Monday, June 24, 2013

2013 NBA Draft Could Look Like 2002 or 2000 Draft

Charlotte made Melvin Ely a lottery pick in 2002
I'm an NBA Draft nut, but even I am not excited about this Thursday's draft.  It lacks the sizzle that most drafts have (including last year's) and is a bad prequel to what should be an amazing draft in 2014.  That draft will most likely feature the star power of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle among others.

Thursday's draft has none of that.  The most likely top pick is Nerlens Noel, a guy who blew out his knee and may not be ready for the beginning of the season.  I only wish the Portland Trail Blazers had the top pick so it would get me excited.  If Noel doesn't go No. 1, it could be Maryland's Alex Len ... a guy who couldn't even crack the All-ACC team this past year.  It could be Kansas' Ben McLemore, a guy who just isn't impressing scouts.  Honestly, it could be anyone and no one will be in awe of that individual.

This will be a draft of role players ... and that isn't a bad thing.  I've always been big on seeing the NBA Draft as that: you have a few future superstars, a couple of All-Star guys and several guys who could either have a long career or one that they shine for a bit and then fade out.  We just watched a Finals where guys like Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard played key roles for their teams.  They can't all be LeBrons.

However, who really knows who those guys will be.  It could be a Reggie Bullock who finds a long career as a sharpshooter (maybe a Danny Green?), or Otto Porter as a two-way player (Kawhi Leonard?), or a Trey Burke in a Gary Neal type role. 

It reminds me of the 2002 Draft.  In that draft, there was one true super star in Yao Ming.  There's nothing like that here for a variety of reasons.  Only three players other than Yao made an All-Star team: Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler and Carlos Boozer.  Boozer was a 2nd round pick.

That draft was filled with guys who have made decent careers.  Guys like Nene, Tayshaun Prince, Drew Gooden, Mike Dunleavy, Matt Barnes and Luis Scola.  Udonis Haslem went undrafted that year.  It was also filled with guys like Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Dajuan Wagner, Melvin Ely, Marcus Haislip and Fred Jones.  P.S., those guys were all lottery picks.

The 2000 Draft was nearly as bad.  Only Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire and Michael Redd made an All-Star appearance during their careers from that draft.  There were guys like Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, DeShawn Stevenson, Eddie House and even Eduardo Najera that forged a career. 

Or this could be as bad a draft as the one waaaaaaaay back in 2011.  That was the draft that scared away the top prospects due to an impending NBA labor battle.  Because of that, these guys were picked in the top 10:  Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo and Jimmer Fredette.  There have been diamonds in the rough like Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried, MarShon Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Norris Cole and Chandler Parsons.  Kyrie Irving, the top overall pick, is a stud.  Klay Thompson is turning into one.  Kemba Walker is progressing nicely.  Outside of that, there's no one to be ecstatic about.

So as your favorite team drafts on Thursday, don't get caught up in any hype.  Just hope this guy can at least help your team down the road when the guys you drafted last year and next year are able to be the stars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ranking the NBA Finals Game 7s

I was born in 1975, so there have been seven Game 7s in my NBA lifetime.  Although the Sonics-Bullets series was a bit before my understanding, I will rate how well these Game 7s were played.

One of the themes in Game 7s is sloppy play and bad shooting.  It is a combination of good defense and tight offensive play. 

#7      1984-CELTICS vs LAKERS:  While the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s was great as a whole, this lone Game 7 they were in was a bit dud-ish.  Cedric Maxwell was the man for the C's and not Hall Of Famers Bird, Parish, McHale or Dennis Johnson (those four combined for 68 points, but did so on 19-for-53 shooting).  For the Lakers, Kareem was huge with 29 points, but Magic Johnson had a bad shooting night and 7 turnovers.  While not a blowout, this one didn't have that close feeling. 

#6      2010-LAKERS vs CELTICS:  This game was close with two of the NBA's glamor franchises going at it.  But it wasn't a very well played game.  Boston held a 13-pt lead at one point, but poor shooting allowed the Lakers to come back.  Kobe Bryant, the Finals MVP, shot just 6-for-24 for the night, but was huge in the 4th quarter.  Still, not the greatest capper to a really good series. 

#5      1978-BULLETS vs SONICS: I obviously don't remember this series. But, reading the recap, it seems as this one was a pretty good one. This was the only time in my life that a road team won a Game 7 in the Finals. Neither team was great during the season (Seattle was a 4-seed; Washington was a 3-seed). This series followed the same format as the one you just watched: Seattle won games 1, 3 and 5 like the Spurs did with Washington winning game 2, 4, 6 and 7 like the Heat. Okay, on to the actual Game 7.

Game 7 took play 18 days after Game 1 as the NBA stretched the series out (it is the longest postseason series in actual time of the major sports). Dennis Johnson, like he did for the Celtics in 1984, had a bad game. He was 0-for-14 from the field.  The Bullets came into the 4th with a 13-point lead, but nearly coughed it up.  Big plays down the stretch by Mitch Kupchak and Wes Unseld clinched the win.

#4      2005-SPURS vs PISTONS:  This is what you want: a tie game going into the 4th quarter.  The Spurs would win by 7, but it was the run they went on that did it.  The Pistons held a 9-pt lead in the 3rd before Tim Duncan led San Antonio out of the fire.  He was big with 25 points and 12 boards.  As the theme goes, the Pistons were bad in this one.  Rip Hamilton led them in scoring with just 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting (Tayshawn Prince went 4-of-13).  Detroit shot just 41.9% for the game.  The Spurs weren't much better, shooting 42.6% (Duncan's big night came on 10-of-27 shooting).

#3      1994-ROCKETS vs KNICKS:  When we talk about bad shooting Game 7s, John Starks tops the list.  His horrid 2-of-18 shooting night against the Rockets is largely blamed by fans as the reason New York lost this series.  But everyone seemed to shoot poorly (NY went 39% in this one).  However, this game was close all the way through and featured the last great big man Finals battle in Olajawon and Ewing so that ranks it pretty high. 

#2      2013-HEAT vs SPURS:  A very, very good game.  It was close throughout with with Tim Duncan missing a hook shot and tip in late to tie the game.  LeBron James was dominant with 37 points and 12 boards.  Neither team really got out to a huge lead and there were huge plays down the stretch by James and Shane Battier. 

#1      1988-LAKERS vs PISTONS:  What a game and what a series.  Unlike most of the games on this list, bad shooting wasn't a factor.  The Pistons shot 46% while the Lakers shot an amazing 55.8%.  This was a game of runs.  Detroit got off early with Isiah Thomas and led at the half by five.  The Lakers then went off with Michael Cooper raining threes and led 90-75 late.  Then, the Pistons caught fire and made a huge comeback (25-12 run) to get within a bucket.  The Lakers gave them opportunites but Detroit just couldn't get over.  Big Game James Worthy had 36 pts, 16 rbs and 10 ast. 

Stop Calling The 2013 NBA Finals "Classic"!

The 2013 NBA Finals were really good ... just not classic.  Game 6 was a classic and Games 1 and 7 were very competitive, but there were four big-time blowouts in this series and that makes me hesitant to call this one of the great Finals.

Two main reasons why I cannot call this a classic series:

BLOWOUTS:  The middle four games were blowouts with two of the games just embarrassingly bad.  The Miami Heat had a 27-point lead at one point in Game 2 before winning by 19.  In Game 3, the San Antonio Spurs beat Miami by 36 points ... one of the worst Finals beatdowns in history.  In Game 4, Miami took control of the game in the second half and won by 16.  Game 5 saw a reversal, with the Spurs taking the game over with a huge lead before winning by 'only' ten.

Sure, Game 6 was a classic and Game 7 was close.  Those two games ... plus the fact that the series didn't see one team win consecutive games until those final two games ... make people believe the series was great.  The series was close, but the games weren't. 

REALLY, REALLY BAD PLAY:  Look, guys have bad series and games within series.  It has happened in every Finals.  But this one was very odd in how bad these superstars had looked. 

Just look at Game 7 for example.  Chris Bosh finished with ZERO points. Miami starters Bosh and Mike Miller, along with super sub Ray Allen combined for 0 points on 0-14 shooting in Game 7.  Tony Parker, who was the leading candidate for Finals MVP if the Spurs won, shot 3-for-12 in this one.  Danny Green went 1-for-12.

Manu Ginobili was horrible in nearly every game (Game 5 was the obvious exception).  Dwyane Wade had some very subpar games.  Aside from Parker early, Duncan late and LeBron James' performance, the star power had a lot of blackouts. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ranking The Last 25 NBA Finals

#25 - LAKERS VS NETS (2002):  To me, this was the worst Finals.  It wasn't just that this was a sweep (though it factors), it is just that this series felt like a formality while you were watching it.  Sure, three of the games were close, but it just didn't feel like the Lakers even took this series seriously. 

