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2013 NBA Finals Preview: Spurs vs. HEAT
Posted By Lang Greene On June 4, 2013 @ 12:24 pm In NBA | No Comments
The NBA Finals are set to begin Thursday night and will pit the San Antonio Spurs versus the reigning champion Miami HEAT. The road to the Finals has been a bit more treacherous for Miami compared to San Antonio, who rollicked to sweeps in two out of the first three rounds of the postseason.
The HEAT were able to outlast a spirited Indiana Pacers squad in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks in round one and defeating the injury-depleted Chicago Bulls in five games during the Conference Semifinals.
The Spurs swept the Los Angeles Lakers in round one and were pushed to six games by the upstart Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals before surprisingly sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies in the Conference Finals.
Storyline You’ll Constantly Hear
In 2007 LeBron James, then a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, faced off versus Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals. The Spurs rolled to a series sweep giving Duncan the fourth NBA title of his storied career.
However, James was just 22 years old at the time, without a dominant supporting cast and had yet to reach his prime. Duncan was in his tenth season in the league surrounded by established stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the lineup.
Fast forward to 2013 and James is now in his tenth year in the league looking to add to his ring collection, while Duncan (age 37) is looking to add another notch to his legacy.
Two Important Matchups Worth Noting
Tony Parker versus Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole: The Spurs’ offense is keyed by Parker who comes into the series averaging 23 points and 7.2 assists per contest. Parker is adept at penetrating the lane, collapsing the defense and either scoring or finding open teammates on the inside or on the perimeter. The duo of Chalmers and Cole will be the HEAT’s first line of defense on the outside since the team lacks an elite rim protector inside. Overall, the duo has been solid in the playoffs thus far negating opposing teams point guards but have fallen victim to some huge scoring outbursts thus far (see Chicago’s Nate Robinson and Indiana’s George Hill).
LeBron James versus Kawhi Leonard: James has undoubtedly lived up to his MVP billing throughout the playoffs, consistently stepping up in each series to bail Miami out of trouble. The Spurs will place their hopes on the ability of Leonard to make life difficult for James.
Leonard possesses a good mix of size, strength and athleticism but no one has been able to completely shut down James. Perhaps a key to watch here is how much pressure Leonard can put on James to respect him the offensive side of the floor.
Regular Season Series Notes: Miami won the season series 2-0 but it is extremely difficult to truly gauge how the teams matchup heading into the Finals. The Spurs chose to rest Duncan, Ginobili and Parker in the team’s November matchup while Miami opted to rest James and Dwyane Wade in March.
Point Guard: The Spurs, led by Parker, have a clear advantage at the point guard position over Miami. Parker doesn’t get the press bestowed on him like some of his counterparts around the league, but make no mistake the veteran floor general is an elite playmaker. The HEAT will throw a heavy dose of Chalmers and Cole on Parker in an attempt to keep him out of the lane and make him more of a mid-range jump shooter.
While Chalmers and Cole aren’t elite level players both have shown the ability to shine under the bright lights during Miami’s last two playoff runs. Parker will need to make sure he doesn’t lose track of either guy on the perimeter as both have proved to be effective from three-point range.
Shooting Guard: Although HEAT All-Star guard Dwyane Wade has routinely struggled throughout the postseason finding his offensive rhythm, Miami will still have the matchup versus the Spurs at shooting guard.
Spurs’ shooting guard Danny Green has blossomed into a dependable all-around player under head coach Gregg Popovich but it is hard to envision the former University of North Carolina product edging out a future Hall of Famer (even on bad wheels) in the NBA Finals.
Small Forward: James is seemingly the most dominant player on the planet right now, but second year Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is making a name for himself in his own niche. Mostly everything Miami runs offensively is predicated off James getting a touch every time down the court and he also sets a tone defensively for the team.
Power Forward: The matchup between Spurs forward Tiago Splitter and HEAT forward Udonis Haslem won’t win many popularity contests but both of their respective teams rely on these players to do the dirty work. Splitter is the younger player, but has proved to be inconsistent at times especially during this playoff run. Haslem is on the tail end of solid career after entering the league as an undrafted rookie.
Center: The argument can be made that Duncan will go down as the greatest power forward of all-time, but he now has transitioned to the center position and will be matched up versus HEAT All-Star Chris Bosh.
Bosh had all sorts of trouble dealing with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert’s length during the Eastern Conference Finals and while Duncan doesn’t possess the same size issue he’s still an inside-outside problem to be handled.
This is a matchup Duncan can and should exploit throughout the series.
Bench: The Spurs are the deeper team as Popovich has been able to ride the guys off the pine a little longer and stronger than Miami’s Erik Spoelstra.
The Spurs’ bench will primarily feature Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw and Cory Joseph. While Ginobili, a former All-Star, has struggled with his shot as of late, he’s a proven big game performer and can erupt at any time. Bonner will provide an outside shooting threat which must be respected at all times and Joseph continues to develop with more floor time.
Miami is led off the bench by former All-Star Ray Allen, who like Ginobili has struggled to find his jumper all throughout the playoffs. The presence of Chris Andersen provides a constant flow of energy and emerging guard Norris Cole could make things difficult for Joseph in the battle of the second unit guards. Expect Shane Battier to play more of a role in this series as he matches up better against the Spurs on the wing than the Pacers.
Prediction: The Spurs look favorable when analyzing the series by each individual position, but the presence of LeBron James is the great equalizer for Miami.
The Spurs are a team who has won together and experienced adversity with each other over the years.
Simply put, there is nothing the core Duncan, Parker and Ginobili haven’t experienced together on the basketball court.
Likewise, the HEAT’s core of James, Wade and Bosh has been equally busy scripting their own legacy and overcoming their own batch of adversity the past three seasons.
While the Spurs has the size to make life difficult for Miami on the interior, the lack of an elite shot blocker on the interior won’t deter James and Wade from driving the lane which opens up their perimeter attack.
This should be a Finals series for the ages.
HEAT in Seven
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