NBA Finals Preview

The NBA Finals start tonight in San Antonio and I can’t wait. It should be a great series with a rematch from last year. The Spurs are determined to get revenge and the Heat are trying to cement their place in history. Both teams, obviously, have a lot to play for in the series.

Everyone keeps trying to pin down what the key to the series will be. That’s a ridiculous thing to try and do. There isn’t one thing that’s going to swing the series by itself. Is Tony Parker’s health important?  Absolutely. Do the Heat need Wade to continue to be productive?   No question about it. Does Ginobli have to play better than he did last year?  Without a doubt.  Do the Heat need Bosh to hit his outside shots?  Sure do. However, I wouldn’t say that either team has to have those things to happen in order to win.  Maybe Parker doesn’t play, but Patty Mills averages 15 & 7.  Maybe Wade is not playing well, but Ray Allen averages 18 points.  There are ways to make up for lost production.  It’s simply not going to boil down to one specific thing.  There are just too many variables to determine the series based on one or two things.

Let’s take a look at a few things on offense and defense for each team.

Heat on offense:

The Heat’s offense relies on spacing.  This is a huge part of them being an effective, efficient offense.  They are one of the most efficient offensives in the league when they are playing well.  The spacing isn’t something that only depends on players being in the right position.  It’s about them doing the right thing when they have the ball.  If Bosh gets the ball on the perimeter and he’s open, he has to take the shot.  Same can be said for any other Heat player.  If they’re not taking the outside shots and hitting them with some regularity, their spacing won’t be effective.  The driving lanes won’t be open if the outside shots aren’t going down.  This is what happened last year.  The lane was clogged by Duncan and Splitter because LeBron wasn’t shooting well.  He has to take the shot if they give it to him.  A big difference this year is Bosh has become a real weapon from deep.  Last year he made zero threes during the Finals.  I can guarantee he’ll make more than zero this year.

The other thing the Heat rely on is fast break points.  They have to be able to score some in transition.  That will require the Heat to force turnovers.  If the Spurs turn it over a lot, they’ll be in trouble.  The Heat are the best team in the league when they are running.  The Spurs won’t be able to defend nearly as well if they’re not able to setup in half court.  Even though the Heat have a very good half court offense, they’re still better in transition.

Heat on defense:

The Heat are one of the better team defenses when they want to be.  However, they have to play as a team.  If they don’t, the Spurs will be able to take advantage of individual match-ups.  The Spurs have a ton of guys that the Heat can’t play against one-on-one.  Duncan is too big for anyone.  Diaw is too big if the Heat try to guard him with guys like Battier, Lewis or Haslem.  Parker is too fast for Chalmers or Cole.  Leonard will be difficult unless LeBron is on him.  LeBron can’t guard everyone.  The Heat have to rotate and double team to play effectively on defense.

As I mentioned earlier, they also have to force turnovers.  They are great at swarming teams and forcing teams to make bad passes.  They must do this to the Spurs.  The Spurs are an elite passing team, so this won’t be easy.  The Spurs aren’t an easy team to force turnovers against.  This could change if Parker isn’t healthy.  The worst thing for the Spurs would be if Parker tries to play and isn’t effective.  They’d be better off with him not playing if he’s going to be limited.  Parker is the one thing the Heat really struggled with stopping last year.  Parker aggravated his hamstring last year and the Heat played much better after he was not playing as well.  That will be true again this year.  The Heat will have a much easier time on defense if Parker is not playing well.

Spurs on Offense:

The Spurs spread the ball around more than any other team.  They don’t rely on one or two guys, like the Heat do.  For this reason, they are very difficult to slow down.  If you focus too much attention on one guy, then another guy will hurt you.  The Heat learned this last year when Danny Green lit them up because they didn’t pay him enough attention.  Duncan and Diaw are both beasts on the low post.  The Heat don’t have a lot of answers defensively on the post, so the Spurs will look to take advantage of this.  The Spurs will also try and penetrate with Parker, Mills, Manu and perhaps Kawhi.

The Spurs are also a great shooting team.  They have many guys who you can’t leave open like Manu, Belinelli, Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi and sometimes Diaw.  They are great at making the right passes and getting the best shot each possession.  Any team can get a shot, but only a select few can get a great shot every possession.  The Spurs do that as well as any team in the league.  And they are great at knowing when they have the best shot and they take it.  Too many teams get a great shot and pass it up.

The Spurs are also a great team in transition.  They love to get out and run and keep the pace up.  That’s a huge part of their offense.

Spurs on defense:

The Spurs are a good, but not great defensive team.  They are able to play great spurts, but typically don’t maintain greatness for the entire game.  They are great at game-planning (thanks to Popovich) and they usually execute it fairly well.  However, other than Duncan and Kawhi, the Spurs don’t have elite one-on-one defenders.  They rely on schemes more than anything else.  Part of their scheme from last year was forcing the Heat to hit jump shots instead of being able to drive to the basket.  The Spurs will continue to try that in this series.

The Spurs are also a great team at forcing turnovers.  They are great at frustrating teams and forcing them to make bad decisions.  This works well because teams know the Spurs will score a lot and so they’re forced to try and keep up.  The Spurs defense can focus more on a few guys.  If they can truly slow down LeBron and Wade, they’ll have a great shot.  That’s much easier said than done, but the Spurs did a pretty good job of that last year.

Summary:

This series should really be a great series.  A lot of it will come down to execution.  These are two of the better teams at executing and following the game plan in the NBA.  Both teams have great coaches and really know how to win.  The Heat rely on their top guys more than the Spurs, but their top guys are better.  However, the Spurs certainly have more depth.  If the Big 3 can score 60-70 points per game, the Heat stand a great chance.

Prediction:

Heat in 6

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