DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The NBA finals begin tonight with the numbers, three or five, figuring to play prominent roles. Here's why. Three, as in the Miami Heat are trying to win a legacy defining third straight title. Five as in the San Antonio Spurs are trying to win a fifth championship since 1999. That is dominance. That would solidify their dynasty status. These two best teams in the league are meeting for the second consecutive year in the finals. And NPR's Tom Goldman is here to tell us why Miami is already miffed before game one even starts. Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: Why are the Miami Heat angry?
GOLDMAN: They are annoyed - Lebron James and Dwyane Wade in particular because they're hearing people say Miami was lucky to win last season.
GREENE: You never want to hear that.
GOLDMAN: Specifically in game six, when the Spurs had the Heat down by five with 28 seconds left. But an amazing comeback, that basketball fans remembered, capped off by Ray Allen's three point shot that saved the Heat. Then they went on to win in seven games. When you know, many think the Heat are just trying to rile themselves up to help motivate. It's a common ploy. Michael Jordan was legendary for blowing up the slightest slights into something that would get him breathing fire.
GREENE: Some reason to get fired up. Well, whether or not they think Miami was lucky, the Spurs, by all accounts, devastated. I mean, If they pulled out that game six instead of giving it away, they would've won the champions. What are they saying about their second chance this year now?
GOLDMAN: They say they'll get it done this time. Spurs all-star, Tim Duncan said as much, which is stunning because Duncan and the Spurs are legendary for not talking - certainly not giving opponents bulletin board material. So this is definitely different. Maybe, Duncan said it in the emotion of winning a tough Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, or maybe he was clearheaded. You cannot blame him because the Spurs have a very good case.
GREENE: Have the Spurs made a lot of changes on the team since last year?
GOLDMAN: They haven't. They're pretty intact from last year, but they have done a phenomenal job of developing players from last year, bench players, into key component parts. Now some argue that having a deep bench doesn't matter that much in the postseason. It's all about the stars. Sports Illustrated notes that Miami won the last two titles, while its bench ranked out of 30 teams, 27th and 24th in scoring.
GOLDMAN: But what San Antonio head coach, Gregg Popovich, did this regular season was he played so many of his reserves in different combinations in key games and developed them so well that San Antonio really doesn't give up much when its starters to go to the bench - players like Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes. They're not just holding the line while the starters rest. They're extending leads, playing good defense, and they're really contributing.
GREENE: Alright well, the Miami side -good bench or not? What's the argument that they're going to repeat - three-peat, I guess you could say.
GOLDMAN: Lebron James.
GREENE: OK. That's the answer
GOLDMAN: OK. Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, whose health has been bulky in recent years. He is healthy and well rested, going in. Those two are enough to win a lot of games. Are they enough to win four against the Spurs? Probably not. They'll need help and they'll need to improve their defense. But the Heat are one of those elite teams that can flip a switch when the most important games come along. Also, a possible factor in Miami's favor - the Spurs point guard, the dynamic Tony Parker, has been nursing an injured ankle. He says he's good to go for tonight, but will he hold up through the series?
GREENE: Alright Tom, we can't let you go before talking about Hockey. The LA Kings win a thriller last night in game one of the NHL Stanley Cup championship.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Three, two in overtime. LA fell behind 02 in the game, but prove, once again, that no lead is safe against the Los Angeles Kings. In three rounds leading up to the finals, the Kings faced elimination in seven games and won all of them. Knowing this, watching a 2 0 lead vanish - the Rangers have to make sure they don't start pressing. And we have to wait all the way until Saturday for game two to find out how they respond.
GREENE: LA Kings, New York Rangers, marquee matchup and, of course, the MBA finals starts tonight. Fun times in sports. Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You bet.
GREENE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.