Skip to content

San Antonio is team best suited to challenge Miami coronation

May 28, 2013, 2:59 AM EST

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. LeBron James, Stephen Curry leading in early All-Star voting returns

    Dec 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    2014 Sears Shooting Stars Competition Getty Images

    Kevin Durant would not start as of right now, but expect that to change once he starts playing again.

  2. PBT Extra: Top 5 NBA stories of 2014

    Dec 25, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    LeBron James AP

    And at No. 1… come on, isn’t it pretty obvious?

  3. Kevin Durant out for Christmas Day game vs. Spurs

    Dec 25, 2014, 2:13 AM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings

    This will be his fourth game missed with a sprained ankle, they are 1-2 without him the last three.

  4. PBT Christmas Day preview: Kobe Bryant vs. Derrick Rose, finally

    Dec 24, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    NBA All-Star Practice NBA All-Star Practice

    Previewing the Bulls vs. Lakers matchup at the United Center.

  5. A look at Jordan Brand’s Christmas shoes for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony (PHOTOS)

    Dec 24, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    940x800q80

    Colorways inspired by shoes Michael Jordan wore during his best Christmas Day performance.

  6. Spurs and Thunder, who’ve been best in the West lately, both fighting for position entering Christmas matchup

    Dec 24, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five Getty Images

    Injuries to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard have put both teams behind the eight ball

  7. Report: Trade talks between Kings and Nets ‘on hiatus’ with Mason Plumlee off the table

    Dec 24, 2014, 6:06 PM EST

    Mason Plumlee, Timofey Mozgov, Jarrett Jack AP

    An additional confirmation that no Deron Williams deal gets done on Sacramento’s side unless they can also get the talented young big man as part of the package.

  8. Lakers win, so Nick Young says ridiculous things

    Dec 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

    Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Young says Lakers played liked ‘Django Unchained’ without Kobe Bryant

  9. Five things to watch as NBA takes over Christmas Day

    Dec 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    LeBron James LeBron James

    The NBA has given us some good presents to open for Christmas.

  10. Reports: Josh Smith agrees to sign with Rockets once he clears waivers

    Dec 24, 2014, 1:24 PM EST

    Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    This is a low risk pickup by the Rockets at a good price.

  11. Suns trade Anthony Tolliver to Pistons for Tony Mitchell

    Dec 24, 2014, 12:58 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    A minor move, but one that should benefit both teams.

  12. Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao tears Achilles, done for season

    Dec 24, 2014, 12:36 PM EST

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Expect more Tristan Thompson in the short term, a trade for Cleveland to land a big in the longer term.

  13. Miami Heat fans were hurt when LeBron left, they may let him hear it. Somewhat.

    Dec 24, 2014, 11:45 AM EST

    Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Miami fans will boo a little, but this isn’t Cleveland.

Featured video

Who will land Josh Smith?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (9893)
  2. K. Martin (7124)
  3. D. Rose (6835)
  4. K. Leonard (6826)
  5. T. Parker (6564)
  1. C. Bosh (6532)
  2. T. Jones (6412)
  3. K. Bryant (6018)
  4. J. Teague (6006)
  5. D. Williams (5970)