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. Hawks’ Kyle Korver leaves Game 2 with ankle sprain, does not return (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Two Getty Images

    Atlanta is already down 2-0 to Cleveland in the series, and if Korver misses any time, the Hawks are finished.

  2. Report: Jeff Van Gundy candidate for Pelicans’ coaching job

    May 23, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Game One Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Eastern Conference Finals Game One Getty Images

    He would bring a defensive mindset that he team could use.

  3. Cavs’ improved defense deserves credit for commanding 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead

    May 23, 2015, 12:25 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov Timofey Mozgov

    Cleveland shut down Atlanta’s offense in a dominant Game 2 performance.

  4. No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    LeBron was great, and that was enough against a Hawks team that keeps losing guys due to injury.

  5. James Harden was ‘kicking chairs’ after Rockets’ Game 2 loss to Warriors

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    There’s also video of Harden doing some damage in the tunnel on the way to the locker room.

  6. Pero Antic commits flagrant foul on LeBron James (VIDEO)

    May 22, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Ruled a flagrant, which was probably the correct call under the circumstances.

  7. Lakers not planning on trading the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft

    May 22, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    GM Mitch Kupchak: “It looks as though we’ll use our pick this year.”

  8. Kyrie Irving out for Game 2 vs. Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Irving is dealing with a knee injury.

  9. Kobe Bryant tries to explain Stephen Curry with a riddle

    May 22, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Explaining Stephen Curry’s game is just not that easy.

  10. Clippers’ Dahntay Jones: There’s no rift between Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan

    May 22, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Did they disagree? Sure. Was there a rift… depends on who you ask.

  11. Report: Clippers, other teams have made Summer League offers to Royce White

    May 22, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Royce White AP

    Summer League is a perfect place for giving White another look.

  12. Report: Lakers have ‘big-time’ interest in signing DeMarre Carroll, Celtics and Pistons also in pursuit

    May 22, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Would they pay him the $15 million per season one NBA executive estimated the Hawks forward could get in free agency?

Featured video

Small ball lineup propelled Warriors to Game 1 win
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (6256)
  2. K. Love (5423)
  3. D. Howard (4759)
  4. P. Beverley (4648)
  5. S. Curry (3962)
  1. L. James (3784)
  2. D. Carroll (3735)
  3. K. Durant (3653)
  4. M. Speights (3638)
  5. K. Bryant (3580)