LOS ANGELES: This is the match-up everyone hoped for. It took a full regular season and playoffs to get to the expected, and hotly anticipated, rematch—the San Antonio Spurs versus the Miami Heat in the NBA finals.
The manner in which the 2014 postseason played out simply added to the realization that these two National Basketball Association titans would clash in the finals for the second straight year.
The best team in the league—San Antonio—will take on the best player in the league in the Heat’s LeBron James, and for the top seeded Spurs, their bruised egos simply won’t let them forget a seven-game loss to the Heat last season.
“They wanted this, they wanted us and we will be ready for the challenge,” James said on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
San Antonio and two-time defending champion Miami are set for the first rematch series since the 1997 and 1998 finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.
The Spurs will host the first game on Thursday (Friday in Manila) of the annual showcase that pits the top teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences.
“It is unbelievable to have regained our focus after that devastating loss last year,” said Spurs forward Tim Duncan. “We’ve got that bad taste in our mouth from last time. We got four more to win. We will do it this time.”
“There is a reason why they are back there and are two-time champs. We have our work cut out for us, but we are happy with going back, just not satisfied,” added Spurs guard Danny Green.
Injuries could be a factor in the finals as Spurs star Tony Parker did not play in the second half of San Antonio’s series-clincher over Oklahoma City because of a sore left ankle.
But Parker said on Tuesday that he would play in Thursday’s opening game of the NBA Finals against Miami despite a foot injury suffered in Saturday triumph.
“I will play Thursday against the Heat,” Parker said in a posting on his website. “I might not be 100 percent but I will be there.
“I will not voluntarily abandon my teammates.”
“The chance to play in my fifth NBA Finals, it’s very nice,” Parker said.
“I continue to recover. It’s very hard to be hurt.”
Parker, 32, averaged 16.7 points and 5.7 assists a game this season for the Spurs.
“Two very great teams have reached the finals,” Parker said. “For my part, I will play with everything I have. The biggest victories are in the smallest details.”