One of the understood prices of being an NBA fan is that the playoffs last forever. With 16 teams making the postseason, four rounds of play, each round lasting a potential 7 games, and rest/travel days needed between each match-up, the end product is a two-month tournament for a sport predicated on speed and tempo.
But by the time you get to an NBA Finals like the one we have this year, man is it worth it.
LeBron James – greatest player on Earth.
Tim Duncan – arguably the best player of his generation.
The Miami Heat – a finely-tuned basketball machine looking for consecutive titles.
The San Antonio Spurs – a pristinely run model of a basketball franchise, as close to a modern-day hoops dynasty as we have.
Let’s take a look from a record-breaking perspective at these two getting together, starting with Game 1 Thursday night in Miami.
As is the case with anything Miami, this series starts and ends with James. In the phenom’s first career finals appearance, he fell to these same Spurs, albeit with a much less talented Cleveland Cavaliers team, in 2007.
James is coming off another masterful performance in Miami’s Game 7 win over the Indiana Pacers, which got the Heat into the Finals. With his 32 points, James maintained his best-ever points per game average in NBA Game 7s, with a career 33.8 ppg in series’ ultimate deciders, having played in four of them.
And, oh yeah, he can do things like this.
That kind of singular talent gives the Heat a trump card over every opponent.
THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL
That’s Tim Duncan’s famous nickname, as bestowed upon him by Shaquille O’Neal many moons ago. The meaning is explicit: Duncan does nothing flashy on the court. But he also does almost nothing wrong. And he wins.
Duncan helped lead the Spurs to a title in just his second season in 1999. He has since gone on to win four Larry O'Briens in his 16 years. He owns records for the most career playoff blocks (506) and has formed a historic partnership with head coach Gregg Popovich. The duo have the most career playoff wins by a player-coach pair, and hope to now add four more to their record 129. If Duncan caps his season with a great finals and wins MVP, he would incredibly match Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the longest duration between first and last NBA Finals MVP awards at 14 years.
Despite two titles in eight seasons and three straight Finals trips, the Heat enter this final with a much less established pedigree than the Spurs. Miami has shown its brilliance this season, winning 27 straight games at one point and falling just six victories shy of matching the NBA’s longest-ever winning streak.
But San Antonio has been to this stage before, and have brought the house down every time. Not only do the Spurs own the highest winning percentage in NBA Finals history (16-6, .727), but they trail only the Michael Jordan-fueled Chicago Bulls for most trips to the NBA Finals without losing the series (Bulls: 6-0; Spurs: 4-0). And the Spurs are guided by the miserly maestro Popovich, who holds the record for most career playoff wins by a coach with the same team, at 130 all with the Silver and Black.
Should be an amazing series with a lot of history and records on the line. Needless to say, we here at GWR will be watching every minute.