NBA Finals Thoughts and Predictions
Despite the Spurs holding a 2-0 lead in last year’s conference finals before succumbing to Oklahoma, this San Antonio vs. Miami (or should I say Spurs vs. Lebron) matchup feels like it has been brewing for a lot longer than that. We all know about San Antonio laying the smackdown on a James-led Cavaliers team in 07 and sweeping them to claim their 4th championship. But what was surprising is it has taken the Spurs 6 years to return to this spot. Lebron would under achieve as well, losing his focus at critical times in the playoffs and completely underachieving until last year. But what has changed since 2007 apart from Lebron taking it up the… I mean taking his talents to South Beach?
Who ARE These Guys?
I’m not going to quote Roy Hibbert here (and no, I’m not referring to the “NoHomo” gaffe. I thinking about the “you motherfuckers don’t watch us play) but the reality is most casual NBA fans are able to name every celebrity that sits courtside at a Heat game, but they struggle to name the starting 5 for San Antonio. The perception is remarkably out there that the Spurs still like to punch the ball inside and play through Duncan on offense, and strangle teams defensively and control the boards. That is simply not the case. Now, they have the ability to do this in limited stretches and contain certain players (think Steph Curry after game 2 in the Golden State series) but that is not their identity. What they have built is an offense structured around Parker, and his scoring. Ginoboli is a home run hitter, someone who is just as likely to hit it out of the park as he is to strike out. When he is on, the Spurs are 10 times tougher to beat. His matchup with Wade will be such a curious and unpredictable thing to watch based off how good these guys once (and at times still are) Duncan has mastered his new role, and could actually put up big numbers here. But San Antonio’s chances live and die with Parker. Their shooting with Green and Leonard are also key factors to their success. Their explosiveness (who thought I’d be saying that when describing San Antonio?) and superior coaching (well, yeah, this is no surprise) is what gives them a legitimate shot to beat Miami, even with the Heat having the home court advantage.
Is This Really Cleveland All Over Again?
The thing that would worry me if I was a Miami fan is the lack of structure that we saw far too frequently in the Heat- Pacers series, and how that directly lead to a massive drop in production by Wade and Bosh. The Pacers defense had quite a lot to do with that, but so did the imploding offense. Running an isolation for Lebron 80% of the time and having Bosh and Wade stand around scratching their nuts allowed the Pacers (despite a severe disparity in talent levels) to compete throughout the entire series. Miami better not fall for the same trap against a much smarter, deeper and more experienced Spurs team. I’m sure Popovich was watching that series and will attempt to force Miami into that same scenario. This is where the heat have to be stubborn and stick to a balanced attack.
So, Who You Got?
When talking to other people before writing this article, I was picking Miami. But whilst writing this, and noticing the similarities between the Cleveland team that lost in 07 and what we saw Miami’s last series against Indy, I’m leaning towards San Antonio. There is absolutely no way that Popovich did not see how badly Miami’s offense looked at times. He will attempt to recreate that scenario and exploit it. Miami has all the tools to counter it; run some pick and rolls with Wade and Lebron, get some touches for Bosh 15 feet out etc, but they could have done this last series as well before it reached game 7. I’ve got the Spurs in 6, although it might even be quicker than that.