#24 - PISTONS VS LAKERS (1989):  This should have been epic.  The Lakers surged into the Finals after sweeping their first three series.  The Pistons had the best record in the league and we were staring at a rematch of one of the greatest Finals in history.  Well, that crashed when Byron Scott missed the entire series with a hamstring injury, then Magic Johnson getting hurt early in Game 2 and missed the rest of the series.  The Lakers were game, but with just Michael Cooper as their backcourt veteran, they were no match for that Isiah Thomas-Joe Dumars-Vinny Johnson backcourt.

#23 - SPURS VS CAVALIERS (2007):   Neither team was great (Spurs finished 3rd in the West; Cavs won just 50 games) but this was a three-time champion Spurs against soon-to-be-legend LeBron James and his Cavaliers.  The Spurs handled the Cavs in the first two games, then eeked out the final two games in Cleveland. This was a ratings nightmare.  Despite having King James in it, nobody watched. 

#22 - PISTONS VS LAKERS (2004):  This felt like a "5-game sweep" as the Pistons dominated the heavily favored Lakers and let Game 2 get away on a Kobe Bryant three-pointer with two seconds left.  The Pistons were a bland, hardworking bunch with no superstars.  The Lakers, however, were a complete spectacle all season long (the addition of Karl Malone and Gary Payton, Kobe's rape trial, Shaq's threats to leave) and it all crumbled during and following this series.  That's what people remember. 

#21 - SPURS VS KNICKS (1999):  The Asterisk Championship for the Spurs.  The NBA's lockout meant the season was only 50 games long.  It was the year after Michael Jordan retired.  And the Spurs played the Knicks in the Finals ... the only #8 seed to make it to the Finals.  The Knicks were bad, not scoring more than 89 points during the series and scoring 77 points or fewer in three of the games.  San Antonio wasn't much better, scoring over 89 just once.  Other than the closeout game, none of these games were particularly close. 

#20 - LAKERS VS MAGIC:  This was a close series of sorts, though the Lakers won it in five.  Game 4 was the classic.  The Lakers made a huge comeback which included a huge Derek Fisher three-pointer to send the game into OT.  There, the Lakers dominated and took a commanding 3-1 series lead.  The Lakers cruised to a title three days later. 

#19 - SPURS VS NETS (2003):  This was kind of like the Spurs-Knicks series four years earlier, except that the Nets gave a good fight.  Hard to believe, but Game 4 in New Jersey wasn't even a sellout.  Unreal.  Just like fans in the Garden State, fans at home didn't feel like watching this either.  It was the lowest rated Finals until the Spurs/Cavaliers series in 2007. 

#18 - LAKERS VS SIXERS (2001):  The Lakers went 15-1 in this postseason, though their only loss was in Game 1 to Philadelphia.  That Game 1 was epic, as Allen Iverson scored 48 pts and Shaq scoring 44.  Both Shaq and Iverson had big series, but the Lakers pretty much skated to their second straight championship. 

#17 - BULLS VS SUPERSONICS (1996):  This was the 72-win Bulls with the new Jordan dynasty.  I thought this would've been a great series, but the Bulls blew out to a 3-0 series lead.  Seattle did salvage the next two at home before the Bulls finally put the Sonics out of their misery. 

#16 - ROCKETS VS MAGIC (1995):  Shaq vs Hakeem in the Finals.  Wow.  Nick Anderson's missed free throws kept open a window for Hakeem to tip in the game winner of Game 1.  Anderson was mud after that.  This series was a sweep, but three of the games were very close.  Hakeem's tip in, Horry's three to win Game 3 and a huge fourth quarter run to close out the series. 

#15 - HEAT VS THUNDER (2012):  What was billed as the future of the Finals, LeBron James and Kevin Durant met on the biggest stage with a title on the line.  After an impressive Game 1 win, the Thunder would go on to lose every game the rest of the way.  The Big Three got their championship together ... so haters would have to hate harder and LeBron fans felt validated.

#14 - SPURS VS PISTONS (2005):  This, along with the Lakers-Celtics series in 2010, is the only matchup of teams on this list that had won a championship recently.  This did go 7 games, though this was filled with bad games.  There was a 31-pt win, a 21-pt win, a 17-pt win, a 15-pt win and a 9-pt win.  There was that great Game 5 -- a swing game with the series tied 2-2 -- when Robert Horry willed an overtime win and the series lead.  Game 7 was close, with the game tied heading into the 4th quarter. 

