All right, I’ll admit it. When I’m not being an impartial journalist, my rooting interest in the NBA lies with the San Antonio Spurs.
Needless to say, its been a painful wait for me since LeBron James and the Miami Heat eliminated the Spurs in last year’s finals in a somewhat anticlimactic Game 7.
For those who might not remember, the Spurs entered Game 6 of the series with a 3-2 advantage, and had mustered at 5-point lead with just 28 seconds remaining, placing the franchise’s fifth title well within reach.
So within reach that spectators began leaving American Airlines Arena in Miami while league officials were bringing out the yellow tape to cordon off the floor for the Larry O’Brien Trophy presentation.
However, a couple of missed free throws by the Spurs and a couple offensive rebounds by the Heat in those final 28 seconds led to overtime and a Miami win.
Two days later, the Heat used 37 points from James and six 3-pointers from Shane Battier to seal the deal.
Most NBA analysts thought the devastating loss would be too much for the Spurs, already considered an aging team and more than six years removed from its last title, to overcome.
Maybe even most of their fans.
But, to quote former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”
And despite the elapsed time since last hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the Spurs — led by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — still maintain that championship mettle, and it showed in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
Trailing by nine points at halftime, and forced to play the second half without Parker — their all-star point guard who tweaked his left ankle originally injured in Game 4 — the Spurs outscored the young, super-athletic Oklahoma City Thunder, 37-20, in the third period and held on for an overtime win.
Which sets up a rematch against the Miami Heat, the first team to reach four consecutive Finals since the Larry Bird-era Boston Celtics.
Led by the best player on the planet in James, the Heat are two-time defending champs and worthy of all the praise heaped on them.
I expect a tight series — maybe even one in which the home teams win each game, which wouldn’t hurt my feelings any, since the Spurs will host the first two games and the last two by virtue of their league-best 62-20 record.
Regardless of the outcome, I think its safe to say this has been one of the most entertaining playoffs in NBA history.
There was the crazy first round, with five of the eight series going seven games and loaded with overtimes and buzzer-beaters, followed in the second round by the Donald Sterling fiasco that threatened to take the focus from the basketball court to the courtroom.
And to top it off, there is a finals rematch that should be the icing on the cake.
Certainly, I’ll be hoping for a different ending from last year.