Zach Tennen on Basketball - NBA and College
Michigan native Zachary Tennen is a basketball expert and blogs about his basketball perspective
Thursday, June 6, 2013
2013 NBA Finals Preview from isportsweb’s NBA experts
After 82 games, three playoff series and the most thoroughly-documented nine days off in NBA history, we’re finally here.
The NBA Finals are upon us, as the Miami Heat get a chance to keep the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second straight year, but facing them are the talented, well-coached, and certainly well-rested San Antonio Spurs.
This series is certainly poised to be a great one: it has a little bit of everything. Great players (cough *LeBron James* cough), great coaches (nobody outcoaches Pop. Nobody), and great storylines (remember the infamous sitting of SA’s “Big Three”?).
Our NBA experts at isportsweb analyzed the finals and each predicted a winner.
There were times in the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana where Miami’s offense looked stagnant and hesitant to make plays. The Pacers did a fantastic job of pushing the Heat to the brink, but when Miami had no choice but to execute down the stretch, they did so.
Miami doesn’t just suddenly click on offense because of their offensive talent alone. It all starts with their terrific effort on defense. Miami’s athletes do a great job of cutting off passing lanes and forcing their opponent to settle for off-balance, contested jumpers. Their tremendous effort on defense allows them to take advantage of the game when they get the ball back. Almost any turnover committed by their opponent results in a quick two or three points at the other end.
For the Spurs, that means making sure they protect the ball at all times. In the regular season, Miami forced the most turnovers per possession and they did so at a rate of 16.8 percent. That strength has carried over into the playoffs and it was an absolute killer for an Indiana team that had a great opportunity to win that series. San Antonio had the second best assist to turnover ratio in the regular season: they do a fairly good job of taking care of the ball. However, taking care of the ball against Miami is much more difficult because of their top-notch athletes and tendency to go for steals.
Tony Parker has brought his best in the playoffs and no team has been able to limit his impact on the game. Parker may see a variation of defenders being thrown at him throughout the game. He could have Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole often chasing him around the court, he could have D-Wade playing lockdown defense on him, and he could have a super athletic defensive anchor in LeBron James hounding him at the end of games. Other perimeter players such as Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, and even Cory Joseph are going to have to cut Parker some slack.
It doesn’t really matter which individual player is going to guard LeBron James because his game has gotten to the point where it is impossible for one man to take any sort of power away from him. You can only stay in front of him for as so long, and even if you put him in a very tough position to score, he could easily make a play for another teammate. No matter how inconsistent Dwyane Wade has been, we know he has a wicked ability to finish, and being set up by James makes it even easier for him.
When sizing up the shooters from both teams, the amount of shooters Miami has combined with LeBron’s unbelievable ability to set up other teammates may give Miami the edge when it comes to outside shooting. Ray Allen needs to play the way he did in Game 7 and knock down any open three that comes his way. The sooner Miami starts hitting outside shots, the more momentum and encouragement it’ll give them to continue doing so throughout the series.
One last factor of this series that I’d like to talk about is rebounding. Minus Game 7, Indiana demolished Miami on the boards in the Conference Finals. However, being the better rebounding team always seems to be a top priority for Popovich and the Spurs. I’m not sure that having a rebounding advantage will be the X-factor in this series, but at the very least, it will keep the series close and competitive.
Prediction: LeBron James gives Miami too many advantages and even the dynamic duo of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan may not be able to do much about that. LeBron James wins his second straight championship ring as the Miami Heat take down the San Antonio Spurs.
Heat in 6
Why the Miami Heat will win:
Defense: The Heat’s swarming defense, led by all-world defender LeBron James, will be able to handle the Spurs’ attack in a way that the Grizzlies and Lakers could not. Tim Duncan will still be able to have a huge impact against the small lineups the Heat prefer, but the Heat have athleticism that the Grizzlies lacked in addition to their great defensive chemistry. San Antonio’s wing players will be limited, and Erik Spoelstra can deploy the most potent defensive weapon in the league in James to lock down Tony Parker during crunch-time situations.
Chemistry: The defending champions have a roster replete with savvy veterans who have bonded throughout these playoffs and will not shrink from the moment. The Heat destroyed any doubts about their team chemistry by following a Game 6 collapse with an absolute evisceration of a very good Pacers team in Game 7. With Ray Allen lighting up the floor, Dwyane Wade contributing on both sides of the court, and guys like Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem stepping up, the Heat are a more complete team than any the Spurs have faced during these playoffs.
Lebron James: Simply put, the Heat have the best player in the league, in his prime. Lebron has the unique ability to shut down another team’s best player on defense and still compete on the offensive end with unparalleled intensity. When it has mattered, he has gotten his whole team involved to create a beautiful, unstoppable brand of basketball. He is capable of taking over a game through his scoring, his defense, and his offensive creativity. Despite the injuries to some of his teammates, this is still the best supporting cast James has ever had. If James asserts himself on both ends of the floor while still involving his teammates, there is little that any team in the NBA can do to stop the Heat.