#13 -  LAKERS VS PACERS (2000):  This was the Lakers first championship in the post-Magic Johnson era.  Of their three-peat, this was the best series, though uneven.  Games 1, 3 and 5 were blowouts (the Lakers lost Game 5, where they could've won the title, by 33 points).  The memorable game was pivotal Game 4.  The game went into overtime with 21-year old Kobe Bryant hitting clutch shots (Shaq had fouled out) to give the Lakers a big 3-1 series lead.  The Pacers nearly sent it to a 7th game, but the Lakers made a late run to clinch the title. 

#12 - BULLS VS LAKERS (1991):  The changing of the guard.  After Sam Perkins stunned the Bulls in Game 1 at Chicago Stadium, Michael Jordan (and that "impossible move") took over from there.  In Game 3 at the Forum, Jordan and the Bulls dominated in overtime to win Game 3 and would coast to their first NBA title.

#11 - MAVERICKS VS HEAT (2011):  This series will be best remembered as the one where LeBron James just didn't show up for the Heat late in games.  It was a 2-2 series before Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry carried the Mavs the rest of the way. 

#10 - PISTONS VS BLAZERS (1990):  While only a five-game series, four of them were nail biters.  After a Pistons win in Game 1, Portland stole an overtime game to even the series.  After blowing out Portland in Game 3, the Pistons eeked out a 3 and 2 point win the capture their second title.  This was also sad as this was the last game with the NBA of CBS, which I personally grew up on. 

#9 - CELTICS VS LAKERS (2008):  This was a both a surprise and pleasant matchup of the two NBA glamor franchises.  The Celtics were back from the dead after getting their Big 3 together.  The Lakers made a steal of a trade for Pau Gasol to get back.  But the Celtics were ready.  A hard fought series that saw Paul Pierce wheelchaired off the court only to come back two minutes later and hit a couple of threes.  And then the Celtics clincher happened: a 39 point beatdown of the Lakers. 

#8 - HEAT VS MAVERICKS (2006):  This was the first non-Lakers/Spurs Finals since 1998 and the first to see new blood in the Finals since 1971.  A weird series.  The Maverics owned the first two games in Dallas.  Miami ... namely Dwyane Wade ... owned the rest of the series.  Games 3, 5 and 6 were nail biters that featured phantom fouls, an illegal timeout and a parade of Wade free throws.  Oh, and Dirk Nowitzki kicking the ball into the stands.  It was great theater and Miami's first NBA Championship. 
#7 - BULLS VS JAZZ (1998):  This series is always remembered for Jordan's final shot.  It was also a series filled with close games.  Game 1 went into overtime, Game 2 was won by the Bulls by 5 and Games 4 through 6 were won by 4, 2 and 1, respectively.  But this also had the dud of Chicago's 96-54 blowout of Game 3.  That was one of the ugliest Finals game I had ever witnessed.  The Jazz set a record for lowest point total for any NBA game since the shot clock (the record has since been broken).  The Bulls also held a 3-1 series lead before Utah saved face in Chicago.  Then Jordan's shot in Game 6. 

#6 - BULLS VS BLAZERS (1992):  People remember Jordan shrugging off those six first half three-pointers.  But this was a good series.  It was tied 2-2 when Jordan erupted for 46 points in Game 5 to take control of the series. 

#5 - BULLS VS JAZZ (1997):  I am actually ranking this series higher than the 1998 edition.  The teams had better regular season records, both teams cruised into the Finals and the series was closer.  In this one, the Bulls won the first two games in Chicago while the Jazz won the next two in Utah.  With the series tied 2-2, Chicago won Game 5 ... aka the Jordan Flu Game ... to take the series lead back to Chicago.  The Jazz had a big lead late in Game 6 before Steve Kerr hit the go ahead shot late and Scottie Pippen made a key defensive play to seal the deal.

#4 - ROCKETS VS KNICKS (1994):  This was a very defensive Finals that may be best remembered for a weird Game 5 that saw NBC cut to coverage of O.J. Simpson in his white Ford Bronco.  This was billed as the Hakeem vs Ewing series (these two met in the 1984 NCAA Tournament Final), but Olajawon totally outplayed his counterpart.  It all ended with a wild Game 7 that saw John Starks go 2-of-18 from the field.  As an aside, this series had a weird feel.  It was the first NBA Finals that didn't have the Lakers, Celtics, Pistons or Bulls in it since 1979.

