NBA Finals preview: Duncan, Spurs will beat Heat

NBA Finals preview: Duncan, Spurs will beat Heat
June 5, 2014, 9:30 am
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The Spurs will be smarter and deeper and, therefore, more resilient. The Heat bounced back from the brink of defeat last year to win in seven. Now it's the Spurs' turn.
Monte Poole

They provoke neither rage nor obsession, never have. Their highlights are dry, always have been. They have admirers worldwide, but the majority of their popularity is confined to a 100-square-mile area in south central Texas.

The Spurs simply run the quietest, cleanest and smoothest organization in American sports. As fashions come and go, they represent style. The Spurs, timeless and highly effective, are to basketball what Rolex is to the wristwatch.

They're wrinkling about the corners of the eyes. They sometimes look fatigued. They keep winning.

And they will beat the Heat.

San Antonio will win these NBA Finals, which represent the last run at a championship for the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan Spurs.

They've been written off before. Been told they're too old. Been told they're too slow. Been told they lack the required athleticism. How many times have we wondered how much longer the oldest core trio in the league could summon enough energy to stay with, much less suffocate, the league's younger and faster lions?

That won't be the case this time, though Miami was younger and faster last season but only appear to be so again when the Finals get under way Thursday night in San Antonio. The Spurs will be smarter and deeper and, therefore, more resilient.

The Heat bounced back from the brink of defeat last year to win in seven. Now it's the Spurs' turn.

Those who look at a Heat-Spurs matchup and think "rerun" are missing the point. This is the final chapter of one great team – and maybe two.

Duncan is 38 years old. Ginobili turns 37 in July. Popovich is 65. Tony Parker (32), Tiago Splitter (29) and Kawhi Leonard (24) represent a good core – with no chance of ever winning a championship.

Their time has to be now.

And it will be, partly because Miami suddenly, but surely, is on the dark side of its remarkable run.

Though LeBron James, 29, remains the best player in the game, Dwyane Wade is 32 with knees 20 years older. Ray Allen, still a threat, turns 39 in July. Chris Bosh is only 30, but . . . what on earth has happened to the man once considered among the league's top four power forwards?

Chris "Birdman" Andersen turns 36 next month, when Udonis Haslem turns 34. Shane Battier is 35, Rashard Lewis an old 34. The Heat are running on 'Bron Power, a partial Wade and a fraction of the CB4 last seen in Toronto. As much as I respect franchise architect Pat Riley and his ability to win championships, his last great draft pick was Wade in 2003.

The Spurs are old, the Heat older.

For so long, the Spurs have merrily defied historical borders. They don't bitch about being in a small market. They don't gripe about the scant national coverage they get relative to the Knicks and Lakers and Bulls and Celtics and, of course, Heat.

Like guys at the Y, the Spurs just put on their jerseys and take the court and play.

The Heat are the game's leading celebrities. They're two-time defending champs mostly because James is as dedicated a teammate as he is gifted as a player.

But time calls everyone, and both of these teams needed help to reach the Finals. The Heat benefitted from a weak conference and a Pacers club that disintegrated after 40 regular-season games. The Spurs needed seven games to oust the Mavericks in the first round. Would they have taken out the Thunder if not for the two games they won before the return of Serge Ibaka?

In a league where young legs always catch up and then surpass, the Spurs and the Heat are playing on borrowed time. They both know it.

Which is why this should be a great seven-game series. Nothing in sport delivers more innate and sustained drama than two extraordinary competitors fighting once more, while fully aware the career clocks will stop ticking at any second.

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