After days of talking and guessing and analyzing we finally get back to basketball tonight with Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals. Everyone has talked up what they think are the important parts of the series and made predictions so the staff of Pelican Debrief decided to do the same thing with a five question round table. Please feel free to leave your answers to all the questions in the comments below, I will make sure to keep track of everything and put up a recap post once the Finals are over.
1. Which player is the X-factor for Miami in the series?
Andrew: Ray Allen. If the Heat are going to win this series, the weight of scoring from the bench will be in Allen’s hands. Let’s hope he can summon upon his effort from Game 6 from last year to provide it.
Chris:Rashard Lewis. Funnily enough and despite not being relevant since he was in Orlando, Lewis became useful during the Pacers series. He can find some usefulness again in this series by allowing the Heat to go small while doing a decent enough job protecting them if the Spurs try to counter by going big.
Rick: Before the playoffs began I may have been tempted to say Greg Oden, but I’ll give Chris Anderson this slot. The man known as “Birdman” has been the most consistent player off the bench for the Heat, and against a Spurs team who isn’t afraid to pound the ball inside play after play, it will be up to Birdman to hold the paint down without a lot of other reliable big guys off the bench for Miami.
Matt: Chris Anderson. The Birdman struggled a bit in the Finals last season when asked to defend Tim Duncan and with Shane Battier being on his last legs that match-up may come up again. Birdman has to at least hold his own if Miami hopes to win the series.
2. Which player is the X-factor for San Antonio in the series?
Chris: Tiago Splitter has to have an impact. If he does the Spurs can have the upper hand the entire series.
Rick: This one has to be Danny Green. I wanted SO bad to say Boris Diaw, but Green’s effectiveness from behind the arc is hard to ignore. During these playoffs, Green is shooting 48.1% from behind the 3-point line and 48% from the field overall. They need him to be a lethal threat to help spread Miami’s defense out and give Duncan and Splitter bigger spots to post up the Miami bigs.
Matt: Patty Mills. Mills struggled at times during the series against the Thunder and with Tony Parker a bit banged up there is going to be a good chance he is more important than anyone ever expected. If he plays within himself and knocks down some threes he will play a big part in the result of this series.
3. Does Miami have to win one of the first two games to win the series?
Rick:The words “have to” make this tough to answer. Sure, they could win four out of the final five games left if they lose the first two, but how likely is that? The Spurs this playoffs have lost two games in a row twice, yet both times responded with 2 wins in a row of their own. The Heat went back and forth with this Spurs team last year. It would be very difficult for them to storm back after losing the first two games of the series with their age and wear of being in their 4th straight NBA Finals.
Matt: I actually think so. To win the series the Heat are going to have to win a road game and as Tony Parker gets healthier with time it will be tougher to get that win. If Miami wants a title they have to win one of the early games in San Antonio, the healthy Spurs are too good to beat four times in five games otherwise.
Andrew: No. The Heat have proven time and again that they can win pretty much whenever they want too. Fact of the matter is, if they don’t win one of the first two, they still have LeBron on their team.
Chris: No, I give them enough benefit of the doubt to be able to go back home and win both of those.
4. Who wins the series, in how many games, and why?
Matt: Miami in 7. I think the Spurs are better than last year and the Heat aren’t as good which probably means that San Antonio should take home a title. But I can’t shake the feeling that LeBron gives us one or two performances that go down in Finals history as some of the best ever. So I take Miami.
Andrew: Heat in 7. I can only hope this series is as fun as last year’s Finals. I think LeBron finally joins MJ and Kobe as greats who have three-peated
Chris: Heat in 7. Because I don’t know. I have about as much confidence in this pick as I have in Matt dunking a basketball. These two are a cut above the rest of the NBA and feel completely evenly matched. I will go with the Heat because they have the best player in the world but I can’t ignore the Spurs depth and far superior role players.
Rick: Spurs in 5. YEAH! Long story short last year I put some money on the Spurs in 6. That was difficult. This year, the Heat have an even older roster and no longer have Mike Miller. The Spurs have added Marco Bellineli, and while Gary Neal is no longer on the team, Patty Mills has done wonders in replacing him as the backup PG. The Spurs look fluent, while the Heat have to respond with certain players taking much bigger roles such as Rashard Lewis and James Jones. Also, last year’s playoffs were so much fun, what are the odds these teams play another ridiculous series?
5. Who wins Finals MVP?
Andrew:LeBron James. As I mentioned above, he’s chasing a legend and in my opinion, he’s a lot closer than some would think to sitting on the throne of the games greatest.
Chris: If the Heat win, LeBron. If the Spurs win, Tony Parker.
Rick: Tim Duncan. This guy is unreal. The Miami Heat really don’t have a player who can slow him down whatsoever. While Kawhi Leonard is at least a manageable mismatch to LeBron, Miami’s roster lacks anybody able to handle Tim Duncan‘s post game. He’s in store for a 20-10 like series…that is if Pop will actually keep him in the game long enough for him to chalk up those numbers.
Matt: I predicted above that LeBron would have legendary performances so I have to go with him. If the Spurs win the series though I think it comes on the back of Tim Duncan who wins the Finals MVP and rides of into the sunset.