#3 - LAKERS VS CELTICS (2010):   This, along with the 2005 Spurs/Pistons series, is the only on this list to feature the last two champions facing off.  This one was wild.  Though no game outside of Game 7 to be a nail-biter, this was a physical, chippy series.  We saw Ray Allen hit an NBA Finals record 8 three-pointers in Game 2 ... and then couldn't drop it in the ocean over the next few games.  Boston actually held a 3-2 lead before losing the series in 7. 

#2 - BULLS VS SUNS (1993):  Jordan vs Barkley.  That epic triple-OT Game 3.  Jordan going for 55 in one game.  John Paxson's game winner.  Epic series.  By the way, Michael Jordan averaged 41 points per game for this series.  Unreal.

#1 - LAKERS VS PISTONS (1988):  The oldest series on this list was also the best.  It went the full 7 games.  The Lakers would get the NBA's first repeat since the Celtics of the 1960s.  Game 5 at the Pontiac Silverdome had over 40,000 fans there.  And the classic Game 6 where Thomas scored 25 points in the 3rd quarter, Magic had 19 assists and about 100 scuffles.  A classic series ended with a tough as nails closeout Game 7 with the Lakers holding on for the title.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

P.J. Hairston Arrest in North Carolina Makes Me Sick

For the entire start to the back story, read up on it here.  The quick version is that P.J. Hairston ... UNC's top player for the upcoming 2013-14 college basketball season ... was pulled over at a checkpoint.  He and his riding buddies were in a rental car (they are all under 25) found with weed, cigars, no drivers licence and apparently someone threw a gun out the window. 

There are tons of layers to this.  In the beginning, we only knew about the weed and the lack of a license.  While it is disappointing and somewhat serious, it wasn't enough to banish the kid and ruin his life.  While a serious mistake, it isn't the kind that needs to be severely punished.  But the part of the report about the gun is quite a different story.  Now there are a ton of questions that must be answered if Hairston is going to be able to make this go away and continue his Tar Heels career.

Fanboys are hitting message boards with two main arguments: "Kick him off the team" or "who cares, I just want to see him draining threes".  Anti-Heels fans are having a field day with this, especially on the "heels" of all the academic issues the school has had over the past five years. 

As a lifelong North Carolina fan who grew up in Charlotte ... I'm sick of this!

I hate this.  I hate what has happened to the program Dean Smith built.  Sure, UNC was great before Smith, but he inherited a mess like this and turned it around.  I'm not saying this is Roy Williams fault or anything and I'm not saying Tar Heels in the past haven't made mistakes, but whatever has happened of late is troubling.  I don't like it.

Let me be clear.  I know that what Hairston did has absolutely nothing to do with the university (as of now) aside from the punishment to be handed out.  Right now, this was solely Hairston's bad decision that UNC and its fans have to deal with.  However, the rental car agreement could be huge for the school if it was paid for by someone like a booster or anyone associated with the school.  If so, the NCAA could come down hard on the school and the basketball program.

Even if it never gets to that point, as a whole I hate the stain these kinds of things are having on Carolina.

I'm not one of those people who shrugs this stuff off.  I don't think that everyone is doing it so it's not a huge deal if we have problems.  But it bothers me.  It makes me sick.  I don't like it.  And as the one Tar Heel fan that people who I live around and work with know, I want them to understand I don't condone this nor make an excuse for Hairston.

I also understand both ends of this.  That may have not been Hairston's marijuana or gun and, though he didn't have a license, he may have had his parents (who reside in Greensboro) sign for his rental car.  He may not be as guilty as it looks.  However, he could be and this may not be the first time he's been in these kinds of situations but just the first time he's been caught. 

As far as Hairston, I'd hate for his life to be ruined by being kicked off the basketball team or the school if it was a marijuana possession or even driving without a license.  A punishment should come, but nothing that will ruin him.  If the gun possession comes back as his or even stolen and/or the rental car comes up as paid for by a booster or something, then I cannot argue with him being dismissed from the team.  Yes, it would be a blow to the team as far as his talent and role on it, but being a Tar Heel hoops player is a privilege.  He earned it.  But like anything earned, it can be taken away by bad decisions and actions.

