Perhaps you remember the 2013 NBA Finals. San Antonio and Miami played a pretty interesting series -- something about Game 6 sort of stands out. Sunday's nationally televised matchup between the teams is their first meeting since that epic series, and Miami opened as a 4-point favorite with a total of 204 on NBA odds.
Incredibly curious to see how the Spurs play here. There is no more professional bunch in all of sports, but how will the Spurs players feel stepping on the floor of the AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since that June 20, 2013, night? San Antonio lost that Game 7 95-88 to give the Heat back-to-back titles, but clearly the series was lost two nights previous in that memorable Game 6. Of course the Spurs led by five with 28 seconds left. However, missed free throws by Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili gave the Heat a chance to tie in the final seconds. Ray Allen hit a corner 3-pointer off a loose ball scrum to do so, arguably the most important shot in NBA history. Once it went to overtime, it felt obvious the Heat would win and they did. San Antonio then played better than many expected in Game 7 but that also seemed like a formality.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has admitted the Game 6 loss ate at him all offseason, and frankly the coach deserves his share of the blame for the series loss with some questionable moves. In typical Spurs fashion, instead of collapsing upon themselves like a dying star they are again possibly the Western Conference's best team this season.
San Antonio (22-21 ATS, 25-17-1 O/U at sportsbooks) will be extremely short-handed for this one. Leonard has become the team's third-most indispensable player behind Tony Parker and Tim Duncan and its best defensive guy. Leonard broke a bone in his right hand -- yet another broken hand in the NBA this season to a big-name player -- in Wednesday's home loss to Oklahoma City. Leonard was terrific in last season's Finals and gave LeBron James fits at times. The former San Diego State star is out a month. Also on the sidelines are big man Tiago Splitter (shoulder) and guard Danny Green (hand). The Spurs still won 105-79 for sports bettors on Friday night in Atlanta without the trio in the ultimate definition of a "sandwich" game. Total pros.
If you have backed Miami (18-25 ATS, 26-17 O/U on sportsbooks) on your NBA picks for the past three weeks or so, your wallet is lighter. The Heat are just 6-4 in that stretch and have covered the spread for sports bettors only three times. Thursday's 109-102 home win over the Lakers -- in which we recommended L.A. to cover on our NBA picks -- was Miami's third straight ATS loss. The Heat played their fourth straight game without Dwayne Wade. The team swears Wade isn't hurt and this is just normal rest for his troublesome knees, but four games is a long time. If Wade doesn't play here after more than a week off, something is amiss. He practiced Saturday and thus should.
Chris Bosh was able to pick up the slack against the injury-ravaged Lakers with 31 points on 15-for-22 from the field. Miami is 28-5 all-time when he has at least 25 points and 9-0 when he shoots the ball a minimum of 20 times. Bosh was invisible with zero points in that Game 7 win over San Antonio. He seems energized when he gets to play power forward instead of center, and he did get to shift over a bit Thursday with Greg Oden playing 10 minutes at center. Oden was solid with five points and five rebounds -- the Heat would take exactly that line when they face the big Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami follows this game with another huge one: Oklahoma City's only visit of the season to south Florida on Wednesday. A Heat-Thunder Finals matchup is the +450 favorite and Heat-Spurs is +550. In between there is Pacers-Thunder at +500.NBA free pick: Heat -4 and over. It would be no shock to see San Antonio win down three starters because the team plays so hard, but this is one of the few regular-season games that Miami cares about and that will show. The Spurs also have not played well against the NBA's elite.