‚Äč

Basketball / Sports

Spurs eager for Finals rematch with Heat

MIAMI -- It was closest thing to trash-talk ever to come out of San Antonio Spurs' forward Tim Duncan's mouth.

The normally bland Duncan offered some surprising thoughts on facing the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for a second straight year. The best-of-seven series opens Thursday in San Antonio.

"We're back here now and we want to get it done this time," Duncan said.

The Spurs advanced after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. Last year they lost in seven games to the Heat despite holding a 3-2 lead in the series. The Heat won the last two at AmericanAirlines Arena, but this time the Spurs hold homecourt advantage.

"We were ready last year, too," Duncan said. "People keep talking about it like we weren't close to winning it. We were ready last year, and we just couldn't get over that hump. We're happy to be back here this year, we're happy to have another opportunity at it."

Duncan said the Spurs still have a "bad taste" in their mouths after last year. This season began with coach Gregg Popovich addressing the team about how close they were.

"Well, it was something that fueled us the whole season," forward Boris Diaw said. "That's the first speech Pop gave starting the season in preseason. It was OK we had a shot last year, we didn't do it, but we have to go back there, play the chances."

The Spurs were 30 seconds from clinching a fifth championship when the Heat made one of the greatest rallies in league history. The Heat trailed by five late but were aided by two missed free throws from Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. That left opportunity for Ray Allen to hit a 3-pointer that forced overtime. The Heat eventually stole a victory and captured a second straight championship by winning Game 7.

"We're happy that it's the Heat again," Duncan said. "We'll be ready for them. We've got some experience, obviously, from last year against them, and we'll go back and look at some film. ... Hopefully, we'll be ready to take it this time."

This marks for sixth Finals appearance for Duncan. It is also the third time he faces Heat forward LeBron James with a title on the line. Duncan defeated a James-led Cleveland Cavaliers team in 2007. The Spurs won a league-high 62 games, making a return trip to the Finals a priority.

The rematch is the first since the Chicago Bulls played the Utah Jazz in consecutive years in 1997-98.

"We just had a weird year this year," Duncan said. "We were pressing hard early on and grinding on each other, just because of what happened last year. We were able to settle ourselves down. We played with a bunch of different lineups all year long. We had guys ready to play, and it's shown throughout these playoffs where guys just step up and step in and are ready to play."

After going seven games in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs defeated the Portland Trail Blazers and Thunder with relative ease. The lone question mark for San Antonio is the health of point guard Tony Parker, who sat out the second half of Game 6 against the Thunder because of ankle soreness. He will be evaluated on a daily basis, but is expected to play the Finals opener.

Coach Gregg Popovich decided against Parker returning because the ankle "stiffened up a little bit and I just made the call." The injury originally occurred in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

"I have no idea," Popovich said. "I don't know what the deal is. He came to me about eight minutes on the clock and said he couldn't go. He couldn't cut. He was limping on it. He couldn't cut sideways or forward really."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus