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PBT NBA Finals preview: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs (part deux)

Jun 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

SEASON RECORDS

San Antonio Spurs 62-20 (No. 1 seed in West)

Miami Heat 54-28 (No. 2 seed in East)

KEY INJURIES

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker sprained his ankle in Game 4 against the Thunder and aggravated it in Game 5, by the second half of Game 6 Gregg Popovich shut him down. He says he wants and plans to play in Game 1 of the Finals, but how explosive he is, the Spurs need the Full Parker in this series.

Miami Heat: Nothing of note (Chris Andersen returned from his injury and with five days off should be good to go in Game 1).

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS IN PLAYOFFS (points per 100 possession)

San Antonio Spurs: Offense 111.2 (second in playoffs); Defense 101 (second we in playoffs)

Miami Heat: Offense 113.7 (first in playoffs); Defense 102.8 (fifth in playoffs)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1. Miami will go small, can the Spurs adjust? Last year in the Finals Miami had much more success with it’s small lineups, putting in three point shooters in to get enough floor spacing (remember they started Mike Miller). As we saw against the Thunder, it is likely Gregg Popovich has to match that by not playing Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan together (even though the Spurs defense is much better when they are paired), and we can expect to see a heavy dose of Boris Diaw (which allows the Spurs to “go small” without really going all that small). Miami’s real weapon here is Dwyane Wade — his knees did not let him perform up to a high level last Finals, this season Eric Spoelstra had him on a knee maintenance program of rest all season long and it has paid off. Vintage Wade, even in just four or five games, would be a big boost for Miami.

2. Spurs ball movement vs. Heat pressure defense. Miami’s defense is all about using their athleticism to force turnovers and pressure teams into poor decisions, which then become transition points for the Heat going to other way. No team is better suited to counter this than the Spurs with their ball movement — but they struggled at points against Oklahoma City when the Thunder cranked up the athleticism and defense pressure. The Spurs need to be more consistent this series.

Two key things to watch when the Spurs are on offense. First, how does Manu Ginobili handle the pressure (especially if he gets more time as the defacto point guard with Parker having a bum ankle)? Last Finals he struggled, he was out of control and missed some big plays, and it cost the Spurs. San Antonio needs the Ginobili from the last series to show up.

Second, how does Chris Bosh work on the pick-and-roll? San Antonio will drag him out to be the big defending in that situation and he has to contain Parker, Ginobili and the rest of them and not let them get into the paint. Once there and with the Spurs ball movement even the athletic Heat can’t rotate fast enough to stop a clean-look shot.

3. Kawhi Leonard on LeBron James. Last series for six games Kawhi Leonard went under picks and gave LeBron the jump shot, and LeBron took the bait. He hit a decent number of them at times, but he was passive. Game 7 was different, LeBron consistently still attacked in that situation. It’s not just Leonard on LeBron for the Spurs — he is a team-wide focus — but the same defensive principles will be in place. If LeBron is attacking and getting inside the Heat will be effective and efficient on offense, if he is settling for jumpers the Spurs win. LeBron’s going to get his, Leonard just has to make that happen from the outside, he has to make LeBron work for his buckets. Pretty much the exact same rules apply to Dwyane Wade.

PREDICTIONS (from the PBT staff)

Kurt Helin: San Antonio is a better team than they were a year ago, Miami is not playing as well as last year’s version. Plus, the Spurs have been forced to raise their level of execution to a much higher place just to get to the Finals (Miami was not nearly tested the same way). I would take the Spurs in 5 if not for two words: LeBron James. Even so, Spurs in 7.

Brett Pollakoff: The Heat have the game’s best player in LeBron James, and picking against him at this stage of his career implies at least a certain amount of foolishness. With that being said, the way the Spurs used an entire team effort to close out the Thunder on the road reminds us that Gregg Popovich’s system might simply be destined to out-execute the defending champs in a rematch of last year’s epic seven-game series. Spurs in 7.

Dan Feldman. Spurs in 7. San Antonio is slightly better and Miami slightly worse than last season, when the Heat won the series by a razor-thin margin. Honestly, I’m leery about picking against LeBron and hardly confident in my pick. This one could really go either way.

  1. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    You want a preview? I’m going to be an emotional wreck, that’s what’s going to happen.

