Jun 3, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT
Playoffs series are all about match-ups — can you get a favorable one, exploit it and gain an edge. Can you force a player into something he doesn’t do well — drag a slow-footing big man out to defend the pick-and-roll, or post up a smaller defender and pound him with size.
The team that can win the key match-ups in a series usually wins.
Miami and San Antonio are in the NBA Finals starting Thursday night in part because they create and exploit mismatches better than most. The Spurs do it through system, the Heat because LeBron James is a walking mismatch.
Here are three match-ups to watch in these Finals.
LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard. This is the one in the spotlight — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will have their moments but LeBron James doesn’t just drive the Miami bus, it is his bus. Last Finals Kawhi Leonard had success on LeBron by going under every pick, playing back and daring him to take jump shots, and that carried over to the team’s two regular season meetings — LeBron was 5-of-22 outside the restricted area in those two games. Also this regular season, Miami scored 87.9 points per 100 possessions when Leonard was on the court and 114.5 when he sat. In Game 7 of the Finals last season LeBron took 20-of-23 shots outside the paint — he’s going to hit some, LeBron is good like that, but he’s the best finisher at the rim in the game. Better to have him fire away from the outside if you are the Spurs. Watch where LeBron is shooting from in this series.
Danny Green vs. Dwyane Wade. Another matchup where the Heat had some success last season, although that speaks more to the state of Dwyane Wade’s knees at the time than some magical defensive formula. When Wade was on the court in the 2013 Finals (254 minutes) the Spurs were +10.2 per 48 minutes, when he sat the Heat were +27.4 per 48 (just 86 minutes). Dwyane Wade is moving and playing much better these playoffs, shooting 51 percent, and he is more aggressive in getting to the rim. The Spurs will try to make him a jump shooter as well, but he will put more pressure on them this year. On the other end, Danny Green has been huge for the Spurs offense with his ability to hit threes and the Spurs are +15.2 per 100 possessions when he is on the court these playoffs. Remember he hit seven three pointers in one Finals game last season, the Heat need to track him better.
Chris Bosh vs. Tim Duncan. Bosh will be one of the biggest keys for the Heat at both ends of the court and he is going to have to have a big Finals for the Heat to threepeat. On offense, he had two monster regular season games against San Antonio, scoring 24 in each on a combined 19-of-26 shooting. His ability to pull Duncan away from the basket defensively and defend the arc will open up driving lanes for LeBron and Wade. On the other end, the Spurs are going to make Bosh defend the pick-and-roll and he has to cut off Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili’s path into the paint — when those two get in the lane they can break down any defense, Bosh has to slow them at the point of attack. But he just can’t focus on them, Duncan averaged 23 points a game in the two regular season meetings this season and was knocking down midrange shots as well, plus exploiting some post up opportunities. If Duncan is abusing Bosh it will force Spoelstra to change lineups early.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
“If he wanted to leave, there’s no reason to talk to him about it,” Rubio said.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Sep 14, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
The celebration was more entertaining than most of the game.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:18 PM EDT
With the win the USA is automatically qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sep 14, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Lots of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, both of whom left Brooklyn this summer in free agency.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
It’s a long shot, but he’s at least got his foot in the door somewhere.
Sep 14, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Vonleh will miss all of the preseason, and his new head coach believes that will cost him an early opportunity to enter the rotation.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
It was obvious that Australia threw the game against Angola to try to avoid Team USA in the tournament for as long as possible.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Hayward attended training camp, but didn’t make the final cut to be a part of the 12-man roster.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Anthony can thrive in the triangle — if he moves the ball.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Serbia looks on paper to be just another speed bump between the USA and gold.
Sep 13, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Rose has averaged 5.4 points per game on 27.3 percent shooting.
Sep 13, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Grizzlies last team to make a serious run at him.
Sep 13, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Bronze was a quality finish for the defending European champions.
Sep 13, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Read the entire letter from Atlanta’s new CEO, which details plans on how he intends to change the team culture.
Sep 13, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Plenty of Boris Diaw.
Sep 13, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Anthony was very direct in his assessment of the racially insensitive remarks made by the team’s GM and ownership.
Sep 13, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Team USA has won its last three games by an average of 31 points.
Rudy Gay upset over ‘dirty play’ that caused him to suffer a fractured jaw in Team USA’s win over Lithuania
Sep 13, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
DeMarcus Cousins caught an elbow too, and the teams had to be separated once the game was over.
Sep 13, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
All kinds of fun.
- USA celebrates gold medal with lots of dancing (except Derrick Rose) 4
- Too much World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving for Serbia to handle as USA wins gold easily 129-92 16
- FIBA World Cup USA vs. Serbia preview: Serbia no pushover but Americans should grab gold 4
- France beats Lithuania to win World Cup bronze 6
- Carmelo Anthony says nobody would want to play for Hawks 20
- Serbia holds off furious French comeback, wins to advance to gold medal game vs. USA 4
- Hawks GM Danny Ferry releases statement on his leave of absence, apologizes again 6