2014 NBA Finals Spotlight: Miami Heat x San Antonio Spurs

by current Ateneo Blue Eagle Von Pessumal (@von19)

In my first article, I mentioned that the Heat meeting the Spurs in the Finals was pretty much destined to happen. That was, however, a whole different story. Strap on your seat belts, everybody. This ride is about to get bumpy.

Before we dissect the epic clash between the two best teams in the NBA, let us all take a moment to appreciate the greatness that is unfolding right before our eyes.

Built versus Bought? Just one of the underlying storylines of this series.
Agree or not?
(image from Texas Humor)

Ray Allen is without a doubt the most prolific shooter that anybody has ever seen.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, throughout their careers, have brought their own flair and style to a game known to be dominated by strength and athleticism.

Dwyane Wade, with all his rings, has solidified his spot as one of the top-tier shooting guards who has ever played the game.

In his 17th season as a professional, Tim Duncan is proving to the world that he is indeed the greatest Power Forward of all-time. Everyone knows that.

The uniqueness and versatility of LeBron James’s overall game should land him a spot in the NBA’s Mount Rushmore. And the scary part? He’s still getting better.

We are all witnessing greatness, ladies and gentlemen.

Don’t sleep on the coaching aspect of this series, too. Erik Spolestra has led his team to an obscene 4 straight NBA Finals appearances. Greg Popovich boasts a career winning percentage of 68.6%, 17 straight Playoff appearances, and 4 NBA Championships.

A few decades from now, we will be proud to mention that we lived through this eminence of elite personalities.

The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are truly more than deserving to be back to where they were last year. Last season’s NBA Finals series was undoubtedly one of the best we have seen in a long time. Their journey to the top was not easy, but it sure seemed inevitable.

In my previous articles (here and here), I highlighted match-ups, since the Playoffs are all about them. For this particular series, however, I say: let’s throw it all out the window. The Heat and Spurs are two exceptional basketball teams. At the end of the day, I do not believe that it will come down to who plays better individually. I believe that whoever wins this series is the better team. Basketball is 5 vs 5. Let’s keep it that way.

Offensively, the Spurs will...

Drop it down low to their Hall of Famer. I want to see Timmy D go to work this series. There is no conceivable way any Miami big man can check Duncan one-on-one. The Heat will eventually have to send a second guy to come and help out. When they do, that’s when the Spurs are deadliest, since they move the ball so effectively. Duncan is a willing passer, and with all that shooting surrounding Duncan, San Antonio can space the floor quite efficiently.

If not, the Spurs will use a lot of screens. A lot. All kinds, too. Side screens, back screens, stagger screens, and down screens -- mostly to free up shooters. But their pick-and-roll game will be one of their main weapons. A Parker/Duncan pick-and-roll is deadly to say the least. If the Heat have to send a third guy to rotate to either one of them, Parker will pick them apart. If Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Marco Belinelli, and Boris Diaw can consistently knock down open shots, the Heat are in for a long series.

Don’t forget about Manu. His performance in last year’s Finals was disappointing. Look for him to be that X-factor for the Spurs. He orchestrates the offense with his clever use of the pick-and-roll, and he can knock down jumpers when called upon.

The Spurs won’t call a play for a year older Kawhi Leonard, but he will get his points up. LeBron James seems to be his match-up for the series. Let’s see what the kid is made of.

Can this group slay the demons of 2013?
(image from TheRichest.com)

Offensively, the Heat will...

Give the ball to LeBron James. Not kidding. The Heat would be stupid not to. He’s the best player on the planet. LeBron is going to do everything this series. And when I mean everything, I mean everything. He will use that wide frame to post-up any perimeter player.  He will use pick-and-rolls to cause switches, thus leading to mismatches.  And he will push the pace for the Heat. Not only are the Heat younger, but they have fresher legs coming into the series. Expect him to lead the fastbreak, whether he’s finishing it or involving his teammates.

But then again, it’s a team game. LeBron will need Wade to be at his best. If D-wade continues to ball like how he has in these Playoffs, the Heat have no problem. I have absolutely no idea what the Heat run offensively except that they surround James and Wade with shooters and finishers and just let them do their thing.