    • Zammael - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      As long you don’t go by the loser mentality that plagues so many fans these days:
      * we can’t win, let’s lose by 30 so Pop pulls the guys for the next game
      * believe in the predictions of losers like Charles Barkley because he lost to a superior player in MJ in the 93 finals, that the Blazers had the younger and more talented stars, that the Thunder had the younger and more talented stars, that the Heat…
      * etc

      • zoomy123 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:24 AM

        Did you just put the Miami Heat in the same breath as the Blazers and Thunder? LOL!

      • Zammael - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:37 AM

        Had you watched Inside the NBA and heard Barkley’s reasoning, you would understand this comment.

        Then again… Perhaps English isn’t your first language.

  2. hehateme2 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    the HEAT will wins in 6. That is all.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:42 AM

      That’s my prediction as well!

      • spthegr8 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        It is gonna be a GREAT series again but, if Parker is healthy. I got the Spurs in 6. That IF is pretty BIG tho!!

    • bball242322 - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      This series will go to 7…I didn’t realize ppl actually thought this series could be over before 7 games. This will be another thriller of a series, not domination by 1 side leading to a 6 or shorter game series.

      Spurs in a close game 7

  3. rodge1 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    You guys picked Thunder to win in 2012 and Spurs to win last year.

    • ranfan12 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:35 AM

      at least the spurs chances of winning were a lot higher

  4. zoomy123 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    I really don’t understand how people can say that Miami is worse than they were last year. Last year Dwyane Wade was on 1 leg and Chris Bosh had just come off a series in which he averaged 11 ppg and 4 rpg. The only way you can say that Miami was better last year is if you really think having Mike Miller is more valuable than a healthy Dwyane Wade and a Chris Bosh coming off of 3 20+ point games.

    I think too many people are focusing on Miami’s regular season dominance and trying to compare last year’s 66-16 record to this year’s 54-28 record. This year D-Wade missed 28 games and the Heat coasted the entire season biding their time until the playoffs. It seems like people are having a hard time understanding that regular season dominance doesn’t equal playoff dominance. Ask Brooklyn and Indiana about the difference.

    • miamboy - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:51 AM

      two great teams that are playing in this championship….and one will come out a true champion….cut-n-dry…

      • zoomy123 - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:18 AM

        Exactly. This series is identical last year: two teams almost evenly matched but with a very slight edge to San Antonio.

      • beach305 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        I don’t make predictions.

        I hope the game is without injuries for both teams.

        I believe Miami has a good chance to win this series.

      • fanofthegame79 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        I will say this, they want to drum up “rivals” for LeBron via Kobe or Durant, but LeBron’s rival has to be Tim Duncan and the Spurs. This will be their third Finals match-up and, as they say, rivals are made in the Finals.

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      Bingo! I’m not sure where this “Miami isn’t as good” stuff is coming from!

      • kinggw - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        It’s the Bill Simmons crowd who overvalue Mike Miller and Miami’s regular season performance.

        They maintain Miami has not been tested, but you could also argue that Miami has performed so well that teams that were supposed to give them big problems were reduced to nothing more than pests.

        The Heat are healthy, focused, and if role players like Battier and Lewis continue to hit their jumpers, they will three peat.

      • thegoodfight12 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        This team has played a lot of games the past 4 years so I think most of that talk stems from there. Throw in key vets getting a step slower and Wade not being able to play the minutes he normally has and I can see the point. Plus the East was pretty awful this year. Had Lopez been in for the Nets and Big Al hadn’t got hurt in game 1 for the Cats, I don’t think the Heat dominate those teams like they did. Post D isn’t exactly a strength for them.

    • soopreme - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      zoomy123 wrote:
      “This year D-Wade missed 28 games and the Heat coasted the entire season biding their time until the playoffs. ”
      This point is the key and for that reason the Heat are better prepared for the playoffs this year..

    • antistratfordian - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      Yeah, they keep parroting the same stuff. I wonder what they’re looking at together – I’d like to see it.

      We’re in the playoffs now. Not the regular season. Miami is definitely better in the playoffs this year than they were last year.

  5. infectorman - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Spurs in 7..

    There you have it

  6. phillysports1 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Spurs in 6. Ginobli FINALS MVP

  7. prareedoggin - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Heat in 5

    6 if Lebron is in foul trouble lol

  8. aboogy123456 - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Spurs in 5, but I think it will still be a competitive series. Kawhi Leonard is the one player in the league who can slow down Lebron, and I don’t think Lebron will be able to carry the rest of the team against the deep spurs. Tony Parker’s injury last year was huge, and he’s injured again, but the spurs depth is better this year and Ginobili is also playing better handling the point. When the Heat go small, Diaw should dominate in the post, as he did in the Thunder series. In the end, I think the spurs have too many chess pieces and depth for Miami to overcome.

