After more than six weeks of amuse-bouches, hors d'oeuvres and appetizers, we've finally arrived at the main course of the 2012-13 NBA season — a sure-to-be-sumptuous NBA Finals matchup.
In one corner: the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, who bested the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals for the third straight year. In the other: the San Antonio Spurs, who bracketed a thrilling six-game dispatch of the Golden State Warriors with dominant sweeps of the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies to win the Western Conference and reach the championship round for the first time since 2007 and the fifth time in the last 15 years. The tasty conclusion to the NBA title chase tips off Thursday night, with Game 1 set to start just after 9 p.m. Eastern at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
We here at BDL were so hungry for a Finals this good that we couldn't wait, digging deep into the matchups, X-factors and stakes to serve up our series preview on Wednesday afternoon. But we also wanted to know what you thought about the series ahead, so like we did way back before the start of the first round, we asked for your NBA Finals predictions and picks on Twitter and Facebook.
And while Las Vegas and a number of NBA observers favor the Heat to become the first team to repeat as NBA champions since the Los Angeles Lakers did so in 2009 and 2010, a lot of our readers see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company being swallowed by a rising silver-and-black tide.
And we mean a lot of readers. Here's what you had to say:
• A whopping 68 percent of respondents to our Yahoo! Sports Twitter poll see the Spurs winning it all, compared to just 32 percent who cast their votes for the reigning champs from Miami.
• Those results were largely reflected in the poll at the Ball Don't Lie Facebook page, where 63.6 percent of respondents took Gregg Popovich's team and just 36.4 percent went with Erik Spoelstra's squad. We also asked how many games our readers thought the winner would need. By far the most common answer? Spurs in 6.
• The margin was tighter in our Yahoo! Sports Facebook poll, but San Antonio still got the nod, with 53.1 percent of poll-takers picking the Spurs and 46.9 percent choosing the Heat.
Clearly, Yahoo!'s NBA readers are bigger believers in San Antonio than Yahoo!'s NBA writers, bloggers and experts, save for one. Our picks, for the record and for your reference:
Which side made the right call? We'll all know soon enough, and we can't wait to find out.
And for your calendaring/DVR'ing pleasure, here's the broadcast schedule for the Finals. All games will air on ABC in the United States and on TSN in Canada:
Game 1: Thursday, June 6: Spurs at Heat, 9 p.m. ET
Game 2: Sunday, June 9: Spurs at Heat, 8 p.m. ET
Game 3: Tuesday, June 11: Heat at Spurs, 9 p.m. ET
Game 4: Thursday, June 13: Heat at Spurs, 9 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Sunday, June 16: Heat at Spurs, 8 p.m. ET
Game 6*: Tuesday, June 18: Spurs at Heat, 9 p.m. ET
Game 7*: Thursday, June 20: Spurs at Heat, 9 p.m. ET