Skip to content

Three match-ups to watch closely when Heat take on Spurs in NBA Finals

Jun 3, 2014, 10:07 AM EST

Kawhi Leonard ,LeBron James Kawhi Leonard ,LeBron James

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.

[MORE: Five things that are different in this rematch]

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Jameer Nelson and Celtics discuss future, no buyout discussions yet

    Dec 22, 2014, 3:05 PM EST

    Jameer Nelson, Mario Chalmers AP

    Boston might try to re-trade point guard acquired in Rajon Rondo deal

  2. Knicks Samuel Dalembert fined $15,000 for elbowing Jonas Valanciunas in face (VIDEO)

    Dec 22, 2014, 1:01 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Maybe Dalembert wanted to get ejected so he didn’t have to watch any more of the Raptors easy win over the Knicks.

  3. Pistons release Josh Smith. WHAT?

    Dec 22, 2014, 12:21 PM EST

    Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Pistons use stretch provision on forward owed more than $35 million

  4. Victor Oladipo, focused on effort and defense, still finds time to raise offense

    Dec 22, 2014, 10:29 AM EST

    Toronto Raptors beat the Orlando Magic 95-82 Getty Images

    Magic guard avoiding sophomore slump of other top 2013-14 rookies

  5. 76ers were third team in Corey Brewer trade, send Alexey Shved to Rockets

    Dec 22, 2014, 9:39 AM EST

    Atlanta Hawks v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Philadelphia will waive Turiaf, who’s injured and out for season

  6. Lakers may give Kobe Bryant some nights off to rest. If he wants them.

    Dec 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Byron Scott can tell Kobe to rest, but it will be Kobe’s decision. Kobe has the power in that relationship.

  7. PBT’s Sunday Night Winners/Losers: Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP

    Dec 22, 2014, 1:43 AM EST

    Anthony Davis, Chris Kaman AP

    Quality win for LeBron James and the Cavaliers as well.

  8. Rudy Gay dunks on all the Lakers (VIDEO)

    Dec 22, 2014, 12:39 AM EST

    Rudy Gay Rudy Gay

    The seas part and Rudy Gay had a path to the rim.

  9. Goran Dragic keeps his options open, says he’d consider coming to Knicks

    Dec 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, Cole Aldrich AP

    Of course he said he’d consider the Knicks, it’s just smart business.

  10. Sources: Kings prefer George Karl, not serious about hiring Mark Jackson

    Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    George Karl AP

    The very public meeting with Jackson was leverage to help get Karl to lower his asking price.

  11. Brad Stevens insists he won’t leave Celtics for a college job

    Dec 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Brad Stevens Brad Stevens

    Stevens dismisses rumors of Indiana University.

  12. Iman Shumpert won’t require surgery for dislocated shoulder

    Dec 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EST

    Iman Shumpert Iman Shumpert

    The Knicks guard will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Featured video

Jabari Parker injury latest for disappointing rookie class
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (7664)
  2. K. Martin (7322)
  3. C. Bosh (6858)
  4. R. Rondo (6851)
  5. M. Smart (6584)
  1. T. Jones (6568)
  2. D. Rose (6553)
  3. T. Parker (6548)
  4. A. Bogut (6190)
  5. B. Lopez (6125)