First, here's a rundown of the series schedule:
Game 1, Thursday, 9 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
Game 2, Sunday, 8 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
Game 3, Tuesday, 9 p.m., AT&T Center
Game 4, Thursday, 9 p.m., AT&T Center
Game 5, Sunday, 8 p.m., AT&T Center
Game 6, Tuesday, 9 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
Game 7, Thursday, 9 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena
So, here's three storylines rolling around in my head on this off day before the madness begins...
PREPARE FOR A LOVE FEST
Savor that Eastern Conference finals and all of its built-in conflict. Build up for the NBA Finals will likely be a love fest between the Heat and Spurs. The competition: Which team can give its opponent a nicer compliment before the games begin?
LeBron James idolizes Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and Coach Pop will be lauding praise upon LeBron like he's the second coming of Hermes, the Greek god of athletics.
Seriously, this series would have been a lot more interesting if Stephen Jackson were still around. Oh, well.
THEY KNEW ALL ALONG
It's almost like the Heat and Spurs knew they were going to meet in The Finals all along. Popovich famously sent his leading scorers home for the Heat's home game against the Spurs this season. Erik Spoelstra returned the favor in San Antonio, resting LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on March 31.
The Heat won both regular-season matchups, and both games were fascinating in different ways. The Heat needed a clutch three-pointer by Ray Allen to knock off the Spurs in Miami despite San Antonio playing without its six leading scorers. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Dany Green weren't even with the team and Kawhi Leonard didn't play. The Spurs started Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills and nearly won the game. Gary Neal led the Spurs with 20 points off the bench. Neal is averaging 5.5 points per game in the playoffs.
In conclusion, good luck analyzing this series based on the regular-season matchups. It's pointless!
Leonard is the Spurs' version of Pacers forward Lance Stephenson, only Leonard is already an established NBA standout and is better than Stephenson in every way. How Leonard matches up with LeBron defensively will be a key to the series.
For the Heat, the 'X' factor is Dwyane Wade. If he plays like he did in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, then the Heat might have the edge in the series. For his career, Wade enters The Final averaging 24.9 points in 14 games against the Spurs.