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NBA Finals Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat

Jun 4, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

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SEASON RECORDS

Miami 66-16 (First seed in East)
San Antonio 58-24 (Second seed in West)

PLAYOFF RECORDS

San Antonio 12-2 (swept the Lakers 4-0, beat the Warriors 4-2, swept the Grizzlies)
Miami: 12-4 (swept Milwaukee 4-0, beat Chicago 4-1, went 7 to beat Pacers)

SEASON SERIES

This was the most meaningless 1-1 season series ever. The first game was the Thursday night national television game where Gregg Popovich sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili home early (it was the second night of a road back-to-back) and got the team a $250,000 fine for embarrassing David Stern. Next time these teams met the Heat rested LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the Heat were sensible enough to lie to the league office in advance about why they had to sit. So no fines.

KEY INJURIES

Both teams are playing through some minor injuries, but nobody is expected to miss games. Dwyane Wade will be the biggest question mark — he looked grounded through six games of the last round then suddenly reminded everyone of his old self in Game 7. So which Wade shows up this series?

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession) – PLAYOFFS ONLY

Miami: offense, 108.4 (1st in postseason); defense 97.6 (4th in postseason)
San Antonio: offense 106.5 (2nd in postseason); defense 95.4 (1st in postseason)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES:

Spurs ball movement vs. Heat pressure defense. If you saw Game 7 Monday night when the Heat wiped the floor with the Pacers, you see what Miami’s athleticism and pressure can do to even a good offense. Miami is big, athletic and they use that to force turnovers (which become alley-oops going the other way). But do you really think Tony Parker is going to melt from that? San Antonio’s ball movement could break the Heat’s pressure not totally unlike Dallas did to them in the finals two years ago. If Miami’s traps disrupt the Spurs ball movement Miami wins. But if the ball moves to open shooters and Danny Green or Matt Bonner are knocking down threes, advantage Spurs.

LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard. No one man stops LeBron James… but one man can make his life more difficult (Paul George did a respectable job last round). . Kawhi Leonard will be the best defender LeBron will see these playoffs, and if Leonard can just make LeBron have to really work for his points, that’s a huge plus for the Spurs. The help defense behind Leonard also needs to be sharp — Tim Duncan is smart about this, but Tiago Splitter can be a step slow at times, he does that this round and he’s in a LeBron poster.

Who controls paint/can the Heat rebound? Gregg Popovich is a smart man, he was taking notes on what the Pacers did to push the Heat to a seventh game — Indiana worked the ball inside, drew fouls to get to the line and dominated the offensive glass. The Spurs don’t have the raw size of the Pacers, but Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan are both smart, aggressive and a still bigger front line that will be able to hurt the Heat inside. In the games it won the Pacers grabbed around 40 percent of their missed shots as offensive rebounds, if the Spurs can keep that number above 30 percent they will give the Heat fits this series.

OUTLOOK

This is a great matchup on paper because San Antonio should do things that really bother the Heat.

For one, they are strong inside, too. While San Antonio doesn’t have anyone the size of Roy Hibbert they do have two legitimate, physical big men in Splitter and Duncan and the Spurs will get points inside. The Spurs can play physical; they just dusted the physical Grizzlies in four games.

What is more, Tony Parker is going to be a real problem for them. Miami has struggled at times against teams with top point guards — and right now Parker is playing at an MVP-like level. He’s averaging 23 points on 47.percent shooting (37 percent from three), plus dishing out 7.2 assists per game these playoffs. If he can get past the first-line of defense and into the paint the Heat will be in trouble. If he can deal with the aggressive traps of the Heat and move the ball to open shooters (who hit their shots) the Heat could be in trouble.

For the Spurs, the question these playoff was always could they beat a very athletic team? They didn’t last year, falling to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. But this year, due to the Russell Westbrook injury, the most athletic team the Spurs faced getting to the finals was Golden State, and while they have a couple good athletes on the roster they don’t compare to the Heat that way.

How does San Antonio deal with that? Which is another way of asking, what do they do when the Heat hit that extra gear they showed in Game 7 (and a couple other times against the Pacers)?

PREDICTION

Heat in six. The Spurs have a shot in this, they have the tools to exploit the Heat’s weaknesses and we know they are not going to melt down in the moment. But in the end this is a close series where a handful of times the Heat will hit the turbo button and go play on another level that the Spurs cannot stop. That will be enough to put Miami over the top.

106 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. biglaj007 - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    The Spurs second team gave the Heat first team issues the last time these two teams met.

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Honestly, regular season games just mean little at this point, no matter what happened.

