May 28, 2013, 2:59 AM EST
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.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:30 PM EST
Rose will undergo surgery Friday morning.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:15 PM EST
Stoudemire has interest in a reunion.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
Yes it’s a little late in coming, but it’s worth remembering what a quality player he was.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:21 PM EST
“30 minutes with Marv Albert is enough.”
Feb 26, 2015, 6:31 PM EST
Doc Rivers the GM is doing Doc Rivers the coach wrong.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:45 PM EST
He is having all or part of the meniscus removed, which makes for a faster recovery.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
While in theory he could return for a few games, in practice that’s not going to happen.
Feb 26, 2015, 4:14 PM EST
Good luck prying Cousins from Sacramento
Feb 26, 2015, 3:27 PM EST
He is weeks away from playing in a game.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:58 PM EST
3. An unfair standard
Feb 26, 2015, 1:11 PM EST
This will be Beasley’s third stint with Miami
Feb 26, 2015, 12:29 PM EST
Reports emerging Rondo ‘unlikely’ to re-sign with Dallas
Feb 26, 2015, 11:12 AM EST
It’s too early to say with Rose what hs legacy will be.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:27 AM EST
Charles Barkley would approve
Feb 26, 2015, 9:44 AM EST
Kings center wasn’t the only one kicking up a storm
Feb 26, 2015, 9:08 AM EST
Nuggets center just handed ball to Markieff Morris
Feb 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST
Nothing is official, but this isn’t good.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:00 AM EST
Walker had been ice cold up to this point.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:02 AM EST
They do not look like a team ready to repeat.
- Report: George Karl controls Kings’ personnel, wants Ty Lawson, willing to move DeMarcus Cousins 21
- Paul George returns to practice with Pacers, could play in couple weeks 7
- Report: LeBron James wonders why he doesn’t get more MVP consideration 37
- Would Rajon Rondo leave the Mavericks for the Lakers? 56
- Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: The Spurs losing rodeo road trip a bad sign 11
- PBT Extra: What is future for Derrick Rose? Bulls? 13
- Mavericks suspend Rajon Rondo one game after argument with coach Rick Carlisle 43
- Derrick Rose is hurt again. Where do the Bulls go from here? 28