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This isn’t 2007 — LeBron, Spurs both very different than last finals meeting

Jun 5, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Tim Duncan LeBron James Getty Images

This isn’t the first time Tim Duncan and the Spurs stood in the way of LeBron James and what he sees as his destiny to be one of the game’s all time greats.

Back in 2007 LeBron dragged his Cavaliers squad to the Finals, only to be just carved up by the Spurs winning their third title of the decade. It was a team and a player in very different places. After it was all over, Duncan said this according to Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

“This is going to be your league in a little while. I appreciate you giving us this year.”

Six years later, it is LeBron’s league (as much as it is anyone’s). But he’s different. And the Spurs are different.

That makes 2013 very, very different than 2007.

LeBron actually scores less now than he did six years ago — 27.3 points a game then to 28.6 now — but he is vastly more efficient. Six years ago he shot 47.6 percent and he got most of that in transition of slashing to the rim. He was a terrible jump shooter and teams (including the Spurs in those Finals) played off him and dared him to shoot.

Do that now and LeBron’s strong jumper will destroy you. He shot 56.5 percent this season and 40.6 percent from three (his true shooting percentage, which includes compensation for threes and free throws, so it’s like points per possession, jumped from a good 55.2 percent back then to a ridiculous 64 percent).

LeBron says it’s not just him that’s better — and he’s right about that.

“I think our team is more experienced, first of all,” LeBron said, speaking in his press conference after Game 7 against the Pacers. “My Cleveland team, we were very young, and we went up against a very experienced team, well-coached team. And they took advantage of everything that we did.”

This is a radically different team around LeBron. Those Cavaliers relied on LeBron for everything and hoped Larry Hughes, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden could pitch in enough. These Heat may have struggled some in the playoffs but Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen make up a much more dangerous core.

But this is also a very different Spurs team.

Then it was the big three at their peak — Duncan led the team in scoring and rebounding, 20 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. Tony Parker pitched in 18.6 points a game at age 24, Manu Ginobili was 16.5 points. Then it dropped off the map as there were role players — Michael Finley, Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen among others.

Six years later, this is Tony Parker’s team — he drives the offense scoring 20.6 points a game and adding 7.6 assists a game. As the big three got old Gregg Popovich turned the offense over to Parker and what you got was a better, more balanced attack — six guys average double figures a game. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green get their points in the flow of the offense, but Duncan is still a serious threat (17.6 points a game in a renaissance, healthy year for him).

What changed — and then returned to form — for San Antonio is defense. Back in 2007 they allowed 99.9 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA. At subsequent years they fell back to a pedestrian 11th in the NBA, but this season they allowed a third best 101.6.

Now the question comes: Can they slow the improved and more versatile LeBron? They did it six years ago, but that was a very different LeBron with a very different team around them. Of course, this is a very different Spurs team, too.

  1. jbeagles23 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    I’m a heat fan an te answer is no they can’t slow lebron. However that doesn’t mean the spurs can’t win. I’m really anticipating one of the bet series we’ve seen

  2. scottheis82 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    LeBron actually scores less now than he did six years ago —27.3 points a game then to 28.6 now —huh??? I’m no math whiz or English major, but something is wrong with this sentence.

  3. 1heatedtoombrayduh - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    “LeBron actually scores less now than he did six years ago — 27.3 points a game then to 28.6 now ”

    I must say this sentence confused me. Is he scoring less or more now? lol

    • addictedzone - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Google is your friend.
      Kurt transposed the latter figure. It should read:
      “LeBron actually scores less now than he did six years ago — 27.3 points a game then to 26.8 now — but he is vastly more efficient.”

  4. sellahh - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    • erckle31 - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:28 AM

      That’s awesome haha.

  5. halfbaht - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Spurs in 6. Pacers showed what good defence does to the heat.

    • dls612 - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:56 AM

      And Miami showed the pacers the door!

