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A shot in the dark

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An uninformed look at the NBA Finals

Every sports fan has his or her preferences. Some sports capture a lot of our interest, while others are regulated to once-in-a-while status. For me, the NBA is a league to which I only occasionally pay attention.

However, that changes a little during playoff time. The postseason in any sport is by definition more engaging each game carries more meaning than in the regular season. Every time out, you come a little closer to your season's end. A team has only one real goal in the playoffs win their last game.

So the time has come to once more put my inconsiderable predictive powers to work on the NBA. The Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference title; the San Antonio Spurs triumphed over the Western Conference. After a long season and a grueling path through the playoffs, only two teams are left standing.

But there can be only one.

Miami Heat

The reigning champions have returned, looking to win back-to-back titles. They are led, of course, by LeBron James, who is in the midst of building a legacy as one of the greatest ever to play in the NBA. His do-it-all game was the catalyst for a hugely successful regular season, although he had a little help from friends like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Lesser lights such as Ray Allen and Shane Battier also made key contributions.

However, in the playoffs, it has been a different story. Wade has been battling injury and Bosh has been rendered largely ineffective. And the supporting cast has run hot and cold, making it difficult to count on any of them for consistent production.

All this means that it has been LeBron's show especially in the hard-fought conference finals series against Indiana. He has put the team on his back, practically willing them to victory over a Pacers squad that looked really strong.

But as much as he might like to, LeBron can't win against the Spurs by himself. He's going to need real production from Wade and Bosh, plus a hot hand or two from among the rest of the team. James is good, but he's not that good. No one is.

San Antonio Spurs

If it seems like the Spurs have been good forever, that's because they have been. Few teams in NBA history have run off a stretch of constant excellence like they have over the past two decades. Since 1999, they have won four championships. They've got an all-timer of their own in Tim Duncan, who has quietly carved out a Hall of Fame career in Texas.

But it's not just Duncan. Point guard Tony Parker is an elite player in his own right, while Manu Ginobili is one of the greatest sixth men ever. Plus, they have Coach Gregg Popovich, whose stoic, systemic brilliance is a huge part of the team's success.

The Spurs haven't been particularly tested at any point in the playoffs, having lost only two games thus far (both in their series with Golden State). The Spurs once again have a great team, packed with players who understand and embrace their respective roles.

Miami will test them, however. Stopping LeBron has to be a priority, but the Spurs may struggle to find the right defender. San Antonio likely sports an advantage in size, but all the gears in the machine are going to have to be in proper working order to stymie the aggressive Heat defenders.

Prediction

Miami will come out swinging with LeBron leading the way. San Antonio will struggle to find a way to contain him. Duncan will be his usual fundamentally sound self, putting up big numbers in boring fashion. Tony Parker will produce as well. Wade's injury will likely continue to hobble him; likewise the aging Ginobili. And the Spurs bench looks to be considerably deeper than that of the Heat.

The Spurs have a great team this year, but in the end, it's tough to bet against the player that LeBron James seems to be becoming right before our eyes.

Heat in 7

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