As much attention and credit as we give to Kobe and company, the Spurs are always under-appreciated in terms of their basketball dominance. Since drafting Tim Duncan, the Spurs have consistently held down a solid big 3. They’ve managed to improve through trades and drafting year to year. (I discussed this a little more in detail over on my official site). This is their 1st Finals appearance since 2007 and their 3rd in a decade.
It’s because of the Spurs that I’ve always said that Miami was late to the Big 3 party. The trio of LBJ, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are 3 years in on their beta test of piecing 3 individual stars on 1 roster. They’ve won a championship and have stood up against all the criticism that has come their way. So how do these 2 teams shape up?
The Spurs have had an extended break. When you’re dealing with veterans, an extended break is both a blessing and a curse. Coming off a hard-fought series with the scrappy Pacers, Miami is in predatory mode. They have the edge with a 2-3-2 schedule and I think they’ll come out in game 1 more focused than we’ve seen them in a long time. The Pacers gave Miami a lot of problems on both sides of the ball. As a young team, the Pacers were able to counter Miami’s fast-paced offense by staying in front of their man. Everybody knows the Spurs are slow and methodical in their style. That extended break will likely have them off to a slow start in Games 1 and 2. The flip side is we saw how the Spurs adjusted playing a younger, faster team like the Warriors. Once that rust wears off, I think the Spurs will be able to maintain a balance on the game’s pace.
In terms of match-ups, the Spurs are similar to the Pacers. Miami’s weakness will always be down in front. In the 1st regular season match-up, the Spurs big 3 didn’t play at all yet they still out-rebounded Miami. The 2nd match-up, LBJ and Wade sat. Miami won both games, but they were close margins. This will be the 1st time all year that we’ll see them evenly matched up. At the point guard position, only Battier and Cole have a chance at keeping up with Tony Parker. In fact, 1 of Parker’s greatest talents is being able to split defenses. Once Parker gets passed whomever is guarding him, I don’t believe Miami will be able to make the switches quick enough on the interior. 1 match up I’m very intrigued about is LBJ vs. Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has been 1 of the Spurs silent weapons in terms of perimeter defense. Much in the way that Paul George emerged, how effective Leonard is at agitating LBJ could be a big contribution to San Antonio winning 1 on the road.
Bench play will be huge in this series for San Antonio. The Spurs 2nd unit is Ginobili, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, and either DeJuan Blair or Matt Bonner. We saw how well Danny Green limited Steph Curry. So I don’t see him giving Ray Allen much space to go lights out beyond a single game. There’s also a guy named Tracy McGrady who’s been itching to make his mark on a Finals game. In terms of bench production, the Spurs need to be extremely efficient on contesting open looks and fast breaks, especially when it comes to closing quarters.
As a fan, this is a defining moment for players on both teams. For the Spurs, winning his 5th championship will solidify Tim Duncan as the best power forward of all time. It may even put him in the conversation for most valuable player of the post-Jordan era.
Yes, I said that Kobe stans! For Miami, I think collectively this Finals series will demonstrate whose team this really is. As buddy-buddy as those guys are, LBJ was playing by himself during the Pacers series. It took a forced Game 7 for Wade to finally show up and remind us of why he’s still 1 of the best pure shooting guards in the league. The Spurs front court guys aren’t nearly as physical as David West and Roy Hibbert were, so Chris Bosh needs to take advantage of that. Miami has proven that when their backs are against the wall, injuries become null and they’re capable of destroying teams, sequence by sequence.
My prediction: Spurs in 7