      • erckle31 - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        Even as a Pacer fan, that was a pretty witty comment haha

  6. canehouse - Jun 5, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    The big number for the Pacers against the HEAT was rebounding… The Spurs just aren’t great on the glass. Not saying the Spurs can’t win… but it’s going to be the one glaring thing that could decide this series.

  7. wjmoffatt - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Let us do some math here:
    Green and Manu > Wade (IDC what you say, hie was not much better than Lance Stephenson and if you think these two aren’t better, well then you’re a fool)
    Lebron > Leonard
    Duncan > Bosh
    Splitter > Hasleem
    Bonner > Miller
    Neal > Cole
    Rest of Bench Player
    Spurs > Heat

    GREG >>>>>>>>> Anyone today

    Basically, Lebron you better play out of this world this series, not what you’ve been doing. He has to step it up 2 levels.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Yeah it’s too bad they’re not playing a tournament of 1 on 1 pick up games.

    • canehouse - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      I love how you have two guys being better than Wade… it usually takes 3 guys. Of course I kid… Where is Allen, Battier, Chalmers, and “The Bird Man”?? to relegate them to “Rest of Bench Player” shows your NBA IQ and your comparisons are laughable and deranged.

    • fredagsedb - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Okay my version, which I give some serious thought. Although it is not a only a 1 on 1 game. Matchups are important.

      Starting 5
      PG: Parker > Chalmers

      SG: Green = Wade. I see them cancelling each other out. Wade played well in game 7. But has otherwise been pedestrian this PO. Green did a great job of individual D on Curry and Thompson, and was important in his rotations on Randolph. Unless Wade brings his Flash-self in every game. I see this match-up equal. Perhaps even with an advantage to Green if he hits threes like he has been in this playoffs when you rotate off him.

      SF: Leonard Haslem. Splitter is bigger, better defensively, better at rebounding and can hurt you both in the PnR, O-board, occasionally on post-ups and with his passing offensively. Haslem is not more than a mediocre defender and untrustworthy mid-range shooter

      C: Duncan > Bosh. Duncan is better both on D and O. Duncan has kept the best rebounding big men under their average all season, and as we saw in the Pacers series, Bosh is by no means a rebounding monster. He will be childs play in that regard compared to Randolph and Gasol. Duncan will score and draw fouls in all the areas he usually does against Bosh. Down low, mid-range and on drives when you body him up. Bosh can keep Duncan occupied if he gets hot with his outside shot, but I anticipate the Spurs have a gameplan for that, that doesn’t include Duncan guarding by the 3 point line much. He will probably guard Haslem and Splitter will be on Bosh.

      Ginobili > Allen. Wildcard matchup of the series. Both can have huge impact. I give Ginobili the edge because he can impact the game in more ways. Allen is pretty a non-factor if he doesn’t hit his threes. Ginobil can hurt you with threes, drives, assists, and is a deadly PnR player.

      Diaw = Birdman: They both impact the game with what they do. Diaw with his Physical post D, and good decisions on offense. He’s an alround offensive player, and a really good passer for a 4. Birdman with his rebounding, finishing at the rim and general hustle.

      Bonner > Anthony. Both known as specialists. Bonner on 3’s, Anthony on D. But Bonner has shown real defensive development this PO and did a good job working hard to front him and execute the defensive gameplan. Therefore I give Bonner the edge, since his D is better than Anthony’s O.

      Joseph Battier, Miller, Jones, Lewis, Howard, Varnado

      The two teams don’t have the positions to match-up directly. Battier and Miller are the only ones who have played in this playoffs, and most of the time sparingly, and without the great. They are, however, both experienced and can show up for great games despite the fact that they really haven’t this PO yet. The Spurs bench is less experienced, but everybody besides McGrady has spent a good deal of more time on the court than most guys that far down the bench on other teams. I therefore see the Spurs has having a deeper bench overall, which could be a factor

      • fredagsedb - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Don’t know what happened. It should have said: Leonard Haslem

      • fredagsedb - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:26 AM

        Don’t know what happened. It should have said:

        Leonard Haslem

      • fredagsedb - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        Come on:

        okay words then:

        Leonard is not better than LeBron

        Splitter is better than Haslem

  8. bucrightoff - Jun 5, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    The fact that this isn’t the same Spurs team speaks to the greatness of Gregg Popovich. He can work any system and be succesful with it.