I'm sure Roy Williams has told P.J. this, but I want to reiterate.  Hairston nearly went into the NBA Draft this year and may have had designs on entering next year -- or at the very worst an NBA career when he graduates.  While he's a very good player, he isn't the superstud that NBA teams can overlook character issues.  If driving around with guns and drugs is worth losing all of that for, then I guess he wouldn't care if the school kicked him off the team. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sportz' NBA Finals Pick

We're at the NBA Finals and I couldn't be more bummed.  We get the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.

As a Lakers fan, the Spurs have been our biggest rival over the past 15 years.  Since the Jordan Era ended in 1998, the Lakers and Spurs have combined to win 9 of 14 championships and have represented the Western Conference in 11 of 14 Finals.  I respect them, but I don't want to see them match the Lakers five rings since 1998.

On the other side is the Heat.  I guess you could call me a hater.  I didn't like the way The Decision went down, though I cannot fault him for leaving Cleveland. I'm a fan of most of LeBron's game, just not a fan of LeBron. 

So this is a tough Finals to root for a team.  Usually there's a nice story, an underdog or a UNC players (well, the Spurs have Danny Green) that I will find myself pulling for.  Other than Green, I don't have that.  What I do have is what I like: two teams who are already champions that are fighting for another championship.  Usually ... especially in the NBA ... that means a very special series.

It is kind of rare nowadays.  The last time we had this was 2010 when the Lakers, who were defending champions, beat the Celtics, who won the title in 2008, in an epic 7-game series.  We got it 2005 when the defending champion Detroit Pistons lost to the San Antonio Spurs (who won it in 2003 and 1999) in ... yes ... a 7-game series. 

That has been it.  Before those series, you'd have to go back to those epic Magic-Bird matchups in the mid-1980s for battles between two former champions and we all know how special those series were.  So I figure this will be the same.  Neither will be scared.  Neither will get caught up in the moment.  Home court is honestly just a nice way to say where the game is being played and not some spooky deterent for the road team.

I'm not going to use this space to break down every matchup, every player, every minute detail or spout a bunch of factoids.  It is a series of ideals and wills.  That's it.

MIAMI:  One thing that works against them is that they've just come off a 7-game series with the physical Indiana Pacers.  They just had two days off while the Spurs have had 9-days of rest.  The Heat are younger, but Wade has been banged up and could've used an extra day or two to heal up.  One good thing is that they are done with the Pacers and Bulls.  Those two are matchup problems for Miami and the Heat struggled to dismiss both teams.  The Spurs aren't that kind of team.  Miami can get back to their "spread offense" of LeBron at the power forward, Chris Bosh at center, Wade at wing and a couple of shooters hanging out at the arc.  They couldn't against Indiana due to the Pacers size and that messed with their rhythm. 

This isn't to say that the Spurs are an easier matchup.  No.  But they do allow for the Heat to play Heat basketball and not have to play odd-ball lineups just to stay alive.  Ray Allen and Shane Battier will see more minutes in this series while Chris Andersen and Joel Anthony will not.

SAN ANTONIO:  Rest vs Rust.  That is the question when anyone gets an extended layoff between playoff rounds.  In the Spurs case, I'm not as concerned with it.  This is a veteran bunch who have been through this before and, let's face it, could use the rest anyway.  Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are playing at elite levels and Manu Ginobili can kill you at any moment.  They also have bodies to throw at LeBron, though none of them will stop him.  Still, it isn't like the Pacers who had to use Paul George, their best player, to guard him nearly the entire game. 

Also, this is a mentally strong team while Miami has shown, at times, to lack that.  Yeah, they are the defending champions, but we've seen LeBron cower in the 2011 Finals, Wade and coach Eric Spoelstra get into it in the 2012 playoffs and a bit of a power struggle between LeBron and Wade in the Pacers series last week.  And who knows where Chris Bosh's head is at after a horrible series with Indiana. 

WHO WINS:  Again, this should be a close series.  Home court means nothing as both these teams can win on the road.  Miami hasn't faced a big man as skilled as Duncan this postseason.  They haven't played a point guard like Parker.  These two will give Miami problems.  The Ginobili-Wade matchup will be something to see, too.

But on the other side, the Spurs dominated the Lakers and Grizzlies who aren't outside shooting teams.  The Warriors were, and the Spurs had a ton of problems with them.  Miami can be the same thing.  If the Spurs struggle to contain LeBron, he will find guys like Battier, Allen, Mike Miller, Wade and Bosh open for shots.  And those guys can knock them down. 

The Miami Heat will win this series in 6 games.