MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Four victories. That’s all that separates the San Antonio Spurs from furthering its dynasty, or the Miami Heat from an elite place in history.
The NBA Finals tip-off Thursday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena and there will be a plethora of storylines to follow as the Spurs and Heat battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
For LeBron James, he silenced many critics last year when he won his first championship. But while he is the greatest player on the planet today, to climb into the list of all-time greatest, multiple championship rings are required.
LeBron will face a well-rested Spurs team that thrives on great team defense. The Spurs have already taken down a James-led team once in 2007. But, the 2013 Heat team is vastly better and more talented than that 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers team that was swept out of the playoffs.
While LeBron is looking for his second championship ring, Spurs legend Tim Duncan will be looking for his fifth championship. Duncan is arguably the greatest power forward to eve play the game, but has never actively sought out the spotlight and like his coach, Gregg Popovich, shuns attention.
Still, both have helped establish the Spurs as arguably the best franchise of the last quarter-century. Since the 1989-1990 season, the Spurs have won 67 percent of their games and only had one losing season during that span, which was when David Robinson missed an entire season.
A fifth championship by the Spurs over the Heat, who had the best record in the league this year, will place the Spurs and Coach Popovich into truly elite company in the annals of NBA history.
One aspect of the game the Spurs will be focusing on is Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade. The legendary Heat guard has been dealing with knee problems for months now and it has severely limited his game.
The Spurs know how to take a team’s best player out of a game and if they can successfully do that, then the much of the scoring load will fall on Wade and fellow big three member Chris Bosh. If Wade doesn’t come in with the right mindset, as he said he didn’t in the conference finals until Game 7, and he and Bosh continue to struggle, then Miami could be in deep, deep trouble.
But if you’re looking for who may have the toughest jobs during the NBA Finals, look no further than Heat point guard Mario Chalmers and Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard. Chalmers will be tasked with guarding All-Star guard Tony Parker, who is playing at an MVP-level in the playoffs.
All Leonard has to do is try to shut down LeBron James. No pressure there.
The Spurs and Heat will tip-off the NBA Finals a little after 9 p.m. Thursday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena.