Ordinarily, I have as much tolerance for sequels as Donald Sterling has for mixed marriages. For that, you can thank Caddyshack II, The Godfather: Part III and Rocky IV-XXIX. This particular sequel, though … man, I’ve spent nearly a year anxiously awaiting this one. You’ve got good vs. evil, hunted vs. hunter—one side determined to exact revenge; the other eager to prove the first time wasn’t a fluke.
But enough about Sharknado 2 (coming to a boob tube near you July 30, by the way). Let’s analyze this Heat-Spurs NBA Finals rematch, and see which side is the best bet to capture this best-of-7 series, which tips off June 5:
• Miami captured a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference crown by going 12-3 against the Bobcats, Nets and Pacers. Even though underdogs dominated the early rounds this postseason, the Heat are a highly profitable 10-5 against the spread, but only 4-3 ATS on the road. Moreover, Miami is 4-6 ATS when catching points this season. (LeBron James & Co. open the Finals as a 4-point underdog, and they’re a slight ’dog in the series.)
• San Antonio earned another shot at Miami by knocking off Dallas, Portland and Oklahoma City, posting a 12-6 record. After failing to cover the spread in their first six playoff games (all against Dallas), the Spurs enter the Finals on a 9-3 ATS tear, including cashing in seven consecutive home games—all of them double-digit blowouts. Gregg Popovich’s troops are 9-1 on their home floor in the playoffs.
• Speaking of home cooking, San Antonio finished with the NBA’s best regular-season record, so unlike last year, it has home-court advantage in the Finals. Here’s why that matters: Going back to Game 2 of last year’s epic Spurs-Heat clash, the home team has won seven of eight meetings in this rivalry (6-2 ATS).
• San Antonio could lose this series before it even begins, as Tony Parker left the Spurs’ series-clinching victory over Oklahoma City after tweaking his ankle in the first half. This following a hamstring injury the point guard suffered in the previous round. Clearly, Eva Longoria is sticking pins in the legs of a voodoo doll of her philandering ex-husband. (The lesson: Don’t mess with a Desperate Housewife.) Conversely, oft-injured Heat star Dwyane Wade’s HGH treatments—er, I mean trips to the rejuvenation machine—appear to be working: He’s averaging 18.7 points on 52 percent shooting in the playoffs.
• Conclusion: This time last year I told you to back the underdog Spurs, and had they not blown a five-point lead with 28 seconds remaining in Game 6, we would’ve cashed. This year, despite Parker’s iffy status, San Antonio is the slight favorite (-125), for good reason: The Spurs are bigger, deeper, faster and more versatile. They also have the better coach, the home-court edge and the one player in the NBA (small forward Kawhi Leonard) who gives LeBron fits. And with four full days of rest prior to the start of this series, expect Parker and his graybeard mates to be fresh from the word jump. Spurs in 7.
Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM.