Who will take this year’s NBA finals? The Tech’s Austin Osborne evaluates the positional matchups between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker has had an outstanding season, having led San Antonio to a Western Conference Finals sweep over the Memphis Grizzlies last week. Averaging 23 points and over 7 assists in the postseason, he is the most dynamic player on the Spurs roster. The Heat has struggled to defend point guards in the playoffs this year, and Parker will be no exception. Unless LeBron is matched up against him, (which could happen, if the Heat employ the same strategy that they used against Derrick Rose in 2011) Parker could have a huge series. On the flip side, Mario Chalmers has been a fairly consistent presence as point guard for the Heat. Chalmers isn’t going to win the series for them, but they need him to play well if they want to repeat as NBA Champions. That means that he must make open threes that are given to him, and he must distribute the ball to the Big 3.
Danny Green is a sharpshooter. Although he wasn’t particularly effective in Games 3 and 4 against Memphis, Green can definitely get hot in the three-point range quickly. He is averaging 10.5 points per game in the playoffs so far, and the Spurs would appreciate it if he could continue that production against Miami. Dwyane Wade played like he had something to prove in the pivotal Game 7 against Indiana and it showed in the box score. After a very lackluster first 6 games, Wade had 21 points and 9 rebounds in the series clincher, showing that he is still a superstar in this league. Although he has been hampered by a nagging knee injury, he is still the number two player on Miami’s roster, and the Spurs must take him into account at all times. If he is allowed to get 20 points every game, San Antonio could be in trouble.
This matchup isn’t really fair to Kawhi Leonard, a good player in his own right, but when the greatest player in the world is on the other side of the court, you’re bound to be overshadowed. There was much talk during the Indiana series about LeBron James reverting back to his days in Cleveland where he took almost all the shots and was forced to singlehandedly lead his team to success. As great as he is, that won’t work against the Spurs. He will definitely score points, but that won’t directly translate into team success. James must play as he has all season and how he played in Game 7 against the Pacers. Kawhi Leonard is obviously going to have trouble guarding him, but I expect him to get help throughout the series. Leonard is a valuable player for the Spurs going forward, as he is only 21 years old. He has been shooting the 3 very well this postseason, and San Antonio will need him to maintain that production in the Finals.
Tim Duncan has found the fountain of youth. After experiencing a decline in performance after 2009, Duncan re-established himself as a dominant post presence again this season, averaging almost 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. He will be the key to this series, and will need to dominate in the same way that Roy Hibbert did in the Eastern Conference Finals. Duncan must attack Miami’s frontcourt at all times and avoid getting into foul trouble. Miami struggles with physical post players, so Duncan should be able to have his way in this series. Udonis Haslem should get the starting spot for Miami, as the Spurs play big, similar to Indiana. Shane Battier has no chance to defend Duncan, so the Heat will need to play someone with size. Haslem is a serviceable player, but he will be in the game for his defense mostly.
Chris Bosh apologized to Miami during the Pacers series for not playing up to his potential, and while he still only scored 9 points in Game 7, he appeared to be more interested in grabbing rebounds than he was in previous games, getting 8 total. Simply put, the Heat needs Bosh in this series. They can’t win if he continues to produce like a role player. They need him to rebound like someone who is 6’11 should and they need him to play physically, rather than drifting to the 3-point line so much.
The Spurs are going to attack exactly the same way that Indiana did, and Bosh must hold his ground for the Heat to win. Tiago Splitter is another big man who doesn’t really rebound, but he fills his role well in San Antonio. He is incredibly efficient, scoring on a low number of attempts and he does a decent job defending opposing big men.
Both teams are deep, with Miami’s bench headlined by Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen. Andersen has been outstanding this postseason, and he adds a spark of energy that Miami sorely needed off the bench. Allen is one of the best shooters of all time and he is constantly being set up for wide open threes by LeBron. The Spurs, on the other hand, have one of the best sixth men of all time in Manu Ginobili who should wreak havoc in this series. They have shooters of their own on the bench, in Gary Neal and Matt Bonner. Overall, the two second units are about even.
Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches of all time and he has had an extra week to prepare his team, while the Pacers and Heat battled for the Eastern spot in the Finals. He has surely been watching the series and has seen the Miami weaknesses that were exposed, so rest assured that he will come into the series with a gameplan to exploit them. Erik Spoelstra has done a great job in his own right managing the talent of the Heat. After almost letting the Eastern Finals slip away, he did a good job preparing his team for Game 7 and utilizing his entire roster to their maximum potential. He also got creative with his lineups in order to combat the physical play by Indiana, which is a credit to his ability to adapt. This will be key in the Finals, as they are playing a Spurs team that can throw many different styles and strategies at their opponents.
Prediction: Spurs in 7