By TJ Manotoc for NBA.com Philippines
Imagine this: we were all transported into an alternate universe and we wake up on Friday morning and we tune in for the NBA Finals and it is Indiana versus Oklahoma City!
Hey, no offense to any of the four teams that made the Conference Finals, but let’s admit this was possible. The Pacers and the Thunder were not necessarily totally outclassed and outmatched; yes the Spurs and the Heat proved to be the better teams in the six games played, but none of us would be up in arms and shocked to see the other two in the Finals right?
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So what then? It would have been a series that would have given both the Pacers and the Thunder a chance at their firsts. Their first NBA championship (for accuracy, the Pacers won the ‘70, ’72 and ’73 ABA titles while the Seattle Supersonics copped ‘79 NBA title). Both have been there before. The Pacers in the Reggie Miller era lost to Shaq O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers – while the Thunder were in the Finals against the Heat just two years ago. Not much would be on the line for Indiana and OKC except for the chance to start the count for their NBA titles.
But for this Miami Heat team and this San Antonio Spurs team? The stakes are very high.
Let’s start with the defending champions who are on the cusp of making history as only the fourth franchise to win three straight NBA championships. That is extremely rare in this 68-year history of the league. So how hard is it to win three straight in this modern era? Very, very hard. And the Heat know that. That’s what’s on the line for them. If they lose this one, they can still likely win another title down the line (granting LeBron James stays and Wade finds a way to be healthy). But can they win three straight ever again? NO. This is their one and only chance at a three-peat and they know that. That is their supreme motivation and that’s what’s on the line for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the rest of the Heat.
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For the Spurs, they have won four NBA titles in the Tim Duncan era. That’s four titles since 1999. They want to go for their fifth and the clock is ticking for the aging Big 3 of San Antonio. Yes, Tony Parker is still relatively young at 32 years old but Duncan is 38 and Manu Ginobili is nearing 37. If the Spurs lose this one, can they still win it all next year or the years after? Yes they can, but it’s going to be extremely difficult not just because of their age but because of their competition in the West with the surge of the young teams like the Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors... and who knows how the Lakers can rebuild quickly.
So yes, just think about those major moments in NBA History that is on the line. Very tough to have that chance again. So this is not just any other NBA Finals that will add a title to the resume of a team and its stars – this is the biggest NBA Finals in terms of historical value in a long while. And we’re all in for an incredible ride. Buckle up, here we go!