Like those across the globe, basketball fans in the Cayman Islands are eagerly anticipating the NBA Finals.
The rematch of last year’s championship series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs starts on June 5 at 8 p.m. Cayman time on ABC. Most sports aficionados here are rooting for the Heat, partly due to their geographical proximity and historical fondness for South Florida sports teams. For residents like Collin Bodden, they see Miami as the more exciting team.
“I’ve been a Heat fan back from the 1990s, including the days of Antoine Walker and so on,” Bodden said. “Obviously, I’m picking the Heat though it will be a tough series. The Spurs are based on fundamentals, keep the team built on them and there’s nothing fancy about San Antonio. The Heat are more of a show team. Ultimately, I see it as 4-2 with the Heat winning in six games.”
Miami, behind LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, head into the Finals after winning the Eastern Conference for the fourth straight year and the group is hoping to wrap up a third consecutive championship. San Antonio were the best in the Western Conference for the second time in a row and Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and company hope to make amends for last year’s seven-game Finals defeat to the Heat.
Based on recent media reports, there is not much love lost between the two squads. James said both sides don’t like each other while Duncan said the Spurs will win to put to rest last year’s result. There are a handful of San Antonio fans in Cayman and for Miguel Pitta, the early preference for his team by American bettors and pundits point to Miami being in real trouble.
“I’ve been watching them since 1996 when they drafted Duncan,” Pitta said. “The Spurs made a mistake last year by giving Ray Allen – the fastest trigger in the league – an inch too much on his 3-pointer in Game 6. I don’t see them making that mistake again. LeBron knows they got lucky, he has even said so. So he can’t expect them to just give Miami a three-peat. I’m sticking with the Spurs, I’ll support them to the end regardless of the outcome.
“It’s about the unity and experience they have. That’s from day one with guys like Duncan, Ginobili and Parker having grown up with the Spurs incorporating the younger ones so easily and quickly. I haven’t seen that take place with any other team.”
Another interesting storyline for this year’s clash is the health of Parker – who has played with an injured left ankle throughout the playoffs. For Miami fans like Shawn Pitterson, it is not a big deal.
“I have the Heat winning the Finals in six games,” Pitterson said. “I’m a Heat fan, Tony is a key player on the Spurs and I know that they have players that can step up. Even if he wasn’t injured, it is still the Heat.”
Parker aggravated the ankle at the end of the San Antonio’s conference finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and missed significant playing time. While Parker is expected to play on Thursday, local Thunder fan Deandre Simpson says the injury clouds his prediction.
“I’m a Thunder fan, the Spurs beat us so I’m hoping they win,” Simpson said. “While I can see the Spurs winning in six, I think the Heat could win because Parker is hurt and going through problems. I’m rooting for the Spurs but it might be the Heat. If the Heat do three-peat I won’t feel no way about it. I guess I’m used to it after the first one.”
It should be noted that after game one on Thursday, game two takes place on June 8 at 7 p.m. on ABC. The series runs at least until game four on June 12, with games five, six and seven, if necessary, scheduled between June 15-20. For neutrals like Andre Scott, the hope is that locals will watch an extended battle.
“It should be a good series and I’m a basketball fan so I can appreciate good basketball,” Scott said. “It probably could and should go seven games, both teams have something to prove.”