It’s not often you find the two-time defending NBA champions coming into a playoff series as the underdog, but that’s the position many pundits and former players have put the Miami Heat in heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night.
The San Antonio Spurs had the better regular season record and own home-court advantage over the Heat. San Antonio finished the regular season with a 62-20 record compared to Miami’s 54-28 record. The Spurs put up that record while ranking in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive rating.
The two teams split two games played this season with each team winning on the others court.
Miami’s in the perceived underdog role because some believe the Heat lucked into a second-straight championship last year thanks in large part to a clutch Ray Allen three-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
The court was already being roped off and Miami fans were leaving the arena when Allen hit one of the greatest shots in Finals history propelling the Heat to a Game 6 victory and an eventual championship.
Heat star Chris Bosh addressed the perception of being an underdog during a Thursday shoot-around.
“I like being the underdog,” Bosh told CBSSports.com. “I think the only time they expected us to win, we lost it (2011). So we’re right in our wheelhouse. I like having our backs against the wall, I know what these guys are made of. We don’t need that support.”
For Miami, they’ve already achieved one place in history by becoming only the third franchise ever to reach four straight NBA Finals. But, that’s not what this Heat team wants to be remembered for; they want a third straight NBA championship.
To get that third straight championship, the Heat will have to recapture the passion they played Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals with when they blew the Indiana Pacers out of the AmericanAirlines Arena.
If you’re looking for an early indicator of how the series may go, pay close attention to LeBron James and who guards him for the Spurs. Last year, Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw got into James’ head in the early part of the Finals.
LeBron shot just 38.9 percent in the first three games of last year’s Finals and Diaw held James in check to the tune of 3-21 shooting.
If James and the Heat can knock off the Spurs, it will be the proverbial passing of the torch as the Spurs’ dynasty would be almost complete and the Heat’s dynasty would be in high-gear.