The NBA Finals are set. The Indiana Pacers finally added a little drama to what had been a largely lifeless postseason by stretching the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. But when Miami blew them out of the building in the decisive game, the stage was set just like the NBA hoped it would be. It is the old guard against the new, flashy against no-nonsense and every other cliche you can possibly think of to describe a match-up of one team that wins without talking against one that wins and never stops running its mouth at the same time.
The San Antonio Spurs have never been in this position before. Normally when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and company reach this point of the playoffs, everyone is rooting against them. For whatever reason, people do not appreciate what San Antonio has accomplished over the last decade-and-a-half, and want to see the Spurs lose because of that fact.
It is different now because of all the baggage that accompanies the Heat. Miami is the most polarizing team sports has seen in almost two decades; since the Cowboys of the early-1990's, when Michael Irvin, Leon Lett and Jimmy Johnson drew the ire or love of every sports fan with a pulse. Now it's LeBron, Wade and Bosh that have everyone so polarized.
The result? The Spurs have fans outside of San Antonio for the first time maybe ever. While it won't help them on the court, it certainly is noteworthy.
What might actually aid the Spurs' cause is the rest they got coming into this series. It has been 10 days since San Antonio finished off a near-flawless four-game sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies. For a team with as many veterans as the Spurs who are likely going to be tested athletically by the Heat over and over again, rest is a precious commodity. Particularly at this point of the season.
I know there are a lot of folks out there worried that the result of such a long layoff will be rust, but keep this in mind: the Spurs have won four championships during the Duncan/Greg Popovich era -- three of those times, the Spurs came into the Finals on more than seven days of rest.
Give a great coach like Popovich a little extra time to gameplan, and a team full of savvy vets a couple more days to heal, and good things will happen. The Spurs will beat the Heat. I can feel it. Now I am just trying to convince myself that's what I actually think will happen, rather than what I want to happen.
Spurs in six. Book it.