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.
Oct 21, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT
Clippers point guard on his own level in post-Magic Johnson NBA
Oct 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Carter still has some bounce.
Oct 20, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
Rondo praises head coach Brad Stevens’ success on the college level.
Oct 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
He still has an antitrust suit pending against the NBA.
Oct 20, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
It’s only preseason, but the 2011 league MVP looks like his old self.
Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
The proposed changes would give the four worst teams the same odds of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Oct 20, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
He’s moving well considered what happened to his leg just back in July.
Oct 20, 2014, 6:23 PM EDT
So does ‘Nique and Chris Webber.
Oct 20, 2014, 5:33 PM EDT
Well, there are worse things on television.
Oct 20, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT
Steve Koonin promoting Hawks’ season opener, which includes T.I. performances
Oct 20, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
The real question is who will be the better team by late May.
Oct 20, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
When Stephenson brought his game to Charlotte this season, he clearly brought the flopping with him.
Oct 20, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
How will Indiana score?
Oct 20, 2014, 2:18 PM EDT
Anonymous executives, agents slam Kobe in ESPN article
Oct 20, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
Detroit also cuts Brian Cook, Josh Bostic and Lorenzo Brown
Oct 20, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT
I’m unconvinced one had much to do with the other
Oct 20, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT
Door even more open for Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington to make roster
Oct 20, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
How did LeBron get Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones to join the Cavaliers?
Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Smart money should go on LeBron James, but there will be serious challengers.
Oct 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
If they can stay a step ahead of father time the Spurs are the bar to clear to win an NBA title.
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