  2. jbeagles23 - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Anyone thinking lebron can’t cover Parker is naive. When he was on George he shut him right down and then would go on to guard west in the fourth and I’m not sure he even broke a sweat. The spurs defensively are not on the same planet as Indiana

    • aboogy123456 - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      I think you don’t understand that there are two elements to basketball, offense AND defense. And comparing a wing player and a power forward to a speedy point guard shows how much you know about basketball.

    • bstmusic1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      Not on the same planet? True, which is why the Spurs have a better chance of defeating Miami than the Pacers did. Did you not read the article? Yeah, the Spurs are ranked #1 defense in the post-season. Oh, and Duncan? His numbers this year are almost identical to his 2003 numbers. He’s turned back time and is hungry for a fifth ring.

  3. canehouse - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    I have a hard time imagining anything other than this series being very compelling and played the way the NBA is supposed to be played. Two amazing teams, with a lot of star power, extremely well coached and prepared teams, with passionate fan bases. Both teams have a tremendous amount of respect for eachother… whomever prevails will have earned it… (my allegiance says HEAT, but that’s only because I am diehard HEATER and we have Lebron) Dream finals for the NBA this year!!

  4. funktron2x - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    You haven’t been paying attention to the Spurs if you think splitter is overrated or Duncan not as good as in 07 or their defense not being good on the wings. I am not saying spurs will win, but I am calling out the ignorance I see. People just don’t pay attention to the Spurs and it shows.

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:30 AM

      I beg your pardon. REAL NBA fans pay attention to teams like the Spurs.

      No Heat Hater, but I think Spurs will get Banner Number 5 in 6. The Heat are too good to be swept or for them to win just once.

      What does the Spurs have? Have you ever heard of a well-oiled machine?

  5. aboogy123456 - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Heat may be able to slow parker down, but I doubt lebron is the guy that will be doing it. The heat have two very good point guard defenders in norris cole and mario chalmers, especially cole. I don’t know how successful they will be in slowing down parker, but I think norris cole’s defense will be key to the series.

  6. southbeachtalent - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    I love lamp!

    Heat in 6

    • unxpexted1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      how dare so many thumbs down to an anchorman reference

    • antipc01 - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:34 PM

      Heat will beat the spurs.

  7. antipc01 - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    I am back to critique the Finals of the small market Spurs,who are lucky My mavs took the year off saving money, or they would have eliminated the Spurs Again!!
    YES-It’s the Real AntiPC from back in the day of MSNBC sports. I have decided to take some of my valuable time to school the Spur fans. I know you have been CRAVING my prognostication. I am trying to decide today if I hate the Heat even more then the Spurs!!!!!

  8. antipc01 - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    I have decided to come out of retirement and use my valuable time to help school the small market Spur fans from down there by the Mexican Border. I know you have been CRAVING my prognostication for YEARS. You should enjoy these finals while they last, as my Mavs took the year off to save money-otherwise they would have eliminated you AGAIN!!
    YES-YOU ARE WITNESSING THE RETURN OF THE REAL ANTI-PC FROM BACK IN THE MSNBC-SPORTS DAYS!!!!!!

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:32 AM

      Who you? You haven’t been missed. Carry on.

  9. pistolpete0903 - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Miami is a very beatable team. The Pacers clearly showed that; their lack of offense (don’t like to play ‘what-if’, but Granger playing would have been huge) is what done them in.

    The key is not get suckered into playing Miami’s style of play (fast, up and down). Knowing the smart guy Pop is,expect to see a plenty of touches for Duncan inside. Slow down the game and take high percentage shots inside. The good thing about SA is that Splitter moves very well (for a big man) WITHOUT the ball, hence should get a lot of good looks with Parker penetrating.
    On defense, I would follow Indiana’s blue print of leaving Haslem/Birdman open. I am guessing that Miami would use a smaller line up with Bosh and LBJ at 5&4 respectively. Which is why Blair might have to play a big role on defense.
    The Spurs have a chameleon like identity; so I would expect a lot of adjustments from Pop as the series moves on. The first couple of games would be a punch-counter punch sort of encounter; would expect the series to really define from Game 3 onwards.

  10. heatfan26 - Jun 5, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Can we say Heat in 6!!!!!!! Not a bandwagoner.. fan since 1988!!! Previously 76er fan for family affiliations. This team finds a way to win every time. Down 27 in regular season and wins the game.. these guys don’t quit. There is such things as off game.. but when it comes down to it, Heat will not lose a 7 game series with home court.. not possible. Thanks for playing all you haters, now here’s your lovely parting gift..
    YOUR 2013 NBA CHAMPIONS… THE…………. MIAMI……………….. HEAT………….. (CHEERS GALORE) LOL.

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