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 Favored on 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 Betting Line

heat-spurs-game-7Anybody who watched Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was given a real treat. San Antonio went on a big 12-0 run in the third quarter and had a 12-point lead over the Miami Heat to start the fourth. But showing the heart of a champion, Miami battled back thanks to plenty of big plays by their “Big 3.”

LeBron James hits some shots at the beginning of the quarter, Dwayne Wade made some clutch buckets, and Chris Bosh had a couple of big defensive plays. Ray Allen also stepped up and made a huge three to tie the game near the end of regulation. Overtime was also close, but the Heat were able to hang onto their three-point lead when Bosh blocked a Danny Green 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Taking all of this into account, people are pretty excited about Game 7 of the NBA Finals, which starts tonight (June 20th) at 9:00pm EST. Assuming you’re looking to get some action on this contest, here’s how GTBets.eu has the betting line:

San Antonio   (-110)
Miami  -5.5  (-110)

heat-spurs-game-7-1With the Heat being at home for Game 7, they’ve got to cover 5.5 points in this matchup. With how well the Spurs played in Miami on Tuesday, the fact that they’re being spotted 5.5 points is an attractive proposition. Many people didn’t expect this series to go to seven games, but San Antonio has played well enough to push the defending champions to the brink.

Of course, the Heat will no doubt get an emotional boost from their home crowd as they hope to repeat. Assuming you’re looking for some advice on which side to bet on in the deciding Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals, here’s a look at what both teams need to do to win.

San Antonio Spurs

The biggest problem for the Spurs throughout this series has been their inability to put together a complete 48 minutes. One game they shoot 60% from the field, but turn the ball over 18 times. The next, they cut the turnovers down to 13, but shoot 27.8% from the 3-point line.

San Antonio’s big advantage coming into this series was their ability to execute. Obviously this is easier said than done while facing the Heat’s defensive length and speed. But for the Spurs to win such a huge contest on the road, they’ll have to shoot well and exercise good ball control.

heat-spurs-game-7-2Another point that this team needs to address is cutting Manu Ginobili’s minutes if he doesn’t produce in the early going. He was great in Game 5, but fell totally flat on Tuesday after scoring just 9 points and committing 8 turnovers in 35 minutes. When Ginobili played in Game 6, San Antonio was outscored by 21 points. That said, Greg Popovich needs to be willing to pull him right away if he starts playing badly.

One more thing worth mentioning about the Spurs is that they need some more shooting magic from Gary Neal and Danny Green. After torching the nets earlier in the series, this pair collectively shot 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-8 from behind the arc. If they can get going, along with Tony Parker, who shot 6-for-23 in Game 6, San Antonio has an excellent chance to win.

Miami Heat

The Heat made multiple big plays down the stretch to push last game into overtime and pull out the win. However, there were several times when it looked as if they’d surrender the NBA Championship on their home floor. That said, Miami needs to focus on slowing San Antonio’s big runs and keeping the game manageable.

heat-spurs-game-7-3Much of this starts with keeping the Spurs out of the paint because they outscored Miami 60-36 inside. Sure Tim Duncan is probably going to get his production. However, the Heat have to do a better job of keeping him off the offensive glass. Kawhi Leonard also got a few easy buckets inside as well.

Once again, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade need to give Miami a little more in the scoring department. Both players were integral parts of the Heat victory, but combined for just 11-of-27 shooting and 24 points. Lucky for them, point guard Mario Chalmers had a strong shooting performance after knocking down 7-of-11 shots and hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers.

Game 7 starts at 9:00pm ET on ABC tonight. So make sure to place your bets by then and get ready for another entertaining battle between these two clubs.

Danny Green sets Impressive NBA Finals Record

danny-green-nba-finalsIf there’s one guy who’s become a star through the 2013 NBA Finals, it’s San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green. The third-year player has been a thorn in the Miami Heat’s side after hitting 25 out of 38 three-pointers. The 25 three-pointers are actually a Finals record, and this easily beats the previous mark of 22 three’s. What’s amazing is that we’re not even done yet!

San Antonio, which holds a 3-2 series lead, will play Game 6 in Miami tonight. This means that Green will get at least one more crack at further extending his record. And if the Heat are able to win at home, where they’re favored, Green is going to have two more games to improve upon the 25 three-pointers. Whether he has one or two games, it’s almost a given that the North Carolina product will extend his record.

