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  NBA FINALS: SPURS VS. CAVALIERS

Ian Thomsen
A victory by the Cavs would be the biggest Finals surprise since the 1976-77 Trail Blazers upset the 76ers. While every team in the East plays to the level of the opposition, the Spurs consistently achieve the highest ruthless standard. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have been doing this for nine years, while LeBron James and Mike Brown are just starting to figure it out. Whatever happens here, the Cavs are already years ahead of schedule on their championship timetable.
Spurs in 5

Jack McCallum
I'd like to be a renegade. I'd like to write that Mike Brown will find an offense more imaginative than the give-the-ball-to-'Bronnie he runs half the time now. I'd like to write that Anderson Varejao will play Tim Duncan so effectively that it will be Duncan with curly hair by the end of the series. I'd like to write that Daniel Gibson will continue to hit three-pointers like he's shooting in his backyard. And I'd like to write that LeBron James will conjure up not just one but maybe two transcendent games such as the immortal one he put on the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the East finals.But I can't see any of this happening except, possibly, one superlative game from James. The Spurs will have everything covered, including Gibson, Drew Gooden and, most of the time, James.
Spurs in 5

Marty Burns
Both teams feature stout defenses that will make for low-scoring games that could come down to the wire. Tim Duncan and LeBron James will have their moments. The difference is that San Antonio has other proven playmakers in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili while Cleveland has ... who exactly? LeBron is good enough to win a game or two by himself, but the Spurs are too good as a team to let him do it four times. (For Marty Burns' complete series breakdown, click here.)
Spurs in 6

Chris Mannix
Cleveland is the future, but that future is still several years away. The floppers will be in full effect in this series; Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry will each have a turn taking exaggerated dives when their bodies cross path with LeBron James, the kind of flopping that will infuriate Jeff Van Gundy and everyone else outside of the Alamo. Don't think we forgot about Anderson Varejao, who took a league-leading 99 charges in the regular season and will make Tim Duncan's face contort in frustration. Bowen will eat, sleep and drink James in this series. While no one man can stop James himself, Bowen's foot speed makes him a much better defensive fit than Detroit's Tayshaun Prince was in the East finals. San Antonio is too experienced to drop more than one game in Cleveland.
Spurs in 5

Paul Forrester
The Spurs are an overwhelming favorite for good reason, but Cleveland will make this a closer series than most expect. The Spurs haven't faced a defense this spring as tight as Cleveland's, which has held opponents to a league-low 42 percent shooting during the playoffs. The Cavs also bring a deep and beefy front line, and may well throw different players at Tim Duncan. And, of course, Cleveland has LeBron James, who has played well against Bruce Bowen in the past and brings a developing killer instinct into the series. It won't be enough to upset the Spurs, but it will be enough to make them sweat.
Spurs in 6

Kelly Dwyer
We can all move past the idea that these are the NBA's two best teams. The Spurs are the league's prime; they've offered very little substandard play since the All-Star break and appeared to be overmatched just once in the postseason, when a desperate Suns team won at San Antonio in Game 4 of the West semifinals. The Cavs, on the other hand, eased past the depleted Wizards, fought with a Nets team with a superstar who looked as if he wanted to be somewhere else, and whipped the tails (despite the close scores) of the Pistons, who were imploding from every angle. So why won't the Spurs sweep? The Cavs play defense, rebound as well as anyone and have a superstar who is at worst near-dominant and at best unguardable.
Spurs in 6
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