Skip to content

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

Jun 3, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT

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. LeBron James: ‘I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season’

    May 27, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    LeBron James AP

    Plenty has changed since LeBron re-joined the Cavaliers last summer.

  2. Report: Nets to explore trade market for Mason Plumlee

    May 27, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    The offers won’t be as strong as they were in December.

  3. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak: ‘Anywhere from 4-8 players could be in consideration’ for No. 2 pick in NBA Draft

    May 27, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    Eight seems like too many, but Kupchak has proven that he knows what he’s doing.

  4. PBT Extra: Expect a healthy Stephen Curry for Game 5… sorry Houston

    May 27, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Curry and this Warriors team are not going to crumble like the Clippers did.

  5. J.R. Smith takes selfie at podium after Cavaliers advance to Finals

    May 27, 2015, 2:02 AM EDT

    JR Smith Selfie

    J.R. Smith on the national stage of the Finals is going to be so much fun.

  6. Report: Hawks’ Paul Millsap may require offseason shoulder surgery

    May 26, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three Getty Images

    Injury issues continue to pile up as Atlanta is on the verge of elimination.

  7. Storms in Houston forced Dwight Howard to remain at arena with fans until 2:30AM after Game 4 win over Warriors

    May 26, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Dwight Howard AP

    Severe flooding in the area had fans — and at least one player — stranded.

  8. Stephen Curry went through concussion protocol twice before returning to court

    May 26, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpti2yjjimja4ywnhyza4zdnjzti5mja0nzy1mjqzm2e2 AP

    Curry reported no symptoms after the game or on Tuesday, which means expect the regular Curry back for Game 5 Wednesday night.

  9. Report: Kyle Korver to have surgery on his ankle

    May 26, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Six Getty Images

    There is no timeline but this could impact training camp and the start of next season.

  10. Jason Terry says he will play next season, his 17th in NBA

    May 26, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    Jason Terry AP

    If he’s used in the aging shooter role on the court and veteran locker room presence off it, bringing him back for another season for a few million makes sense.

Featured video

Will Klay Thompson get a little help on James Harden?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. S. Curry (7047)
  2. K. Irving (6823)
  3. K. Love (6016)
  4. L. James (4995)
  5. D. Howard (4785)
  1. D. Carroll (4373)
  2. K. Korver (4168)
  3. K. Bryant (3842)
  4. K. Durant (3632)
  5. A. Varejao (3620)