Saturday's game will certainly be fascinating, and you can catch all the action starting with NBA Countdown at 12:30 PM before the 1 p.m. ET tipoff on ABC and WatchABC with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Doris Burke. Bowen and Kevin Calabro will team up for the call on ESPN Radio.
Because of Bowen's unique history with both franchises, I thought it would be more interesting to pull back and take a larger view of both the Heat and Spurs and where they are at this point of the season...
HHH: Both the Heat and Spurs are #2 in their respective conferences and they have solid records so far this season. But do they have realistic chances of meeting up again for a Finals rematch? Will their experience prevail over younger teams such as the Thunder and the Pacers?
Bowen: Well with the Pacers, it's more or less mind over matter for the Heat. They've been in every scenario before with their three-year journey of going to the Finals and winning two of them. So, for the Miami Heat, it's more or less about staying true to who they are and reflecting on experiences to help them get past a younger team. Now, the Miami Heat are still athletic. They can still do things but it's getting over the fact that the Pacers have beat them in Indiana and that they are younger than the Heat.
As far as having the experiences that the Heat have - that will always be the biggest key to them being better against the Indiana Pacers. It's more or less the youth aspect of the mentality of the Indiana Pacers. The only experience they have right now is going to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
And on the Spurs side, it's not just now the age differences which present a different obstacle. The fact that Tim Duncan is 37 years old and they play against OKC and OKC has won the past three meetings. That does something as far as the psyche of what the Spurs are thinking and the only hope they have is the fact that their players were out with injuries during this time. You have three players now in the starting lineup that are out with injuries that are significant to the Spurs - a broken hand for Kawhi Leonard, a broken hand for Danny Green and also a shoulder issue for Tiago Splitter.
That is very different from what the Heat are facing. The San Antonio Spurs are dealing with a team that has confidence against them where they're no longer the big brothers. The little brother beat the big brother to go to the Finals one year and we saw what happened with injuries with OKC where they weren't able to go to the Finals the following year. It's more of a situation of the youth really exposing what the veteran teams, the older teams like the Spurs are doing, and seeing if the Spurs can limit the effectiveness of what OKC brings to the table.
HHH: You've had memorable years playing for both the Heat and the Spurs, what are the differences and similarities between both franchises as well as Riley and Popovich?
Bowen: Riley is more of an individual, less personal and so into preparation. Not that Gregg Popovich isn't into preparation, it's just that they go about it so differently. Pop is more friendly. He has more of a relationship with his players and Riley keeps it very much professional. You do this and that's that and that's what we're going to do. But both of them have the same mindset when it comes to execution, paying attention to detail and being responsible when owning up to what you do for the team. It's important that everyone knows their role, which they are very clear on. And because of that, I think that's why you see their teams do special things.
Pop is more of a guy who is going to talk to individuals and say ‘Hey, how are you doing? What's going on? How's everything in your world.' Pat Riley is going to keep it very much professional, professional to the point where if you see him in the locker room, he may not speak whereas Gregg will. Gregg will say ‘How's the family, how's everything?' Riles is so much about the game. He's thinking about it 24/7 but Gregg Popovich takes time to keep it personal.
HHH: Do you feel like it was more of a case of the Spurs losing Game 6 or did the Heat just simply win it fair and square?
Bowen: Oh, it was fair and square regardless but Game 6 had more to do with executions with the Spurs whereas Boris Diaw didn't follow the game plan - and that was switching the pick and roll between Bosh and LeBron James - and he got hung up and didn't switch then when you try to cover, it's too late. Now he's out of position to rebound. The only one who tried to help out in the process was Tony Parker but he's too little to box out a player like Chris Bosh. Basically, it was a boxing out and you're able to handle somebody but that's not what happened and that falls in the lines of paying attention to detail.
HHH: Do you think the Heat need home court advantage to survive a Pacers series in the ECF? If so, do they need to push Wade a little more in the second half to help try to catch Indiana in the standings?
Bowen: No because they understand it's important for them to win on the road and that's what you need to do in the playoffs, no matter what, you have to win on the road. The Heat have been battle tested. You've seen them go into Boston down a game in the series, needing Game 6 in order to bring it back for Game 7. It's a team built with experience and because of those experiences, it allows them the opportunity to win.
It's not about trying to catch Indiana. It's about dealing with the fact that if they get the number one seed, you still have to win on the road. If they are the team that has been battle tested, the Miami Heat, all of those things that they've gone through as far as the first year having the Beatles-like tour when they went on the road, those things help build what they are trying to do in the future. So it's not a matter of, "Oh boy, we've never seen this before. We've never been in front of a hostile crowd." They have and they understand what it is and how to deal with it.
HHH: What have you seen from Oden in his limited minutes so far? Do you think he can help them against certain matchups such as Hibbert or should they look for another big man like Bynum as an insurance policy?
Bowen: I like the way they are bringing Greg Oden along. There is no rush here. We understand that you are part of our future. We just want you to get healthy more than anything else. The way that they are going about things is fantastic because there's no pressure on him to get back there. When you don't have to deal with that pressure of things like that, it allows things to move a lot smoother. I see that moving smoothly.
HHH: How mentally tough is it really to play the season following a championship? How does it compare to other seasons?
Bowen: Because you are getting the best shot from everyone. Whoever you are playing, it's a game they are waiting for and you're going to get their best effort even when it's a bad team, they are going to seem to play well against you. That's the thing that people don't necessarily understand is that every single night, it's a big game. It may not be a marquee matchup, but you are getting the best effort from the opponent.