So now we finally get the Finals, after another Ming Dynasty-length NBA season. And it's the Old Guard vs. the Current Rage.
The Old Guard, of course, is 37-year-old Tim Duncan and a San Antonio Spurs' core that's been together almost a decade now, and yet has somehow found new life. In Gregg Popovich, they have the best coach in pro buckets. In Tony Parker, they have the best point guard in the league. And when they're right, watching them play the game is like listening to Mozart.
And the Current Rage?
Well, that's the Heat, of course, LeBron and Them Others. The seven-game series with the Pacers exposed them as something less than the juggernaut they seemed earlier in the season, a team supremely vulnerable to quality inside play and lacking a quality big man.
That said ... I like the Heat. In seven.
I like the Heat because the 2-3-2 schedule, with the Heat holding the homecourt advantage, favors Miami. And I like it because, for the all the struggles it had with Roy Hibbert and David West, San Antonio isn't that kind of team. Duncan, peerless as he is, plays a different sort of game. The Spurs' other components are different, too -- which means Chris Bosh, who virtually disappeared in the Pacers series, should find more room maneuver against the Spurs.
If Parker can continue to play the way he's played so far, and Manu Ginobili recovers a form that has mostly been missing so far, the Spurs can win this. But, in the end, this comes down to what it always comes down to: LeBron.
He's the undisputed best player in the game, and neither the Spurs nor anyone else has an antidote for him. Every night he shows up to play, the Heat is going to win. It's that simple.
And the odds of LeBron not showing up four times in the next seven games are not good. And so ...
Heat. In seven.