So what’s turned Danny Green into the breakout star that he’s been in the 2013 NBA Finals? Well to hear Green say it, it’s all about the Spurs’ “Big 3” in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. “I’ve been getting lucky. I was moving around a lot. Our transition helps us, our pace.” Green said, “Tony penetrating and Manu penetrating, making the defense collapse is the reason why I’ve been getting open. Luckily, a couple have dropped for me.”

danny-green-nba-finals-1A couple of 3’s is the under-exaggeration of the 2013 NBA season since Green has been phenomenal throughout this series. He’s been so good that when he made 6-of-10 three-pointers in Game 5, it actually dropped his shooting percentage to 65.8%. Most players would be happy to nail even half of these attempts in the Finals.

Parker spoke about his teammate’s outstanding performance by saying, “I can’t believe he’s still open at this moment of this series.” He added, “They are still trapping me and doubling Timmy, and Danny is wide open. He’s shooting the ball well – if you are going to leave Danny wide open, he’s going to make threes.”

You can bet that the Heat will be doing everything they can to solve the problem that Green has created. So far, the San Antonio ball movement keeps allowing him to get open looks. Now the question for tonight’s game is whether the Heat will dedicate extra attention towards taking him out of the game, or keep trapping Parker and doubling Duncan.

As Parker said, “You can’t stop everything.” And he’s right since Miami won’t be able to shut down everything that the Spurs do. However, you also have to consider that San Antonio can’t rely on 60.0% shooting for the next one or two games.

Keeping this thought in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if Green and his teammates can keep up their torrid shooting. If so, there’s a very good chance that San Antonio wins in Miami and closes out this series. But if they can’t continue shooting red-hot, they could be in trouble since Miami is great at forcing turnovers. We’ll get to see the action unfold tonight at 9:00pm EST on ABC.

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 February 17th, 2013

lebron-jamesThe San Antonio Spurs continue to roll, despite being in the midst of a 9-game road trip. They’ve won 14 out of the last 15 games and are firmly entrenched atop the NBA standings. However, the defending champion Miami Heat have also played well as of late and are starting to take control of the Eastern Conference. So which team is number one in this week’s power rankings? Here’s the answer…

1. San Antonio Spurs (42-11) – The Spurs have truly broken away from the pack over the past five weeks. Once sitting behind the Clippers and Thunder in the West, San Antonio has now bolted out to a 2.5-game lead over Oklahoma City for the league’s best record. Second year player Kawhi Leonard (10.5 PPG) is really doing well during this stretch and he’s scoring 16.6 PPG over the past five games. This has supplemented the already-high and expected production from Tony Parker (20.8 PPG), Tim Duncan (17.2 PPG) and Manu Ginobili (12.3 PPG).

2. Miami Heat (36-14) – Miami cemented their second place spot after winning their past seven games. In fact, we were really debating about whether to put the Heat above San Antonio – especially after a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. That makes Miami winners of seven straight games and places them four games ahead of second place New York in the East. LeBron James has really taken the team on his back lately and is averaging 31.5 PPG in February.

russell-westbrook3. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-14) – The Thunder have had a rough week after losing to the Heat by 10 and the Utah Jazz by 15. However, they’re still in second place in the West and are getting excellent play out of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Kevin Martin is also in line for a Sixth Man of the Year award since he’s scoring 15.0 PPG and shooting 43.6% from 3-point territory.

4. L.A. Clippers (39-17) – Up until a couple of weeks ago, L.A. had lost 8 out of their past 11 games. However, they’ve since won four straight games and move up a spot from our last power rankings. Three of these victories have come on the road – with one being a 14-point win against the Knicks. The Clippers have a very well-rounded team since six players are averaging in double figures with Blake Griffin (18.5 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG) leading the way.

5. Indiana Pacers (33-21) – After winning 6 out of their last 8 games and beating Miami, Chicago and Atlanta during this stretch, Indiana moves up a couple of spots. Now this team gets a week to rest up before taking on New York in a big Eastern Conference showdown. Based on how they’ve been playing over the past two months, we really like the Pacers chances of moving up to the East’s number two seed soon.

amare-stoudemire6. New York Knicks (32-18) – New York opened this year with the league’s best record and held the top spot for weeks. However, they’ve stumbled somewhat as the season has dragged on and have lost three out of the past four games. What’s particularly disheartening about these losses is that two of them came to Eastern Conference bottom-feeders Toronto and Washington. Perhaps the Knicks will get back on the winning track as their team chemistry gets more used to having Amar’e Stoudemire (13.6 PPG) in the lineup.

7. Denver Nuggets (33-18) – Denver had been a fast-climbing team in our rankings after winning nine straight games in late January/early February. However, they hit a big roadblock by losing their last three contests. If there’s any silver lining with the losses to Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn, all of the contests have come on the road. Plus Ty Lawson (15.8 PPG) has really stepped up his game by averaging 22.0 PPG throughout February.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-18) – After the Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay, the common reaction was that Memphis would fade away and have trouble earning a playoff spot in the West. However, they’re hanging onto the West’s fourth seed and have grabbed three straight victories. It’ll be interesting to see how the Grizzlies replace Gay’s 17.2 PPG as the season rolls along.

brook-lopez9. Brooklyn Nets (31-22) – Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where Brooklyn fits among the league’s top teams. One week they’re beating Indiana and Denver, the next week they’re losing to Washington and the L.A. Lakers. In any case, it’s all combined to leave the Nets sitting at fourth place in the East. Brook Lopez continues to lead this team with 19.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.17 BPG.

10. Chicago Bulls (30-22) – Chicago drops two spots in our rankings after losing five out of their past seven games. Now all of these losses have come to good teams, but they’re still losses nonetheless. For this reason, we thought of putting Golden State (30-22) at the number 10 spot. However, we like how complete of a team the Bulls are with Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton all in this lineup.

NBA Power Rankings for January 18th, 2013

There’s been a lot of jostling around in our NBA power rankings this season with the LA Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs all holding the top spot at some point. Interestingly enough, a fifth team will be added to this list after sweeping a three-game road trip. And the best club from last week’s power rankings falls out of the top two for the first time this season….

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8) – Throughout the early part of the season, our big qualm with Oklahoma City was that they hadn’t really beaten any top-caliber teams. Then, when the Thunder did start beating elite clubs, the LA Clippers went on a huge run and held down the top spot for a while. But now, after winning three straight road games, the Thunder are definitely worthy of number one. Kevin Durant scored over 40 points on the road twice during this stretch, and Oklahoma will need plenty more of this with an upcoming five-game road trip.

2. LA Clippers (31-9) – Despite winning six out of their last seven games, LA falls to number two after a recent home loss to the Magic combined with Oklahoma City’s hot run. However, the Clippers are only behind the Thunder by the slimmest of margins in our eyes. On an interesting side note, Chris Paul’s assists have steadily increased from 9.1 APG a couple of weeks ago to 9.7 APG now.

3. Miami Heat (26-12) – January has not been kind to the Heat since they’re just 5-4 this month. That said, they’ve dropped out of the top two for the first time in this year’s power rankings. But do keep in mind that Miami is coming off of a six-game road trip, and the schedule gets easier next week with home games against the Pistons and Raptors. LeBron James has to feel pretty good about the next five off days since he just scored 39 points last night in a win over the LA Lakers.

4. San Antonio Spurs (30-11) – Compared to what we’ve seen from the Spurs in November and December, January has been a pretty mediocre month for San Antonio at 5-3. They’re still keeping pace with the Clippers and Thunder though, so that’s a good sign. Strong bench play has enabled Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to play 30-32 minutes a night and stay fresh.

5. New York Knicks (25-13) – After three straight losses to the Celtics, Bulls and Pacers, New York rebounded with a couple of wins against New Orleans and Detroit. Okay, so these aren’t exactly powerhouse teams; but they’re wins nonetheless, which was needed after Carmelo Anthony’s one-game suspension. C Tyson Chandler (12.4 PPG, 11.0 RPG) continues to be a catalyst in the paint for the Knicks.

6. Indiana Pacers (24-16) – Indiana had a recent hot streak squelched after losing two out of the past three games. A tough four-game road trip to the West looms ahead, which will truly test this young team. F Paul George has done it all by posting a stateline of 16.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.7 SPG up to this point.

7. Chicago Bulls (22-15) – Chicago has grabbed some really nice wins this month, which include road victories over New York and Miami. What’s impressive is that the Bulls are sitting in fourth place in the East without Derrick Rose. Seeing as how he’s been in the gym lately working on his shooting, we could see Rose suit up for Chicago some time in February. When that happens watch out!

8. Memphis Grizzlies (24-13) – The last three games have been a disaster for the Grizzlies since they’ve been blown out by at least 21 points each time. Sure two of these contests were against the Spurs and Clippers; however, that’s no excuse for a team trying to prove it belongs with the elite contenders. A lack of bench scoring continues to plague Memphis and their strong core of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.

9. Brooklyn Nets (23-16) – Winners of seven out of their last eight games, Brooklyn is the NBA’s hottest team right now. And this stretch includes impressive wins against Oklahoma City and the Pacers. The Nets are loaded in the front court with a number of solid contributors in C Brook Lopez, PF Andray Blatche, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries and PF Reggie Evans.

10. Golden State Warriors (23-14) – Golden State has far exceeded preseason expectations up to this point. However, they’ve hit a rough patch after dropping four out of the past five games. If there’s any solace to take out of the recent bad run, it’s that all four losses have come against great/good teams. The next six games won’t offer any relief since upcoming opponents include the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, Bulls and Bucks.