Skip to content

San Antonio is team best suited to challenge Miami coronation

May 28, 2013, 2:59 AM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four Getty Images

What none of us really want — outside of a few diehards in South Beach — is the NBA playoffs to be a leisurely stroll to a Heat coronation. We want Miami tested, pushed, challenged at the very least. We want them to prove they have earned it (if they can). That starts with Indiana (which will have a better showing in Game 4).

But the team best suited to challenge if not outright beat Miami comes from San Antonio — and is now team now awaiting the Heat in the Finals (if Miami finishes off the Pacers as expected).

That doesn’t mean the Spurs can beat the Heat four times out of seven. But more than any other team in the NBA they have the right tools for the job.

1) Experience. As much as we may root for underdogs like Memphis or even Golden State to make it to the Finals, the bright lights and big stage can overwhelm, or at least give pause, to teams not used to them. And any team coming out of the West has no margin for error like that against the Heat.

But the Spurs are not going to wilt in that setting — their core has three rings, they have been to this dance before. They have the best coach in the business. They have been good on the road. They will push Miami with everything they have.

2) The Spurs system can diffuse the Heat’s pressure defense. Mimi is long, athletic, they pressure the ball and to make you turn the ball over (then they turn that into fast transition points). It’s a kind of pressure you think you are ready for after studying it on film, but it’s something else entirely to face in person. It’s hard to get into your sets.

But teams can diffuse that pressure with good point guard play combined with ball movement and moving off the ball. And that is exactly what the Spurs do.

Parker is not going to become a turnover machine — he and the rest of the Spurs ball handlers can handle pressure. What’s more the Spurs system can exploit a team that overplays passing lanes and tries to force turnovers — backcuts and quick ball movement could lead to open shots if not layups. The ball will move to the open guy quickly, and go ask the Grizzlies if San Antonio can knock down threes. Maybe the most obvious example of team play frustrating the Heat defense like this is the Mavericks in the 2011 Finals. This is a different Heat team in a lot of ways, but the same principles can be applied.

3) San Antonio has the size to hurt Miami inside. You need to score inside, you need to punish Miami for playing small if you are going to beat them. Tim Duncan, and to a lesser degree Tiago Splitter, can do this. San Antonio is not a low post team in the same way Indiana is, but they have real size and muscle inside and they can find some clever ways to exploit and take advantage of that.

There are still a lot of reasons Miami will be and should be favorites in the Finals (again, if they beat the Pacers).

For one, the questions about San Antonio have been how they would deal with a very athletic team — except they never had to face one to get to this point in the postseason. Oklahoma City was their matchup problem but the Russell Westbrook injury changed everything. Golden State was the most athletic team San Antonio faced, and they are average by NBA standards. Miami is wildly athletic and could just overwhelm the Spurs.

Second, this is a much better Heat team — one with a real sense of identity — than the one that won it all last year, or the one lost to the Mavs a couple years ago. This is a very good Heat team that can defend, moves the ball on offense, and it’s a team where the stars make smart basketball plays. They may just be better than the Spurs.

Finally, there is LeBron James. Having the best player on the planet in your uniform is a good thing.

But we want to see the Heat pushed. See LeBron tested. Make them really earn a ring if they can. And no team is better positioned to do that than San Antonio.

Latest Posts
  1. Knicks waive Ricky Ledo

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Ricky Ledo AP

    Guard didn’t show much in short stint in New York

  2. NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu5nzjmmwjlotdhnzrhn2iwytixngrhnwi2yzqwyjzk AP

    “One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts.” —Masai Ujiri, Raptors GM and native Nigerian

  3. Mark Cuban says trading for Rajon Rondo was tough call, “came down to a coin flip”

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    “And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something.” —Mark Cuban on trading for Rajon Rondo.

  4. Pau Gasol on Fred Hoiberg: “I think we’ll play with a better flow offensively”

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Pau Gasol Pau Gasol

    Hoiberg has a much stronger offensive reputation than Tom Thibodeau.

  5. Blazers waive Brendan Haywood after acquiring him from Cavs

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:43 PM EDT

    Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley Brendan Haywood, Michael Beasley

    Portland received Mike Miller and two second-round picks in addition to Haywood.

  6. Report: Kings expected to hire Nancy Lieberman as assistant coach

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Austin Toros v Texas Legends Austin Toros v Texas Legends

    Lieberman would be the second female assistant coach, after Becky Hammon

  7. Report: Hawks’ Mike Scott arrested for felony drug possession

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Mike Scott Mike Scott

    Scott was charged with possession of marijuana and MDMA.

  8. Josh Smith clarifies “harder on me” comments in Players Tribune essay

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Free Agent Signings Los Angeles Clippers Introduce Free Agent Signings

    Smith says he was talking more about family stability than money in his controversial comments.

  9. Tony Parker says for Spurs this is “last crack at it to try to win it all”

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Tony Parker, Tim Duncan Tony Parker, Tim Duncan

    In what will be the last year for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, not to mention David West’s long career, there will be plenty of desperation and energy in San Antonio.

  10. Flip Saunders: Kevin Garnett will start for Timberwolves

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Kevin Garnett AP

    Will Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic or Gorgui Dieng start beside him?

  11. Flip Saunders still maintains he planned to keep Kevin Love until Andrew Wiggins offer

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    2013 NBA Draft Lottery Getty Images

    Timberwolves apparently weren’t just going to trade Love for whatever they could get

  12. Mark Cuban: NBA would have punished Tom Brady more harshly than Roger Goodell did

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Mark Cuban

    Suspending Patriots quarterback for a quarter of the season was bare minimum for Mavericks owner

  13. Report: Team USA uncertain whether Dwight Howard, John Wall will attend minicamp

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Dwight Howard, John Wall AP

    Jerry Colangelo said attendance was mandatory to be considered for 2016 Olympic team

  14. Adam Silver: NBA on track to play regular-season games in Africa

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:22 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwm0ndlhnjzlyjziyjk4otqxymqym2y5yzrintq4yjm1 AP

    NBA commissioner confident Africa will get a preseason game

  15. Thabo Sefolosha: Too soon to say when I’ll play again

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Thabo Sefolosha AP

    Hawks wing says his leg and ankle feel better

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2655)
  2. B. Haywood (2232)
  3. I. Thomas (2125)
  4. A. Randolph (1853)
  5. M. Miller (1813)