    • m4a188 - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      No way, Lebron is going to win at least two games for the heat by himself. Heat in 7.

      • aboogy123456 - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Lebron is a freak human being, but how can someone have the energy to carry the heat all game? The spurs always have a good lineup on the floor, so there is no time where the Heat can afford Lebron to rest. Then he has to go against Kawhi all game? He’s the best player in the world, but it’s just asking too much of him.

      • kinggw - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Lebron won’t have to. Wade and Bosh have been consistent presence throughout the playoffs with the exception of a few games here and there.Ray Allen is shooting well and so is Battier and Lewis. You are basically saying the Spurs are going to shut down the rest of the Heat and make Lebron beat them. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the playoffs but the Spurs’ saving grace has been their offense, not their defense.

      • aboogy123456 - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        I’m not saying that the Spurs will shut down the rest of the Heat, I’m confident that Wade can get his. But I don’t think the rest of the Heat can keep up with the relentless offense of the spurs. This is just what I think will happen, but I’m excited to see what actually happens Thursday.

      • thegoodfight12 - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        Kinggw you say they’ve been consistent except for a few games. That’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one.

  9. southbeachtalent - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Heat in 6.

  10. soopreme - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    I love it that everybody is picking the Spurs just like last year.
    The Heat will 3peat!!!!

  11. jbeagles23 - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    Lebron made it look easy against Leonard once he didn’t fall for the trap of shooting jumpers. It’s not like Leonard manned him up one on one , he simply went under screens and left lebron wide open.

    • bougin89 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      The only way to “slow” Lebron down is to keep him from getting in the paint. IF(emphasis on big IF) you can keep Lebron out of the paint and he still hits his jumpers and threes then you probably just have to hope it’s not a closeout game and you fair better in the next game…

  12. golfrangeman - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    I give the edge to S.A but I’m going heat in 6. I think LBJ is getting close to MJ in terms of I just can’t bet against him in this stage of his career (no I’m not saying he’s MJ)

  13. cruzan80 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Lebron James presence & Tony Parker’s health is the only reason why the series may go past 5 games. I don’t think people truly appreciate or understand what the Spurs did Saturday night.

    One of the hardest things to do in the NBA is eliminate a team on their floor. We just saw an example of that in the Heat/Pacers series.

    Not only did they accomplish eliminating the Thunder on their floor….they did it WITHOUT their best player in the entire 2nd half & OT. I’m sorry Heat “fans” but the Spurs already played their toughest opponent in these playoff…this will be quick work for the Spurs.

    • bougin89 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      Tony Parkers health is going to be crucial for the Spurs. They have to win the point guard matchup in this series.

      • cruzan80 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        @bougin89

        Agreed.

      • kavika6 - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:26 AM

        Spurs win the point guard matchup no matter which one is playing. Chalmers is so over-rated.

    • HotHotHeat - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      Whatever the Spurs did Saturday night is nothing compared to what the Heat did Friday night. 4 straight Finals > back to back Finals. But you keep letting your Hater blockers cloud your vision buddy.

      • savvybynature - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        The Heat went to 4 straight Finals on Friday night?!?
        Wow, must have been a long day.

    • packergator - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      What about the way the Heat have played makes you think that a team can make “quick work” of them? And how can you say the Thunder are better with their ball-hogging, TO-prone PG?

      • cruzan80 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        I should ask you what about the way the Heat have played makes you think they can beat the Spurs this year? Taking 5 games to beat the juggernauts that are the Bobcats & Nets or taking 6 games to knock off the incredibly dysfunctional Pacers? Simply put the Heat haven’t been as good as last year’s team & the Spurs have been better than last year’s team for team.

        What you said about the Thunder is true but they’ve been the Spurs kryptonite for about 3 years now when healthy. Westbrook has usually been way too much for Parker to handle & Ibaka made life kinda miserable for Duncan. The Heat’s strengths are not at PG & PF/C. I’m not calling the Thunder better than the Heat…I’m saying the Thunder was the biggest challenge for the Spurs due to the immense match problems.

      • kavika6 - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:29 AM

        The Heat made semi quick work of their D-league opponents but are they ready to step up to the big boys this year?

  14. mungman69 - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    This should be a GREAT series. Miami in 6.

  15. babyfarkmcgeezax - Jun 2, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Another key to this series is how much rigging will have to be done by the league to make sure the script of LeBron geting another pre-determined championship is followed.