Why the Spurs will win:
Inside Play: Much like the Pacers, the Spurs have a big man in Tim Duncan who is an imposing interior defender and a skilled post scorer. Duncan is also a better passer than Roy Hibbert, and while he may not have Hibbert’s athleticism, he is still a force on the boards. Duncan and the rest of the Spurs will be well rested compared to the Heat, who are coming off a fiercely-contested 7 game series against the Pacers. Tiago Splitter must also be accounted for. He is an effective post defender and another 7-foot body the Spurs can throw in the mix. But in the end the Spurs will rely on Duncan, who is coming off a series in which he completely outplayed Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
Tony Parker: While the other two members of the Spurs’ Big Three have lost a step or two to father time, Tony Parker has elevated his game this season to become a top point guard in the league. He would be a legitimate MVP contender in a league without Lebron James. He has developed a silky smooth midrange jumper to complement his lightning-quick first step to the basket. He orchestrates a Spurs’ offense that seems to always be one step ahead of the opponent. Through series of picks in the Spurs offense, Parker is able to get off an open jumper at will. There is little any defense can do to stop him except to hope that he gets cold.
Coaching: Erik Spoelstra is a good coach. He has managed the Heat locker room well for the most part: it takes skill to massage the egos of such high-profile players and produce a consistent championship contender. But Gregg Popovich has been one of the premier coaches in the NBA for the past 15 years. He has spent the whole season preparing this Spurs team for the playoffs, and thus far they have overwhelmed the competition. With 10 days to prepare for the Finals following their sweep of the Grizzlies, Pop will have the Spurs playing superb basketball from the opening tip of Game 1 until the end of the series.
The Spurs have more depth than the Heat, and a huge matchup advantage on the boards with Tim Duncan. They are also more athletic than last year with the developments of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, among others. The Heat won’t be able to run them out of the playoffs the way the Thunder did last year. However, I think the Heat will prevail in this series. Throughout their entire season, they got contributions from unexpected sources when they needed it most, especially during their 27-game win streak. They were the best regular-season team, they are the defending champions, and they are led by a player I believe will end up being a top-5 player all-time.
This series should be a treat for basketball fans across the country. It will be basketball played at its highest level, featuring at least 6 future Hall of Famers. It will be an opportunity for LeBron James to assert his place in history.
Heat in 7.
The San Antonio Spurs certainly have been tested during this playoff run. Other than the first round sweep, the Spurs have played a hot, young and fast paced Warriors team in the second round and proved to everyone they can still keep up despite their old age. In the Western Conference Finals, they played a tough Grizzlies team- don’t be fooled by the sweep! The Grizzlies tried to physically wear down the older Spurs team, but it didn’t work.
On the other hand, the Miami Heat played a tough Bulls team and that also tried to physically intimidate them, though that didn’t work and the Heat won a tough series in 5 games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat fell victim to adversity. Bosh and Wade had by far their worst playoff performances in their career, yet the King still found a way to carry his team on his back. Game 7 only proved to the world that the Heat signed up to win and they found a way to shake the rust off and fight. Both teams are going into the Finals on a roll and a bit of a swagger.
Getting straight to the point, I believe the Spurs are the better basketball team, but does that mean they’ll win? Not necessarily. The Indiana Pacers in my opinion were also a better basketball team and outplayed the Heat but they still lost. I believe Tim Duncan is going to abuse the Heat down low such as Hibbert did. Unfortunately, Duncan is getting older and he doesn’t have much interior help. The Heat are just too talented despite the mismatch in the paint. If Wade and Bosh can show up, then this series should favor the Heat.
Prediction: I know to never underestimate the heart of a champion, but I don’t see the Spurs taking this to 7. Miami’s best bet is to make it an up-tempo game and pushing the ball will tire out the Spurs down the stretch. I see the Spurs outplaying the Heat in every game but losing a nail-biter in four out of six games.
Miami Heat in 6 very tough games
The NBA Finals is a time where we usually see the best basketball being played from the two teams who are competing against one another. This 2013 version of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat solidifies that comment.
The Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, decided to start a new trend in the NBA by sitting his star players just for rest during the regular season so that they’ll be ready for the real stretch-run: the playoffs. I guess you can’t really judge the man if the results favor his decisions; I mean the Spurs are in the finals, aren’t they?
At the other end of the spectrum, Miami seemed like they have been playing at about 75% throughout the regular season and even in the playoffs. They too knew what their goal was heading into the season, and I believe we haven’t seen the best of them either. But that’s why we have the NBA Finals, to decide who will be crowned champions and the best basketball team in the league.
If the Heat thought Indiana was a well put together team, then they will have their hands full with the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker have more playoff games played together than some NBA players have regular season games. Waiting to see if the Spurs make it to finals each year is like waiting to see what the groundhog will do; if he doesn’t show up one year, you can expect him to be there the next. Honestly, talk about the greatest dynasty of all American sports in our era? The New England Patriots and the San Antonio Spurs are the two teams that come to my mind.
But payback is on the mind of the greatest player on the planet, and I believe he will take down this Spurs dynasty in his second crack at it. LeBron James talked to the media about how he has become a 20, 40, or even 50 times better than what he was in 2007 when he played the Spurs in the finals as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His supporting cast in Miami also happens to have more experience than his 2007 club. With the Spurs having 9 days rest from the last time they played a game, I expect Miami to take game one, building off their momentum from the game seven win against the Pacers.