Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs to play for NBA title


Miami Heat center Chris Bosh, left, speaks with forward LeBron James during the first half of Game 5 in the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. (The Associated Press)

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.

Miami

No more sitting out stars, and for the San Antonio Spurs, no more sitting around.

Finally, the NBA Finals matchup is set, and the Miami Heat will either win a second straight championship or the Spurs will go a perfect 5 for 5 in the title round while denying LeBron James a ring for the second time.

The Heat earned their third consecutive Eastern Conference title on Monday night, beating the Indiana Pacers 99-76 in Game 7 of their series. So it's Heat vs. Spurs for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, a series that will begin Thursday in Miami, on the same floor where the Heat and James finished off Oklahoma City to win last season's title.

Miami is looking for its third championship, San Antonio its fifth. And for James, it's a chance to erase a memory that has stung him for six years.

His first trip to the finals came when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, and it was ugly — the Spurs winning in a four-game sweep for what was their fourth title. San Antonio has not won the West since, so maybe it's fitting that its return comes against James, albeit with the now four-time MVP in a different uniform.

“Obviously, I needed more,” James said. “Our team, we were really good, but we weren't great. And that was a great team. We lost to a better team. So I understand that we needed more. We continued to get better over the years, but we never got to that level.”

When that series was over, Spurs forward Tim Duncan approached James in a quiet moment and offered some words of encouragement about his budding superstardom.

Four MVPs, two more finals trips and one ring — and counting — later, James' star level is now meteoric. He'll have a chance to not only win consecutive championships, but consecutive regular-season and finals MVPs as well.

“The best player in the world,” is how Indiana coach Frank Vogel described James.

When the Heat and Spurs play on Thursday night, it will mark their third meeting of the season. It may as well be the first.

Miami won both games this season, though it's doubtful much of anything worthwhile could be gleaned for the scouting reports from those contests. The Spurs sat four regulars in the first meeting, and drew a $250,000 fine from the NBA after coach Gregg Popovich's decision to send Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Tony Parker home before the game and at the end of a long road trip.

Predictably, Popovich's decision was immediately subject to scrutiny, and he even joked in his pregame media availability that night that the crowd of journalists around him resembled what he'd see in an NBA Finals setting.

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