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June 01, 2014

Predict Heat-Spurs NBA Finals. Who wins and in how many? Poll. Vote!; plus my 'orange jumpsuit' regret, Marino/Kelly, jilted Wozniacki & more

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 2. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Pacers. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Spurs-or-Thunder poll, Heat-Pacers Game 6, vote Stanton, Dolphins forecast, Scout Willis & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

HEAT-SPURS FINALS REMATCH: SAME RESULT, OR DIFFERENT?: The NBA prepares for its first Finals rematch since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls met (and twice beat) Karl Malone's Utah Jazz in 1997-98. 1aa1anbafinals 1aa1alenduncCan the Heat repeat for a three-peat? The oddsmakers doubt it. Miami is a 3 1/2-point underdog for Thursday night's Game 1 in San Antonio, and generally a narrow underdog in the series -- although Las Vegas Hilton and a few other sports books have the betting odds dead even. It should stay close, with the Spurs' superior record and home-court advantage offsetting Miami's double-champion pedigree. San Antonio has the revenge factor -- "We'll do it this time," said Tim Duncan -- and also is seen as a tough matchup for Miami, which may not have the low-post presence to contend with Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw. The Spurs also have been shooting well from 3-point range this postseason.But do you really ewant to underestimate LeBron James and Miami's chase at history. We've done this poll before every round. How do you expect the NBA Finals to turn out? Not what you hope but what you honestly predict. Vote and say why.

Poll results: Heat fans wanted Thunder, not Spurs: We asked in the previous blogpost and 59.2 percent preferred Miami face Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals, versus 40.8% who preferred San Antonio. Notably, the vote for OKC was running closer to 70-30, but votes for San Antonio flooded in once the Spurs won last night to clinch a spot in the Finals.

I WAS WRONG ON 'ORANGE JUMPSUIT' REFERENCE: A quick backgrounder for those unaware. My column off the Heat's clinching Game 6 win over Indiana the other night spent a good deal of time eviscerating the Pacers' Lance Stephenson for his dirty play and buffoonish antics, and the column included the following paragraph: "Stephenson’s egregiously dirty streetball gives one the impression that if his skills hadn’t put him in NBA clothes, his uniform by now might be an orange jumpsuit, county-issue." It was one sentence, low in the column, but it was seen as racially charged in a way I did not intend. I initially stood behind what I wrote against a backlash on Twitter, but upon reflection I was wrong to make the orange-jumpsuit reference and wish I had not. I say this not because my boss ordered me to or because of any Tweeted outcry, but because I realized I'd made an assumption about Stephenson that made me uncomfortable defending. Neither Stephenson's behavior in the Heat series nor his past off-court incidents, including a charge he threw his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, justifies a presumption he might be in jail if not in the NBA. The fact I'd have made the same reference to a white player who had that history and behaved like that in the series also does not justify the presumption. Anybody who has done what I do for a living for this long has been guilty of an occasional lapse in judgment. For me, this was one.

1aa1amarino visitMARINO VISITS KELLY: Once, rivals. Now, old friends, one reaching out to the other. Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino visited former Bills counterpart Jim Kelly in the hospital Sunday as Kelly continues to battle oral cancer and undergo radiation treatment in upstate New York. Click here for a brief video. Pictured, Marino with Kelly in the hospital. (Howard Schnellenberger, Kelly's old UM coach, and ex-Bills GM Bill Polian also were visiting Kelly on Sunday).

1aa1acarolineCAROLINE ON THE REBOUND: Dumped unceremoniously by fiance golfer Rory McIlroy in a brief phone call, jilted tennis star Caroline Wozniacki bounced back impressively on Saturday with some fun on the sands of Miami Beach. Nice touch on the 'Lover' T, too. Her throwing motion may be somehwat suspect but (Mildly Sexist Comment Alert) her form otherwise seems quite good, actually. Rory, Rory, Rory. Quick aside: My son and I, over golf on Sunday (96 at Davie Golf Club to his 87), were discussing how Rory had dropped Caroline after wedding invitations already had gone out, in a move so sudden and unexpected that Caroline at first thought the phone call was a joke. My in-his-20s son was defending Rory. Drawing on experience, I suggested he deftly omit his defense of Rory should the topic of the breakup ever happen to arise in a conversation with his girlfriend. Fore!

THE LIST: MLB DIVISION RACES: The Marlins' division, the NL East, is the most competitive in baseball this season, based on fewest combined games behind (CGB) the frontrunner, entering Monday's games:

Division        CGB (2nd)

NL East        16.5 (3.0)

AL Central    22.5 (4.5)

AL East        24.5 (3.5)

AL West       28.5 (4.5)

NL Central    31.0 (4.0)

NL West       42.0 (7.5)

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