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.
Dec 20, 2013, 2:55 AM EST
When the Spurs rest Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili they still are pretty darn good. Ask the Heat — last year Gregg Popovich and the Spurs were fined $250,000 by the league for late notice resting the big three for a Thursday night showcase game in Miami. What people forget is the Spurs…
Dec 20, 2013, 2:22 AM EST
Golden State was the more talented team on the floor Thursday night, but they ended up on losing to a depleted Spurs team. Why? The penultimate possession summed up the game fairly well — tied 102-102 the Spurs got the ball to the guy with the hot hand (Marco Belinelli) and when he missed Boris…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:22 PM EST
Before the season began, an inter-conference matchup between the Thunder and the Bulls seemed like a tasty affair, and one that would be worthy of its mid-December nationally televised time slot. But after Derrick Rose once again went down for the season with an injury, and with Luol Deng missing this one with a sore…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:29 PM EST
Even with Kobe Bryant, the playoffs were a long shot for the Lakers this season — their defense was slipping, and their offense was not going to carry them far enough in a deep Western Conference. Kobe Bryant’s injury — out six weeks now with a fracture of tibial plateau in in his left knee…
Dec 19, 2013, 9:16 PM EST
Reeling from the latest injury to Kobe Bryant and with no healthy point guards able to return to action anytime soon, the Lakers signed a capable initiator of the offense from the D-League to bolster the team’s ever-eroding roster. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that L.A. has agreed to a deal with Kendall Marshall,…
Dec 19, 2013, 8:33 PM EST
The Pacers had targeted Friday’s nationally televised home contest against the Rockets for Danny Granger to make his season debut, and a week of practice has him on schedule to do just that. Indiana confirmed on Thursday that Granger will be back in the lineup versus Houston, but the team will be easing him in…
Dec 19, 2013, 7:19 PM EST
The news that Kobe Bryant would miss the next six weeks with a fractured bone in his left knee was not only devastating to a team decimated by injuries for the second straight season, but it could have taken an emotional toll on Bryant, as well. The league’s most fiery competitor was sidelined for eight…
Dec 19, 2013, 6:32 PM EST
Ersan Ilyasova has not been himself this season – the guy who averaged 13.2 points a game on 46.2 percent shooting and 44.4 percent from three last season is averaging 8.2 points a game on 38.3 percent shooing this season and 21.6 percent from three. His stats are like that across the board. To use…
Dec 19, 2013, 5:46 PM EST
Not that the Lakers were expecting Steve Nash to return like the cavalry charging over the mountain to save the day, but now we know for sure that is not happening. Steve Nash is going to be out at least another month, he announced to the media on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came at basically…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:32 PM EST
Gregg Popovich is making a habit of tempting fate. First, he confronted Stephen Jackson. Even if that was done in a joking manner – and it was – you can never be certain how Jackson will react. Now, the Spurs coach is challenging another one of the NBA’s most strong-willed figures: David Stern. Both Tim…
Dec 19, 2013, 4:14 PM EST
This is a punch to the gut. For the Lakers. And For Kobe Bryant. Kobe will be out six weeks with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, the Lakers announced. That is the basically the flat part of the top of the shin where it connects to the bottom of…
Dec 19, 2013, 3:12 PM EST
Derrick Rose is loyal. Don’t believe me? Remember when he said he wanted to roll with with Keith Bogans as his two guard rather than recruit other guys to shake up the roster? It’s just who he is. Then came the report out of the New York Daily News (not a local source) that Rose…
Dec 19, 2013, 2:05 PM EST
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.” —Derrick Zoolander This basketball thing is working out pretty well for Chandler Parsons (he is averaging 17.1 points a game for the Rockets, and shooting 41 percent from three), but…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
I genuinely believe there can be “basketball diplomacy.” I think the average person in North Korea is not really different than us — they care about their families, they try to be good to their neighbors, they worry about the future — and sometimes something simple like bonding over a sport together can help bring…
Dec 19, 2013, 1:26 PM EST
Omer Asik may not like it, but he’s staying a Rocket for now. Probably. After weeks of talks — not to mention media and fan speculation — Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey has looked at the trade market for Asik and decided it’s not good enough. The Rockets have pulled out of all Asik trade talks…
Dec 19, 2013, 12:51 PM EST
He’s the reigning NBA MVP, won the last two NBA titles, earned the last two the Finals MVPs… And not surprisingly, LeBron James sells a lot of jerseys. The NBA released the top selling jerseys from the start of this season (October through December this year), which includes the holiday buying rush, and not surprisingly…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:36 AM EST
After this play, you just thought it was the Celtics’ night. Turns out not so much (the Pistons came back to win). Still, this was a fantastic execution by the Celtics. With o.2 seconds left on the clock the only way to score was a tip in, and Jared Sullinger rolls to the basket (without…
Dec 19, 2013, 11:20 AM EST
It looks like Michael Jordan will have enough children to form his own basketball team. Jordan’s wife Yvette Prieto is pregnant with twins, reports TMZ. TMZ Sports has learned he’s having IDENTICAL twin girls. Michael’s wife, Yvette Prieto, is pregnant, though we don’t know how far along. They were married in April. Jordan has three…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:52 AM EST
LeBron James didn’t do anything blatent here — he didn’t go for the ball or hit the shooters’ elbow — but make no mistake: He fouled Paul George on the game’s final shot. Despite some protestations of Pacers’ players there was no call and the Heat got a 97-94 win Wednesday night. George did a…
Dec 19, 2013, 10:13 AM EST
Andrea Bargnani made a play near the end of the first overtime session on Wednesday in Milwaukee that was as boneheaded as they come, and could’ve easily cost his desperate Knicks team a much-needed win. After a missed shot by Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler tipped out the offensive rebound, which landed in Bargnani’s hands. The…
- No stars, no problem: Spurs reserves too much for Warriors in 104-102 win 0
- Kobe injury a reality check for Lakers, doesn’t really change plan 6
- Spurs will rest Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in nationally televised game, Tony Parker also out 25
- Kobe Bryant is out six weeks with fracture in the left knee 56
- Chicago columnist hammers Derrick Rose as no longer humble star 35
- Kobe Bryant is out six weeks with fracture in the left knee (56)
- Report: Heat have interest in Celtics’ Jordan Crawford (50)
- Pau Gasol expresses frustration with D’Antoni offense. Lakers have to think trade. (49)
- Mike D’Antoni to Pau Gasol: “There’s no reason to not play hard” (48)
- LeBron did foul Paul George on final shot but there was no call (VIDEO) (45)