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Spurs stand between LeBron James and NBA greatness

Miami Heforward LeBrJames (6) reacts during second half Game 6 NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against IndianPacers Indianapolis Saturday June

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Saturday, June 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: NAF151

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NBA FINALS

HEAT
vs. SPURS

All games on Ch. 7

G1: Thursday at Heat, 8

G2: Sunday at Heat, 7

G3: Tuesday at Spurs, 8

G4: Next Thurs. at Spurs, 8

*G5: June 16 at Spurs, 7

*G6: June 18 at Heat, 8

*G7: June 20 at Heat, 8

*if necessary

Updated: July 7, 2013 12:53PM



It would seem that it is all set up for LeBron James.

A second consecutive NBA championship, a third consecutive visit to the NBA Finals, a fourth MVP trophy. His ascension into an altitude inhabited only by players such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and, yes, Michael Jordan.

And all ‘‘King’’ James has to do is beat the San Antonio Spurs.

It sounds so simple. After all, the Spurs do nothing spectacular. Watching their games is like spending two-plus hours on Benadryl. Vanilla thinks the Spurs are a bit boring.

But they win. And not only do they win, but they offer up heartbreak for would-be attempts at greatness. They did it to the Los Angeles Lakers in the mid-2000s, and they did it to the Phoenix Suns. Heck, they did it to James in the Finals in 2007, when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now the Spurs stand in James’ way again. They are the monkey wrench in the MJ vs. LeBron debate because there is no debate if the Miami Heat loses.

All James has to do to keep the debate alive is to beat an aging Spurs team in the best-of-seven Finals that start Thursday in Miami.

It sounds so simple.

POINT GUARD

The Heat’s Mario Chalmers vs. the Spurs’ Tony Parker: If there is a no-brainer edge for the Spurs, it’s here. Parker (above) put on a show in the Western Conference finals against the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 24.5 points and 9.5 assists. When this matchup gets interesting will be in the fourth quarter, when the Heat often uses James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen in the backcourt. That means James likely will guard Parker, like he guarded the Bulls’ Derrick Rose in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals. Edge: Spurs.

SHOOTING GUARD

The Heat’s Dwyane Wade vs. the Spurs’ Danny Green: Which Wade will Green have to guard, the one who limps around, pouts and throws elbows at the heads of opposing players or the one who can take over a game in spurts? Wade always seems to find a way on the big stage, so Green could have his hands full. Edge: Heat.

SMALL FORWARD

The Heat’s LeBron James vs. the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard: The youngster is about to go to school. Edge: Heat.POWER FORWARD

The Heat’s Udonis Haslem vs. the Spurs’ Tiago Splitter: This might be the most intriguing matchup of the series, as a hard hat will be required. Both do the dirty work that doesn’t show up
in box scores but wins games. Haslem is more of a scoring threat, but Splitter’s size and ability to set screens for teammates might be a problem for the Heat. Edge: Even.

CENTER

The Heat’s Chris Bosh vs. the Spurs’ Tim Duncan: Just when it seems as though Duncan is about to be cast for the next ‘‘Cocoon’’ movie, he shows up when the Spurs need him most and delivers a special performance. If Bosh wants to be considered elite, he can start by finally putting a stake in the quiet dominance Duncan has had in the league for 16 years. Edge: Spurs.

BENCH

The Heat’s Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier and Mike Miller vs. the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair: Allen and Battier are coming off disappointing showings in the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, and that has to change. Meanwhile, Ginobili plays with a reckless abandon that can put the Heat in a bind or leave Spurs coach Gregg Popovich shaking his head. Edge: Heat.

COACHES

The Heat’s Erik Spoelstra vs. the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich: One ring against four makes it pretty clear. Spoelstra is underrated as a coach because of James on the court and Pat Riley in the front office, but Popovich
is the best in the game.
Edge: Spurs.

PREDICTION

The teams couldn’t be more different, so something has to give. The Spurs’ pedigree never truly has been appreciated, but they are facing the best player on the planet in his prime. Pick: Heat in six.



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