Outside shooting will be key for the Heat. I’m looking at Chris Bosh playing a vital role in this series. If he can swish shot after shot, then that might negate Tim Duncan’s inside presence, or force him to guard somebody else.

Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Rashard Lewis will have to make their mark in this series. Miami becomes a totally dominant team when their shooters are hitting shots, simply because it gives LeBron and Wade so much space to operate.

This could be Miami's finishing five in the Finals.
(image from lappappa.blogspot.com)

Defensively, the Spurs will...

Not sag off LeBron and Wade like last year. I don’t think they will. They both have become knockdown shooters, whether it’s a catch-and-shoot or when the defender goes under the pick-and-roll. I believe the Spurs will play both of them straight up, with Duncan helping out on penetrations. I just have this feeling they will be content with Chris Bosh leading the Heat in scoring. The Spurs ALWAYS give up something, but they use this to their advantage because they force their foes to play to their own liking.

The Spurs are excellent at defensive rotations, and rightfully so; all their players have a good sense and feel for the game and most would probably rank up there in terms of basketball IQ. Despite this, I believe matching-up properly would also be key for them defensively.

Let’s start with the obvious ones first:

Kawhi Leonard on LeBron James. He definitely can’t stop the King, but if somebody can slow him down, it’s Kawhi.
Danny Green on Dwyane Wade. Danny Green is an excellent defender, but this is D-Wade we’re talking about. Similar to Kawhi, Green will try his best to disrupt Wade. Also, Manu should go head-to-head against Wade in the 4th quarter. Two true competitors going at it. This is something we shouldn’t miss.

I’m not sure if Duncan will guard Bosh. Maybe he will if Bosh is the only big man on the floor, but I think Boris Diaw can check him.

Parker should match-up well against Chalmers or Norris Cole.

Defensively, the Heat will...

Smother the ball. Although the Heat are superb ball hawkers, it is the San Antonio Spurs they are facing. San Antonio is the dictionary definition of veteran play. I believe the Heat will play straight up in the crucial parts of the game. They match-up well with everybody except for Duncan. If Duncan continues to score one-on-one against his match-up, the Heat should call for some help down there. Chris Bosh isn’t a bad defender, but Duncan will always find a way to be efficient. Rotating after doubling will be essential for Miami to contain Duncan from dominating the game.

Not quite sure about Miami and their match-ups. All I know is they are made up of a bunch of dynamic and versatile defenders. I expect them to constantly switch match-ups. Who knows, we might see LeBron defending Duncan on the post on occasion.

Chris Bosh is one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the NBA, and he will have to be to cover the multiple pick-and-rolls the Spurs run. If Bosh isn’t involved, Miami might switch everything to negate any advantages.

Some insights...

Have you ever seen a chess match? This is what this series is going to look like. Except instead of pawns, knights, and figures of royalty, it’s basketball players. Erik Spolestra and Greg Popovich are playing chess at the highest form, and we’re all here to see how this goes down.

I feel like Boris Diaw will start this series. Aside from the fact he has been playing out of his mind, he seems to be an ideal piece for the Spurs against the Heat. As a stretch four, his outside shooting can cause Miami fans to scratch their heads. And with his prolific passing ability, he can facilitate the offense from that PF position. That is such a luxury to have if you’re the Spurs.

Miami might use the combination of James, Wade, Bosh, Battier/Lewis, and Allen a lot in the final period of play. This will allow them to space the floor offensively, and they will be very flexible defensively.

Overall, this series will come down to LeBron James versus Greg Popovich.

The magnificence of Gregg Popovich or the greatness of LeBron James?
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

No, I’m not saying Popovich will suit up to defend LeBron. I’m saying that if there’s somebody who can figure out a way to beat LeBron, it’s Pop. He has his players on a string, and I guess it’s all up to LeBron to counter them.

Look, I’m not a huge LeBron fan, but the fact is he is the greatest player on the planet, and there is no denying that.

Now here comes the hard part...

Heads for San Antonio. Tails for Miami. Does anybody have a coin?

Okay, enough of this.

Spurs in 7.

Prove me wrong, LeBron.

This is will be my last article for a long time. Thank you sir Enzo Flojo for allowing me to fulfill one of my passions in life.

Next Post »
1 Comment

Miami is actually the older team...