All season long, both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have zeroed in on this experience.
For the he Heat, it’s a chance to achieve the history they seek in the form of becoming the only NBA team over nearly the last two decades besides Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers to bag three straight titles.
For the Spurs, it’s all about redemption, a chance to atone for the one they still believe they let slip from their hands last season after leading the series 3-2 and being up by five points with less than 30 seconds remaining before Ray Allen capped off a furious rally with a three that forced overtime and propelled the Heat to victory in the last two games enroute to securing the crown.
So maddening was the experience it’s even moved the almost always reticent Tim Duncan to fire off the first verbal salvos heading into rematch and Thursday’s Game 1 in San Antonio.
“We’ll do it this time,” Duncan assured ESPN. “It’s unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss that we had last year, but we’re back here.”
Granted, Duncan’s trash-talking skills won’t ever be confused with the likes of the loquacious Lance Stephenson, but when the The Big Fundamental speaks, people tend to listen. And that includes the Heat Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“We know we still have work to do, but we won’t take this for granted,” said James. Added Wade “the two best teams will meet,” said Wade, every bit as excited as the 38-year-old Duncan about the chance to again be certified as the league’s best. “We’re just happy and excited that we’re one of the best.”
It was almost fitting that the two Miami Heat stars almost talked in lockstep for that’s precisely the way they operated in leading the Heat past the Pacers and before them the Nets and Bobcats. Overall, Miami is now 12-3 in the playoffs with James averaging 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Wade 19 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Led by Duncan (17 points and nine rebounds) and Tony Parker (17 points and five assists), the Spurs haven’t been quite as dominant, arriving at the Finals with a 12-6 overall mark. And as Game 1 looms, they could be at an even greater disadvantage, what with Parker nursing a bad angle that kept him sidelined for much of the Spurs’ Game 6 series-clinching win over the Thunder.
The two teams split a pair of games this season, each easily winning on their home court. Overall for the Spurs, the trip marks the franchise’s sixth to the Finals but first in back-to-back seasons. Miami will be making its fifth Finals trip and fourth straight.
The Spurs were 11-3 in games Parker didn’t play this season, giving San Antonio fans some reason for optimism even if the veteran point guard is at less than 100 percent. But with adrenaline being what it is chances are Parker will definitely be in the mix.
It’s the moment both teams have pointed to all season long.