don’t expect Memphis to be ranked this high throughout the remainder of the season. After all, they just traded away their leading score, Rudy Gay, in a move that many people called ‘panicky.’ They did get Tayshaun Prince (10.3 PPG) in the deal; however, he’s unlikely to match the production that Gay put out. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Zach Randolph’s scoring has dropped by over a point in the last month.