When the Spurs made the 2014 Finals last weekend, Popovich couldn’t hide his appreciation for his players, marveling at their ability to bury such a catastrophic defeat.
The Spurs are favored, barely, thanks to their home-court advantage and a season spent mastering small ball. With Marco Belinelli and a rejuvenated Ginobili, the Spurs are deeper and craftier than ever. And a now-healthy Leonard has blossomed into a fantastic two-way player and a worthy foil for LeBron. The 2014 Spurs are definitely better than the 2013 Spurs. Also helping: The 2014 Heat are slightly worse than last year’s team — Wade isn’t the same anymore, their role players have been increasingly unreliable, and there’s a decent chance that the Eastern Conference was more dreadful than we thought. If you’re picking Miami this series, it’s because of LeBron and LeBron only. He’s at the peak of his powers. That’s an excellent reason, by the way.
But there’s a karmic element that normal NBA Finals just don’t have.
You might remember that sadness drifting into the final minute of Game 7, right after Duncan missed what would have been a game-tying bunny over Shane Battier that he’s probably made 24,326 times in his life. Duncan jogged back downcourt in abject disbelief, like someone staggering away from an accident.
Everyone in the arena could read Duncan’s mind. How did we blow this? How? How did that happen? The great Tim Duncan thought he had squandered his last chance.
And here’s how fast things can flip. Back in October 2003, the Red Sox choked away Game 7 in Yankee Stadium,
If the Spurs beat Miami, Allen’s 3 stops haunting them — and if that’s not enough, we’ll remember San Antonio as the greatest franchise of the post-Jordan era.