It's the moment Heat fans have been waiting for, and quite frankly, it's the moment Heat players themselves expected since training camp. Miami is back in the NBA Finals. Now the only thing standing in the way of back-to-back titles is the San Antonio Spurs.
I'm not sure it's possible to get a better Finals match-up. These are two of the most respected franchises in the NBA, and the track records over the last 15 years or so speak for themselves.
The Spurs have four NBA titles in that time, while Miami has two. San Antonio has a veteran nucleus led by Tim Duncan, while the Heat is led by the best player in the world in LeBron James. Yes, some people would call the Spurs "old" but I choose to call them experienced.
That experience is why I think we could be looking at a long series in these Finals. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra talks so much about Miami imposing its will against another team, but the Spurs are one of the best at not allowing that to happen.
Match-up wise, the Spurs also have depth, just like the Heat, and they aren't afraid to go deep into the bench. While Tim Duncan is the quiet superstar that doesn't seem to age, the real engine that makes San Antonio go is Tony Parker. Does this guy ever slow down?
The Heat don't seem to have a true answer for a player like Parker and that could be the difference in the series.
As for Miami, while LeBron has been known to carry his team in moments like this, he can't do it alone against San Antonio. They are simply too good and well coached to allow that to happen. Chris Bosh and/or Dwyane Wade must give the Heat productive games. Does Bosh need to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds? No. Does Wade need to have a vintage Wade game and pour in 35 to lead the way? No. But each player must be aggressive and attack the basket.
If Wade and Bosh give Miami production in key spots, the load for LeBron is lessened and I like the Heat's chances. If both players maintain their recent struggles, it will be tough to beat the Spurs. Wade's resurgence in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Bosh's attacking style in that game both bode well for Miami into this series.
So who wins? I said before the season the Heat would make it back-to-back titles and I see no reason to change my stance now. Miami won 66 regular season games for a reason. They have the best player in the world in his prime, and he's surrounded by the right group of unselfish veterans who know how to fit into the scheme.
Miami has just enough to top San Antonio is a classic series and have another parade down Biscayne Boulevard.
Prediction: Heat in 7 games