by Mack Williams
5 June 2014
As I prepared to write about Spurs-Heat II, I decided to pull up what I had written in advance of last year’s series. So here it is, my 2013 analysis, followed by my analysis of this year.
Bunch of things to talk about…but the big news today is that the start of the NBA Finals is just hours away! The new kings of the block, the Miami Heat, taking on the veteran San Antonio Spurs in their last hurrah…or not, as the case may be. The spectacular LeBron James versus “The Big Fundamental” Tim Duncan. A bid for dynasty status by the Heat, or the cementing of such by the Spurs. A great matchup is on tap!
Here, then, are 7 reasons why the Spurs…or the Heat…will win:
I. LeBron James
King James is now just about universally crowned the greatest hoopster in the world (sorry, KG, but I still believe your time is coming in that regard), and because of that and his tremendous all-around game, the Heat have an excellent shot at repeating as champions.
2014: LeBron is better and more efficient than last year. No change here. But his opponent for much of the series, Kawhi Leonard, is a beast-in-training. Don’t sleep on him and his potential contributions.
II. Tim Duncan
Roy Hibbert of the Pacers is a fine young center, probably soon to be the best center in the league – but right now, he is not quite the offensive equal of Tim Duncan. So if you thought Chris Bosh and company were having a hard time with Hibbert, wait until they see Tim Duncan. Duncan’s dominance down low may carry the Spurs to their fifth title.
2014: Roy Hibbert gave the Heat very little heat in the Eastern Conference finals this year, but expect Tim Duncan to continue to torch the Heat front line. Possible difference: San Antonio center Tiago Splitter is a year more experienced and better.
III. Chris Anderson and Ray Allen
Who knew how much the Heat – they of the Big 3 – would lean on mid-season pickup Chris Anderson in their series against Indiana. Anderson was arguably the difference in the wins in Games 1 & 3, and his Game 6 absence due to suspension (for trying to go WWE on Tyler Hansbrough) may have played a large part in their getting blown out.
The Birdman is an active big man that provides a great passing outlet – in terms of being able to finish at the rim – for James and Wade on their drives. He can be a difference maker. As for Ray-Ray, I know he shot a lower percentage from three-point range this year with the Heat than he did getting his passes in Beantown from Rajon Rondo – but certainly he can’t shoot as inconsistently in this series as he did against Indiana. If he shoots well, the floor spacing is that much better, making it even easier for the slashers to drive to the hoop and making it extremely tough to guard the Heat.
2014: The Heat would not have won a thing without these two last year, and their contributions will be vital again. If Birdman is not himself physically the Heat will have problems, as he is their top rim protector. Ray seems less consistent than before…is that due to age? Will he be there in the clutch for them?
IV. Tony Parker
If the Heat guards don’t do any better job of containing Tony Parker and keeping him out of that lane than his western conference playoff opponents have done so far, it could be a long series…or, rather, a short series…for the Heat. Parker was being mentioned in an MVP capacity at times during the regular season, and that type play has extended in the post-season.
2014: Likewise, if Parker is not himself physically, the Spurs will have problems, despite the fact that their bench is the best and performs more like the starters than any bench I have ever seen. The problem is that Parker brings a late-clock break-down capability that the second unit players don’t.
With that said, Patty Mills is a tremendous shooter coming off the bench, and his impact will probably be felt.
V. Home Court Advantage
Home cooking is always tastier…or at least I always felt that way in my house. And should this series go 7, the Heat – by virtue of their amazing 66-win season – will host the deciding game – which could be the deciding factor in terms of who raises the Larry O’Brien trophy at center court.
2014: This year the Spurs would host the deciding game.
I don’t know if Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA, or the second or third-best – but I give him the edge in this series. Pop didn’t care about the best record, as he took a fine for sending his starters home prior to a game against the Heat, and continually rested people when he felt the need – so much so that OKC overtook them for the best conference record. Still, he got them to this point – and has had a week to study the Heat in depth. The coaching edge may put the Spurs over the top in this series.
2014: Pop remains a tremendous coach, and still gives the Spurs an edge in this area. His defensive schemes against LeBron are more effective than any in the league.
VII. Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili
D-Wade has been hurt throughout the playoffs, to the point where we – or he – did not know what player would be taking the court from day to day. Fortunately for the Heat, it was the just-about regular D-Wade that was on the floor in Game 7 against the Pacers. Meanwhile, Manu Ginobili may still be recovering from mid-season injuries, as he did not look like himself during the Spurs’ short run through the playoffs so far. Fortunately for them, they haven’t really needed the superstar Manu (though his big three-pointer against Golden State did help).
If Wade is back to being D-Wade, the Heat are a very tough team to beat. Likewise, when Ginobili is on his game, he is an X-factor – as very few people are able to guard him. So in terms of who will emerge victorious, it may just come down to which of these future Hall-Of-Famers is most like their norm.
2014: Both Wade and Ginobili seem in better shape, injury-wise, than a year ago. The rest given them by their respective coaches throughout the regular season has worked. So each of these guys is better equipped to be a difference maker for their team.
2013: In any case, this could be a series for the ages!
2014: In any case, this could be a series for the ages again, which would be great on the heels of the Clippers situation!
My prediction: Spurs in six.