    • buffalowned - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Please explain to me why the NBA would want the Heat to win championships? An overwhelming majority of the country hate the Heat so why would the NBA want to see them continue to dominate the league? None of you conspiracy theorists have been able to give me a good reason.

      • babyfarkmcgeezax - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        Gee, I don’t know, maybe it’s because the league’s biggest superstar is on the team and a dynasty type of team will sell well and draw good TV ratings. The majority of the country rooting against the Heat doesn’t mean they don’t bring in big money for the NBA. Don’t get mad at me, I’m not the one who duped you into thinking the NBA playoffs are a fair competition. Yeah they might let things go the first couple games, but if the league senses the Heat are in trouble, just sit back and watch as the fix comes into play. Or actually don’t watch, because there is no suspense when the outcome is already pre-determined.

      • buffalowned - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        You’re logic makes sense for why the Heat would be in the finals, but they can still get those ratings and have Miami lose. I’m guessing your team isn’t that good but that’s not the reason they are not in the finals. Get over yourself.

      • babyfarkmcgeezax - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        It’s not just ratings. The reason why they want Miami to win is because they have wanted to turn LeBron into the next MJ since the day he was drafted. Part of that mystique is winning several championships, so yeah, they have a bit of an incentive to make sure he gets those rings. LeBron wasn’t winning those titles before, and he was building a reputation as a bit of a choker, and the league had to act to turn that around so he could take over as the league’s mega-star with Kobe in decline. Even allowing a literal all-star team to form in Miami wasn’t enough initially, so the rigging had to be turned up several notches to where we are today – a blatantly pre-determined outcome every season. Shame on the NBA for tricking you into thinking you are watching an honest product.

      • buffalowned - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        Shame on you for having such a pessimistic view towards basketball and probably life in general. Grow up.

    • nard100 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      The why did the NBA keep the team with the MVP of the league out of the finals when a very compelling storyline would have been a repeat of LBJ vs KD? Your reasoning doesn’t add up. When OKC almost pulled out game 6, were the officials on the fence for a while and then decide that SA should win? LOL

  16. prareedoggin - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Cruzan, no way the Thunder are the best team the Spurs will face these playoffs. Miami is light years ahead of them (Thunder). San Antonio knows this and after this series you will too

    • cruzan80 - Jun 13, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      Come again???

  17. kevjones75 - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    No doubt that Miami will win, even though I’d like to see the Spurs win

  18. golfrangeman - Jun 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    @babyfart if your so sure it’s rigged (of course you refuse to explain how)why don’t you bet every cent you have on Miami and when you make your millions maybe you can spend your time doing something other than making ignorant comments on this site.

    • babyfarkmcgeezax - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      u mad bro?

  19. nard100 - Jun 2, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    I can’t argue with what my eyes tell me or the points made in the article (especially about Leonard). That being said, I will root for Miami and I think that as a team they have a greater cohesiveness coming out of the Pacers series that many of the media realize. I think they are going to surprise and dismay a lot of haters. I would not be surprised if SA won, but i also think OKC exposed some things that ‘Spo can use in this series. Go Heat!

  20. golfrangeman - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Why don’t you answer the question babyfart coward?

  21. wallabear - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    A healthy D-Wade + Bosh-o-saurus = Three-Peat Heat!

  22. iowahbr - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    the NBA has problems when Sterling’s off-court antics are more interesting than the play-offs. the could have phoned in these 2 as play-off finalists 7 months ago.. why play all 82 unless you are a stat freak?

    I hope there is some ear blowing antics on court so there is a good story line besides Heat in a 3 Peat.

    Maybe we could now start a Rose for MVP next year as comeback of the year story.

  23. antistratfordian - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Why would anyone trust Pop’s system to out-execute the Heat when their poor execution is what lost them the finals last year? That is just saying, “well they’re not going to make the same mistakes this year!” which doesn’t amount to much.

    In fact, poor execution is why the Spurs have been struggling to win a title since 2007.

    For all of their strengths and weaknesses, the Heat always do one thing exceedingly well…. execute in big moments.

  24. antistratfordian - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    “San Antonio is a better team than they were a year ago, Miami is not playing as well as last year’s version.”

    It’s odd that people keep saying this. It’s not the regular season anymore. In the playoffs the Spurs are not a better team than they were a year ago, and in the playoffs Miami is playing a lot better than they were last year.

  25. golfrangeman - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    If your going to make your case at least get your facts right. The heat swept the bobcats.

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