Well, we are a day away before the tip off of game 1 of the NBA Finals, and for some people, this series between the defending champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs is a big city market team vs. small market team, which may not necessarily the case. I may have mentioned this last year with the big market city vs. small market city when the Heat faced the Thunder, but in reality Oklahoma City is a good sized city with only one professional team, just like San Antonio. Because of that, the fan based is loyal and very supportive of their only pro team in the area. But before I go off any further on this tangent, on to the match ups of this intriguing finals. Before I begin, I must note that I am giving this analysis/ prediction from an unbiased perspective. As you may or may not know, I am a huge San Antonio Spurs fan, but I don’t want that to affect how you see this post. I have given this series much thought, and without further ado, here it is.
Heat Offense vs. Spurs’ Defense- Miami will try to get their offense kick started through LeBron James, who is this year’s regular season MVP. This may occur with either some post up plays, isolation or a combination of the two. San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard will get the daunting assignment of guarding James and try to limit his points per game as well as assists throughout this series. What I am looking forward to seeing is if Dwayne Wade is back to being his old self (similar to what we saw in the game 7 win over Indiana in the conference finals) or is he still not at 100% due to lingering injuries/problems? The answer to this question will determine how much pressure will be put on Chris Bosh (who will probably be guarded by Tiago Splitter) as well as the bench of the Miami Heat. With Tim Duncan roaming the paint and playing great defense, Miami will have a tough time driving the lane to get easy lay ups/dunks.
Spurs’ Offense vs. Heat Defense- Now, both teams can play a fast paced offense which usually starts when the defense causes turnovers or rebounds the ball, but how will Miami adjust when San Antonio slows the pace down to play the set plays generated by Tony Parker. Miami’s defense of double teaming players in the paint against Indiana worked because the Pacers didn’t have a reliable shooting guard who could consistently drain the mid range or downtown shots. The Spurs, however, have several players who could make shots when left open and that’s not limited to their starting 5 roster. What intrigues me about this is what plays will Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich have in store to get everyone involved offensively. If everyone on the floor gets involved in scoring, it forces Miami to play more man to man defense and not focus on who has the hot hand and try to shut them down, which could open up the plays and options for Tony Parker to be the floor general and call the next play.
Benchplay- While San Antonio’s bench has been fantastic this post-season, I have yet to see consistent bench play from the Heat to say that they’ll be there to help the starting 5 score points and allow them to rest for the critical moments of the game. The only player that has shown that kind of effort is not Ray Allen, but Chris “Birdman” Anderson. The Birdman has made almost every shot he has taken since the Chicago series in the conference semi-finals. But Miami will need more out of Ray Allen as well as the rest of the bench. Will we see more of Shane Battier to counter Tim Duncan’s size and maybe draw him out to the perimeter? If Duncan or Splitter get into foul trouble, will we see more playing time for Dejuan Blair? How will the Spurs’ players like Patty Mills, Corey Joseph, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw, and Manu Ginobili play into the offensive schemes for Gregg Popvich? In the first two match up factors, I didn’t give an edge to either team because it’s too close to call, but I’m giving the edge to San Antonio because of their consistency so far in the playoffs.
Coaching- This one is tricky to analyze because of the years that Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich has been coaching compared to the Heat coach Erik Spolestra. In just a few years of coaching the Miami Heat, Spolestra has taken Miami to three straight NBA Finals and is looking to have his team repeat as champions, but at the age of 42, I can only wonder if the early success in his head coaching career is because of his coaching abilities or if it is because he has players like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade on the team? Meanwhile, Gregg Popovich has been with the Spurs’ organization for 16 years as their head coach and has transformed that team into a consistent contender for the western conference every year. And just when everyone thought that their window of opportunity to win championships were over through their effective way of tough defense, he made a few changes to the offense and made it to two straight conference finals in the last two years. I see the experience of Popovich and his ability to adjust the strategy furing the game as well as in between games that gives him the edge in this coaching match up.
Prediction- This is the Spurs’ first NBA Finals series where they are the road team, but this isn’t the first time they have gone up against the defending NBA Champion (2005 when they faced the Detroit Pistons). The Spurs are great on the road and I see them splitting the first two games in Miami which will give them the chance to close it out at home in 5 games, I don’t see that happening because the Heat are just as good on the road as they are at home. I think the San Antonio Spurs will have enough experience, defense, and clutch plays made by Tony Parker to win this series in 6 games.