May 28, 2013, 2:59 AM EDT
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.
Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 AM EDT
Cavaliers guard says initial response stemmed from his straightforward approach, confidence
Jul 30, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT
Collective Bargaining Agreement limits offseason charity games to United States and Canada
Jul 29, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
Union voted in Michele Roberts instead
Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT
Popovich signed contract extension with Spurs this offseason
Jul 29, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
“That 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.” —Kevin Durant
Jul 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT
Orlando reportedly plans to send former Pistons point guard to D-League
Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about his free agency but isn’t giving many clues. He liked what LeBron did.
Jul 29, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT
“I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, I love it here. Who knows what will happen.” —Kevin Durant on his 2016 free agency.
Jul 29, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT
Bledsoe reportedly resents how differently Pistons, Jazz and Rockets treated their restricted free agents
Jul 29, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT
CSKA-Moscow wants to poach Scott from Atlanta Hawks
Jul 29, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
Johnson gets NBA contract after eventful summer league
Jul 29, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
I’m not sure Love is taking advice from Minnesota right now
Jul 29, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT
Lakers introduce Scott as new coach in press conference
Jul 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT
Rose said he was disappointed but he understands ‘Melo’s decision.
Jul 29, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
Want to see LeBron strip down to his underwear?
Jul 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT
Lakers guard confirms he’s planning on retirement
Jul 29, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT
Donald Sterling isn’t going away, but he’s pretty much done as the Clippers owner now.
Jul 29, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT
Yes, you read that headline correctly
Jul 29, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT
The question with Cousins is never talent, but his maturity seems to be there.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Jason Kidd or Byron Scott could hire former Seattle SuperSonic
Jul 29, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT
Irving wouldn’t get full 30 percent of adjusted salary cap by triggering Derrick Rose rule
- Durant says 2014 USA team better than 2010 version that won gold 4
- Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about his free agency but isn’t giving many clues. He liked what LeBron did. 16
- Byron Scott makes ridiculous optimism sound reasonable 40
- Derrick Rose told Carmelo Anthony that if he came to Chicago “the game would be easy” 40
- LeBron James strips on stage, throws clothes into crowd (video) 23
- Is DeMarcus Cousins the big man Team USA can lean on? 19
- Lakers make it official — finally — and hire Byron Scott as head coach 13
- Derrick Rose: “I’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.” 29