Welcome back to your TJR source for all things NBA. We are down to the final two teams for a chance at NBA immortality. Since there is only one series to preview, I am going to write it a little differently this week. Follow me on twitter @weigel_a and let me know your thoughts! Let’s get right to it!
How they got here: Heat over Charlotte Bobcats 4-0, Heat over Brooklyn Nets 4-1 and Heat over Indiana Pacers 4-2.
Roster Analysis: Miami’s average roster age is about 31 years old, which I starting to get up there. They have a wonderful blend of players in their prime who log the big minutes with veterans who can come off the bench and deliver in the clutch. There is a very good balance of scoring and 3-point shooting up and down the roster. The one major area where the roster may be lacking is rebounding and at-the-rim defense. Chris Anderson is the only real shot blocker on this team and this season, ranked last in the NBA in rebounding.
Coach: While being one of the younger coaches in the NBA, Coach Erik Spolestra’s even-keeled demeanor and love of his players has made him a fantastic coach. Erik Spolesta does a fantastic job with star minute management and always keeping balance on the floor. He typically does not rest all of the “Big 3” at once which allows for 1 or 2 primary scorers to be out on the floor at all times. This forces the opposition to match up differently and mix/match lineups more. He has done what most coaches with the Miami Heat should do, let the Big 3 control the game on the floor while you stand in the shadows controlling egos and keeping the team prepared.
3 Keys to Victory:
- The first key starts and stops with Lebron James. He is the best player in the NBA and for the Heat to win the championship; he has to be the best player on the floor. Lebron has shot a staggering 56.5% throughout the season and postseason while shooting about 36.5% from 3-point range. His ability to attack along with Dwayne Wade may lead to a lot of fouls and free-throw opportunities.
- Perimeter defense. San Antonio is at their best when they are moving the ball and getting open shots. Tony Parker’s ability to drive the lane, suck in the defense and then kick out for the open 3-pointer is their bread and butter. The Heat need to make sure their defensive rotations are sound and they are contesting every shot. If San Antonio starts lighting it up from 3, these games may get out of hand quickly.
- Health: Last year, Dwayne Wade looked like he had 20 pound weights on each of his knees. Due to more rest, Wade looks like a different player this post season. The Heat plays a very finesse style of basketball which involves a lot less wear and tear on the body. The downside is if the Heat cannot run, they are stuck playing half-court basketball which is not their forte. With a healthy Dwayne Wade and bench, this team may be primed for a 3-peat.
San Antonio Spurs
How they got here: Spurs over Dallas Mavericks 4-3, Spurs over Portland Trailblazers 4-1 and Spurs over Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2
Roster Analysis: For years now, the Spurs have been known as one of the deepest teams in the NBA. They have a perfect blend of veteran talent and youth who play beyond their years. They made themselves a deeper team by moving Manu Ginobli to the second unit giving them a veteran ball-handler and scorer coming off the bench. The Spurs also have a perfect blend of big men who create matchup nightmares. Tiago Splitter is a back to the basket hustle player, Duncan can play either post-up or face-up while Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner provide long range shooting that can really stretch the floor. Gregg Popovich is able to match up with most lineups and create a plethora of matchups for the opposition to defend.
Coach: Gregg Popovich is arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time. He is a master tactician and motivator who has gotten his veterans to buy in for what seems like an eternity. He is very even-keeled and knows well how to get the most out of his team. One reason he is hugely successful is his veterans buy-in to his message thus making them an extension of their coach out on the floor. His ability to make adjustments is unparalleled by any other coach in the NBA and his minute management of his entire team is impeccable.
3 Keys to Victory:
- The Spurs biggest strength is their team depth. Popovich throughout these playoffs has gone with 10-11 man rotations, which is a testament to how the Spurs have constructed their team. While most teams at this stage play only 7-8 players, the Spurs don’t hesitate putting an entire second unit on the floor to keep his big guns fresh. This depth also gives the Spurs the ability to adjust during the game. If a team goes small, Popovich can play the all-around Boris Diaw at center and flip the script on the opposition. This has also led to confidence up and down the Spurs lineup. As we have gone deeper into the playoffs, the bench has shown they are ready to perform when called upon.
- Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. Tony Parker is their best player and must be healthy during this series. Their offense is predicated on him getting into the lane and making plays. The Spurs struggle most when they are not able to penetrate and kick which means fewer open threes and fewer opportunities. The other key is Boris Diaw. The all-around talented big guy has the ability to shoot 3’s, rebound and distribute. He can pull Chris Anderson outside of the lane for Parker and company to operate. He was arguably their best player during the series against the Thunder and if he can repeat that performance, the Spurs may be unbeatable.
- Transition Defense. The Miami Heat are at their best when they get the ball and run. Lebron and Wade are lethal in the open floor because they are excellent finishers at the rim and fantastic distributers to open shooters. Where Miami struggles the most is in the half-court. They are not a particularly great jump shooting team or offensive rebounding team so to be successful, they need to shoot a high percentage and get easy shots.
Prediction: To be honest, I am not as excited for this matchup as I was a year ago. These two teams really didn’t change much which is a complement to them that while everyone around them changes, they can do the same thing and be the best. The only difference would be this year is Games 6 and 7 will be in Texas and not Miami. The Spurs were within two Miami 3’s from winning the title last year in Game 6 and most people believe they have only gotten better. However, I think this Heat team actually looks more focused and healthy than last season. Playing on the road may actually help them be more engaged from the get-go and make them a better team. Lebron will get his 3-peat before an off-season of uncertainty in Miami commences.
Heat in 6
Thanks for reading!