NBA Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

03
Jun

The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat find themselves pitted against one another in the NBA Finals for the second straight year. Replay footage from last year and hit the beach?

Not so fast.

Tim Duncan did his closest form of trash talking that we’ve probably ever seen as he told the world in a post-game interview that they (the Spurs) wanted to play the Heat, going as far as to hint that they would have been disappointed to play the Indiana Pacers (much like anyone associated with the NBA). We can’t take these comments as saying Duncan thinks the Pacers were the better team and wanted the weaker Miami team. No one would agree with that. However, it still adds a little spice as LeBron James commented back with his own response, more or less saying “we are ready when you are.”

Let’s take a run down of the starting five and key areas for this juicy NBA finals series:

Point Guard

  • San Antonio Spurs – Tony Parker
  • Miami Heat – Mario Chalmers

This is going to be interesting solely because of what happened in the Western Conference Finals regarding Parker’s health. He was already nursing a sore hamstring before he sprained his ankle. I would argue an injured Tony Parker is still better than a healthy Mario Chalmers, but what happens to the Spurs offense when you slow down those almost-too-disgusting-for-TV spin moves Parker puts on regularly? Chalmers will have the pressure in the first game, as he will need to contain Parker at all costs. If he gains momentum, those injuries will start to feel a lot lighter.

What’s interesting to me is the play of Norris Cole. Could he possibly be inserted into the starting lineup to keep up with the quicker Parker? I’d like that switch and my answer here would be closer.

Advantage – Spurs

 

Shooting Guard

  • San Antonio Spurs – Danny Green
  • Miami Heat – Dwyane Wade

While this matchup seems like a no-brainer, you have to give credit to Danny Green. The guy can shoot lights out (the Heat know this from last year’s Finals) and has the ability to guard multiple positions. But it is very clear what all that time off in the regular season has done for D-Wade. He’s playing with passion and explosion like the Wade of old and he even showed he can take over a game by dominating the final minutes of multiple games in Eastern Conference Finals. He gets the nod.

Advantage – Heat

 

Small Forward

  • San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi Leonard
  • Miami Heat – LeBron James

Again, doesn’t take a basketball expert to pick this one. Out right, LeBron is the best player in the world so it stands that he is the best small forward in the world and therefore the best one of those in this series (something like 1+1=2=1+1). Leonard held his own last year, though. Now he returns to the Finals with another year’s worth of experience in the Spurs organization, something that will help anyone’s game. I’m thinking about asking for a 10-day contract to work on my pick-and-roll game. Look for Leonard to give LeBron fits from all points of the court. Where he needs to attack him is on offense. If Miami wants to leave James on Leonard, Leonard has to at the very least run him around the court through screens and back door cuts.

Advantage – Heat

 

Power Forward

  • San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan
  • Miami Heat – Shane Battier

Well, this whole matchup thing doesn’t really ignite a spirited debate when every freaking matchup has a future hall of famer.

Battier probably won’t guard Duncan. I have my fingers crossed that LeBron will mark Duncan and we’ll get to see King James at his finest. But regardless, Battier has to find a way to be effective by knocking down his open looks and keeping the lane free. There has to be some sort of production to offset Duncan’s performance if nothing else for the mental aspect of the game.

Advantage – Spurs

 

Center

  • San Antonio Spurs – Tiago Splitter
  • Miami Heat – Chris Bosh

Interesting matchup between a brute down low in Splitter and a finesse player in Bosh. Both have advantages over the other that they need to exploit. Splitter needs to punish Bosh on the boards on both sides of the court. Bosh needs to keep Splitter on the perimeter where he isn’t comfortable and utilize his quickness. If Bosh can keep his shooting streak going (49% FG, 41% 3FG) then this matchup will favor the Heat. If Bosh can’t get hot early though, it could get ugly.

Advantage – Heat

NBA Finals

Bench

If someone had asked me which of these two teams had the better bench before the Conference Finals, I would have told you Spurs, hands down. But after seeing Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, and Rashard Lewis elevate their games against the Pacers, this is a tougher decision. That’s not even mentioning Udonis Haslem. In fact, in the two closest games of each series, game 6 of Western Conference Finals and game 5 of Eastern Conference Finals, the Spurs played 11 total players with nine of them seeing double-digit minutes and the Heat played 11 as well with eight seeing over 10 minutes of action. That stat shocked me because when you think Miami, you think three players. But a quiet key to their success has to be the play of their bench. Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen proved they can fill a void left by Wade or James by knocking down some big time threes.

The reason I give the nod to the Spurs here is because they utilize their bench on a more consistent basis.

Also, the Heat lost game 5 of the ECF while the Spurs won game 6.

Advantage – Spurs

 

Coaches

  • San Antonio Spurs – Gregg Popovich
  • Miami Heat – Erik Spoelstra

My argument here begins similar to how it did with the small forward position. I believe that Popovich is the greatest coach in the NBA, so he’s got to be the greatest coach in this series. Pop has proven time and time again that he can methodically wear down opponents and will his team to victory by short and concise commands. He runs the pick and roll and he switches up defensive looks on you multiple times a game. Look for him to do this against LeBron.

We have to give Spo credit, though, as he out-coached a very talented Frank Vogel in the ECF. He utilized some great lineups, specifically using Rashard Lewis heavily to both guard a better David West and provide instant offense. He also knew what he was doing to get Wade to the point he’s at now. Van Gundy put it pretty well on air during one of those games. Anytime anything great happens, LeBron and D-wade are given the credit. Anytime something goes wrong, Spoelstra takes the fall. That’s the sign of a true leader. However, he’s going up against the best leader there is and possibly ever was in the NBA.

Advantage – Spurs

 

Series

So who gets the title? Does Miami make it three in a row and join the Celtics, Bulls and Lakers as the only teams to ever accomplish such a feat? Or do the Spurs take back what seems to come to them so naturally and cement themselves as one of the greatest teams to ever play any sport?

By my count, the Spurs have four advantages and the Heat take three. But what I love about this game is it isn’t played on paper. Popovich will make adjustments and move his players around where he wants them, making defensive shifts and forcing mismatches through pick and rolls. Spoelstra will move around his lineup and find what is working best at power forward for them and run with it (still hoping for a Haslem sighting). So in a series with so many options and deep benches for small lineups, big lineups and everything in between, what gives?

It’s the team that has the ace in the hole. The not-so-x-factor X-Factor. The Wild Draw Four Uno card that you know is floating around there somewhere. Well, that is if that Draw Four Uno card can guard every player on the court, post up on any opposing player, command a double team on the wing, stands at 6’8” 260 and can still facilitate a 75-foot fast break ending in a vicious slam so hard you want to call your mom and tell her you love her.

Heat in 6

About the author: Riley Young