Well, after a hard-fought overtime battle, the San Antonio Spurs have dispatched the Oklahoma City Thunder (not helped by a number of turnovers by stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) and so, we get a rematch of last year's NBA Finals, won by the Miami Heat in a seven-game thriller.
The Spurs face one question going into Game 1 on Thursday - that's the health of Tony Parker and his ankle injury, after he missed the second half of tonight's game. I'll assume for now that he's at or near 100 percent in five days.
What's changed this year from last year, then?
First, the Spurs have home court this year, versus Miami last year.
Second, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has rested his starters even more this year than last year. Since both teams are "veteran," but San Antonio arguably more so than Miami, this helps them more. Not that Eric Spolestra didn't do the same, especially with Dwyane Wade, but Pops did it more yet, with more players. In fact, not a single Spurs starter clocked more than 30 minutes a game in the regular season this year.
Third, Kawhi Leonard, with a year more of experience, adds more on offense, and more on defense to help guard LeBron James.
Fourth, the Spurs added depth this year, with Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills.
Fifth, Miami's three-point artists are a year older, and one less. Shane Battier's been semi-nonexistent overall in the playoffs, and on defense, too. Rashard Lewis had a cameo of his old self against the Pacers, but don't count on him against the Spurs. Ray Allen seems timeless, but, he's probably not. And, of course, Mike Miller is gone. James Jones and Michael Beasley are NOT enough to pick up the slack.
And, because of all of that, I'm sure Pops has new ideas on how to handle Chris Bosh in corner 3 territory, among other things.
So, assuming TP's ankle is good to go?
I say Spurs in six. And, I didn't even mention Tim Duncan until here at the end. Or the one-of-a-kind Manu Ginobili.
Spurs in six.