This was always going to happen.
No matter what Kevin Durant, the Indiana Pacers or anyone else had in mind – San Antonio was destined to get a rematch with the two-time reigning champion Miami Heat.
An 82-game regular season and three pressurised playoff series throw up numerous headlines across the course of the year but, eventually, we always get our match-up.
And make no mistake – shots have already been fired.
A billboard in downtown San Antonio was hoisted this week with the slogan, ‘built v bought’.
It refers, of course, to the Spurs squad that’s seen the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker together for over a decade – as opposed to what they say is the Heat’s ‘bought’; a squad made up of big money, free agent additions in LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
The softly spoken Duncan – unarguably a first ballot hall of famer when his career is completed – threw a barb across to Florida when he stated that his Spurs have always wanted a second chance against Miami after capitulating in last year’s match-up.
The remarkable 2013 Finals series saw the championship trophy delivered to the sidelines as San Antonio looked set to march towards a resounding Game 6 and Finals-clinching victory in South Beach, before a Ray Allen prayer was answered.
The Spurs’ hearts broke as they limped into Game 7, where they were no match for the Heat, who were revived and re-energized following Allen’s game winning shot.
So, make no mistake, the scene is set and previous scripts have been played out in front of the world.
Now, the Spurs get their chance for redemption.
But Miami are the defending champs and have rolled through the Eastern conference playoffs without much hassle.
James and Wade led the Heat to a 4-0 sweep against Charlotte, before overcoming regular-season demons to crush Brooklyn.
Last season, Indiana pushed the Heat to the brink. In this year’s Conference finals they were no match, as James led a Heat domination to book a place with San Antonio.
In the highly-competitive Western Conference, the Spurs slipped past a talented Oklahoma City squad that featured current MVP Kevin Durant.
The 2014 match-up is unique for various reasons.
Parker – a deadly point guard who can easily outplay the Heat guards – has a considerable ankle sprain, which caused him to leave the Game 6 victory over the Thunder without returning.
— NBA (@NBA) June 4, 2014
He is expected to take part in Game 1 but seems unlikely to perform at 100 percent – a huge worry considering his staple is playing at high speed and using his change of direction moves to get into the paint.
From the Spurs’ point of view, they now possess more weapons to throw at the all-conquering Heat crew.
French national Boris Diaw is performing at a high level and his versatility on the offensive end allows both Parker and Ginobili to do some work off the ball.
Italian sharpshooter Marco Belinelli adds serious scoring punch off the bench and Australia’s own pocket dynamo Patrick Mills provides the Spurs with some three-point shooting and a serious level of energy and excitement.
Fellow Aussie Aron Baynes, who hails from Cairns, has also played some cameo roles but with Miami likely to play more ‘small-ball’ line-ups, the bustling big man may not see huge playing time.
San Antonio’s consistently high achievements are personified by one man above anyone else – Tim Duncan.
Duncan’s greatness is underrated by those who don’t truly appreciate basketball.
‘make no mistake, the scene is set and previous scripts have been played out in front of the world.’
For his ever-growing list of accolades, the Wake Forest graduate’s true powers lie in his consistency.
From 1998, only in 2011 and 2012 did Duncan miss the All-NBA first, second or third teams – a feat matched by no other in his era.
As much as Parker has a speed and scoring advantage in the open court, as much as Ginobili’s European flare gives the Spurs and edge and as much as you think the depth players (Leonard, Splitter, Mills, Joseph, Green, Diaw) are more talented than Miami’s, it’s Duncan who will decide San Antonio’s fate.
His presence in the paint must be limited by Chris Bosh – otherwise, Duncan will guide his teammates to yet another Spurs title.
On the opposing bench, coach Erik Spoelstra possesses two of basketball’s top 20 players.
James is arguably (some may try to mount a case for Durant) the world’s premier player and has been for some time whilst Wade – now well past his best but still capable of greatness – provides James with the NBA’s best wing-man.
Miami rely incredibly heavily on LeBron for everything they do. On any given night, he may lead them in every statistical category.
The Heat are filled with veterans who plug a gap and are always ready to play when Spoelstra calls their number.
Forward Udonis Haslem is a prime example, often not seeing any court time for weeks at a time, only to see himself starting in an Eastern Conference finals match.
Savvy vets in Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen and even the younger Mario Chalmers also pick their spots and chime in when LeBron, Wade and Bosh need a hand.
This year’s Finals has seven-game series written all over it.
It’s the finely-tuned team game of the Spurs versus the super-stardom of the Heat.
While most people will say team wins out over individuals every time, the NBA is a funny game and most analysts agree that the team with the best player usually wins.
My take – it will take every inch of brilliance that LeBron and the Heat have to overcome a determined, fire-up Spurs outfit still reeling from the one that got away in 2013.
But, as happens in the NBA, King James’s all-around game will come to the fore and with plenty of help from Wade, Bosh, Allen and Chalmers, the Heat will make it a three-peat.
And you only need to ask someone from the Brisbane Lions how hard it is to win three in a row!
Enjoy your NBA Finals basketball.
Feature image via Flickr – Keith Allison.