  9. golfrangeman - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    First of all you used cole twice and didn’t use chalmers at all, then you didn’t mention bird man and most important the Heat won 66 games 25 and 5 against the west and 2 zip against the spurs. So what ever their doing it works!!!

  10. jbeagles23 - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Yea the pacers a better defensive team than the spurs showed how to beat the heat yet the heat won the series. Your claim is juvenile and shows your low bball iq. And bonnet isn’t better than anyone. This heat team is a lot quicker than any team you’ve played. I agree Duncan is a lot better than Hibbert as a bball player. However Hibbert is a lot better at rebounding and foul shooting where he got a lot of points in that series

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      But what is your claim? Yes, the Pacers are better defensively than SA, but SA is a better, more balanced offensive team than Indiana. They move the ball well and have an all-world point guard, which should help them against Miami’s ball pressure. This is one of the places that the Pacers failed epicly, when they failed.

      I’m not claiming that the Spurs are going to beat the Heat. I think either way, it’s going to be a heck of a series.

  11. jbeagles23 - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    As well. Lebron >>>>>the whole spurs team. Best player in the world. Can and will take over this series

  12. rodge1 - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    All you haters picked OKC to beat the Heat in last year’s Finals… How’d that work out for you?

  13. jzone954 - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Hate to tell you. No team is beating Miami in under 7 games. If spurs beat them. It will take 7 games

  14. jzone954 - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    And also the Pacers series show Miami themselves, what they need to get better at. When Miami turns up the defensive pressure there so little you can do……Duncan is great he won’t be banging as much down low as Hibbert did and West did……Miami is going to trap Duncan a lot. It’s going to be one heck of a series.

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 5, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      Duncan is better than Hibbert passing out of the double, and SA has a lot more options for scoring in that instance than the Pacers.

      Either way, I totally agree with your last statement.

  15. jzone954 - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    And one more note…..this isn’t the same Spurs team that won all those championships. This IS the same Miami team who won it all last year…..Spurs aren’t as good defensively as they were during this championship days……but that’s not saying they can’t beat Miami

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM

      The Spurs have shown over the last few years that they have problems with athletic teams: Thunder, Warriors, etc. The Heat play a very athletic game and I think the Spurs are going to struggle. The Heat will win this series in 6 games. They’ll win the first 2 games in Miami…take 1 of the 3 in San Antonio and win it all back in Miami for game 6. I think the middle 3 games goes Spurs, Heat, Spurs (and Miami still doesn’t lose 2-games in a row … since January 10th). If (when) it goes down like this, the Heat will be considered as one of the best teams ever. 66-win season…27-game winning streak…only 8th team to go back to back.

  16. itsonlyaspeedbump - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Wow that Cleveland team lol…I dont care what anyone says, Lebron taking that roster to the Finals is an even greater accomplishment than any rings he wins with a loaded Heat team.

  17. secularhaze - Jun 5, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Spurs in 6. One good game from Wade and everyones acting like the Heat are this unstoppable force. The Spurs defense as well as the advantage at many positions will be too much for LeFlop to overcome. I hope we dont see any whistle happy officials, I’d rather watch tough, defensive basketball than a bit of acting followed by some FT’s. That goes for Manu as well haha. Good series, regardless.

  18. ptestonm - Jun 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    The same group saying Spurs in six were the same people who said Thunder in seven last season……….How that work out for you?

  19. illuminatedgenius - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    The main difference between back then and now is that LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavs he was a one man team. Now with Miami, he actually has a strong team to support him. That makes a major difference in the end of the day.

  20. jbeagles23 - Jun 5, 2013 at 11:03 PM

    Okc gave these same spurs players fits last year with their speed and athleticism. This spurs team may be better. However this heat team was head and shoulders.above that okc team

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