2013 Finals Preview: Old and Busted vs. New Hotness
It’s come to this.
On one side, there’s the unstoppable juggernaut, the team loaded with three all-stars, competent role players, a genius coach, and an inexhaustible bench. On the other side, there’s the Miami Heat.
This is going to be so much fun.
As much a I would have enjoyed seeing the Heat get blasted on all the media networks for losing a game 7, the Heat-Spurs match-up is probably the best match-up on paper in the last 10 years. Each team is loaded with stars, each team plays an exciting (yes, the Old Man Spurs are exciting, shut up) style and it will be a real chess match between two competent coaches to figure out how to get the most out of their players. I can’t imagine that this goes fewer than 6 games.
Basketball is a game of matchups. Even the best teams can be foiled by the worst ones if they play a style that throws them off (I’m looking at you, 2009 Cavaliers), so let’s break this down player-by-player and see who has the advantage.
Point Guard: Tony Parker vs. Mario Chalmers
Back in 2007 when the Spurs destroyed the Cavaliers, Tony Parker was at the height of his powers. The French Phenom went off for 24.5 ppg on 56% shooting from the floor. He did that against Daniel Gibson and (ugh) Larry Hughes. He’ll have a much tougher challenge this finals going up against a fierce defender in Mario Chal–
You know what? I’m not going to insult your intelligence. Parker will most likely be guarded by LeBron for much of this series. The question is: can Tony Parker keep his current performance up against a very athletic and long Miami defense? Right now, Parker is averaging 23 points and 7 assists. The Spurs will need a 2007 performance from Tony Parker if they want to win this series.
Shooting Guard: Danny Green vs. Dwyane Wade
Wade has come under a lot of fire in these playoffs for an especially lacking performance. In the Indiana series, Wade averaged 15.4 ppg, and for the postseason he’s averaging 14 ppg. Some of that is due to his hurt ankle, but some of it is due to age. Wade is 31 and, like LeBron, has changed his game over the years. But, surprisingly, little has changed on the offensive end. Wade is still best when he’s driving to the lane like an uncontrolled semi, colliding with anything that moves. It’s when he’s been pushed to the outside that he’s seen trouble. Defensively, D-Wade still really shines. Whether you think he’s gritty or just dirty, Wade gets the job done.
Danny Green, on the other hand, just needs to make shots. Last year, he shriveled up when the spotlight was on him against the Thunder, but in order for the Spurs to be successful, he’s going to have to drill his fair share of threes. Green is one of the go-to guys for an outside shot off of Parker-Duncan screen and rolls, but he can also handle the ball a bit if he has to. I don’t expect to see any offensive mastery out of Green this series (especially if he’s going to be chasing Wade all over the place), but I think he’ll drill some big threes and be a real burst of energy for the Spurs.
I’m giving the edge to Miami here, because Wade is more talented and more of a key player. If Dwyane puts up a performance like he did in last years finals, this may be over in 5 games.
Starting Forward: Kawhi Leonard vs. LeBron James
I don’t have to explain why I picked LeBron, right? OK, cool. Let’s talk about Kawhi Lenoard. Leonard, drafted by the Spurs after a draft day trade with the Pacers for George Hill (one of the few trades that actually worked out well for both teams), has showed some great development this season. Leonard can shoot as well as rebound, but it will be his defense that will be put to the test in this series. If he’s able to handle LeBron single-highhandedly, it will go a long way to help the Spurs win this series.
Power Forward: Shane Battier vs. Tim Duncan
I’m actually really curious about how Miami will play this one. Battier was reduced to towel boy by game 7 of the Pacers series, but by using him as a small “4″ who could hit 3s, Miami found its biggest success. Will Tim Duncan bully his way over Battier for easy buckets?
Of course, he will. He’s Tim Duncan.
I look for Miami to go big by game 3 of this series because of Battier’s disadvantage against Duncan. If Battier can hit his 3s and play good defense, Miami should be okay. But if Duncan starts abusing Battier like it’s 2003, then Miami better hope that Birdman still has some magic left.
Center: Tiago Splitter vs. Chris Bosh
Poor Chris Bosh. One of the 20 best players in the league, but he never gets any respect. He went from all-star to third banana in less than two years. For his credit, Bosh plays hard and doesn’t complain about his lack of shots. He does what he needs to do to help his team win. Plus, when he’s clicking, he’s almost more important than Wade.
Bosh will be in charge of dragging Splitter away from the paint with his patented jump shot, and don’t be surprised if he uncorks a couple of threes now and again. Bosh has added that to his game, and he shoots it pretty well.
Bench: Miami vs. San Antonio
Interesting match-up as both benches have a future hall-of-famer coming off them (Ginobli and Allen). While both benches have three point threats, Miami has Birdman as well, who despite his impressive streak of perfect games, isn’t actually an offensive threat. I think both benches can do a lot of damage in this series, and one of the most compelling parts will be seeing how the coaches utilize their different pieces and parts. Speaking of…
Coaching: Popovich vs. Spoelstra
As impressive as Spoelstra has been in reinventing his team into a small-ball force, Popovich has been doing this for years. He knows the best way to place his players in order to win. You never would have seen Popovich confused about how to handle the Pacers size in the last series, nor would he have kept Mike Miller under wraps for so long when it was evident that Battier wasn’t giving him anything. Coach Pop’s strategies, despite some of the raw power on the Heat, just may be the key to this series.
Its head vs. heart in this one. As shown in the Pacers series, the Heat can be forced to play to another team’s strength, but they’re talented enough to recover even if they’re not playing the right style. The Spurs are a much better team than the Pacers, but they’ll still need to bring it every night to stand a chance. I figure that the Spurs will grab the first game tonight, then they will split the home series, and Miami will finish it off in the next three games. If Wade and Bosh were 100%, this wouldn’t even be close.
Heat In Six
Go, Spurs, Go!
Game 1 Addendum: Wow, I look dumb in that last paragraph!
That was an awesome game; both teams executed extremely well, the refs swallowed their whistles, and every star came to play. Really impressed by the Spurs’ role players, especially Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard (who’s name I keep wanting to spell ~Kawaii).
- Green, for hitting 4-9 from behind the arc.
- Leonard for putting up a double-double (1o pts, 10 rebounds) but also holding LeBron James to just 18 points.
Yes, LeBron had a triple-double, but if Miami wants to win, Bron is going to need to be scoring 28 points. Leonard did a great job keeping in front of LeBron and was able to guard him single-handedly. Last round, Paul George was able to slow down LeBron a bit, but James eventually overwhelmed George and it damaged the up-and-coming Pacer small foward’s offense and his defense. Leonard’s offensive game doesn’t matter as much to the Spurs, so as long as he can put up double digit points/rebounds — but more importantly limiting LeBron to less than 25 points per — the Spurs have a real chance.
Also, please watch Tony Parker do things. All of the things. He must be hype for Jo Wilfried Tsonga.
Header via Steve Miller/US PRESSWIRE