Jeff Yoder | Sports Co-Editor
This is not a column titled after the 1998 comedy with Adam Sandler. It's a place to take a break from the action, step over to the sideline and let me refresh you with a cold cup of sports knowledge. Every other week, I'll give a response to the professional and college sports worlds' latest controversy.
The saying goes, "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." In game seven of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the Indiana Pacers evacuated in a hurry as they suffered a 99-76 drubbing from the Miami Heat.
For the third consecutive year, the Heat are headed to the NBA Finals as they look to repeat after a championship in 2012. The only thing standing in their way is the San Antonio Spurs, a team ripe with aging superstars and a coach with more finals experience than anyone but Phil Jackson.
A few major issues lurk in the shadows for the Spurs. Their age is a factor. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are 37, 35 and 31 respectively - an average age of 34. The Heat's "big three" of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are 28, 29 and 31 - an average age of 29. Even with a couple of younger role players on the Spurs roster, they still don't match up well with the depth of the Heat.
Another point to note is the path that both teams took to reach the finals. The Heat knocked out the 8-seeded Bucks, the 5-seeded Bulls and the 3-seeded Pacers. The Spurs had to go through seeds 7, 6 and 5 en route to the finals, winning each series 4-0, 4-2 and 4-0. As the 2-seed in the West, the Spurs didn't have to go through the 1-seeded, Russell Westbrook-less Thunder or 3-seeded Clippers, who would have been a matchup nightmare for them.
The Spurs haven't been tested except for a few games with 6-seeded Golden State, while the Heat have had a target on their back throughout the playoffs, taking every team's best effort along the way.
Despite a lack of contribution by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for the better half of the last series, the Heat's LeBron James put the team on his back, carrying them through contests with his scoring. LeBron filled the stat sheet with 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists in game seven, keeping atop the list of highest scoring averages in game sevens in NBA history with 33.8 per game. As a reference point for LeBron's performance, second on the list is Michael Jordan with 33.7 points per game.
In mid-April, long before the Heat-Pacers series even began, I wrote about Paul George's ability to match up with LeBron defensively and how the Pacers' rebounding could mean disaster for the Heat's championship hopes. I was close, but I didn't account for LeBron's Jordan-esque ability to will his team to victory.
The Heat struggled most in rebounding, which proved obvious in this series with the Pacers. The Pacers had three starters averaging seven or more rebounds per game this season compared to one player for Miami, with LeBron averaging 8.1. The Spurs don't have the same advantage. Only Tim Duncan averages seven or more rebounds per game (9.9) for San Antonio.
Every team is skilled, athletic and smart in the NBA. It boils down to matchups. The Heat are deep, athletic and determined. The Spurs are old and wise with the best coach in the NBA. This series will come down to how well the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard can handle LeBron James. My guess is he won't be able to, at all. And just like the Pacers on Monday night, the Spurs will have to evacuate the kitchen hanging their heads.