Let's get right down to business:
There were times 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. Even a highly powerful Indiana defense could not stop the Heat when the momentum was in Miami’s favor. What happens in the first half of a game can be a significant indicator of the result, but Miami has shown their ability to completely flip the game around in the second half.
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. When not taking the assist statistic into account, 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.
On the other hand, San Antonio is a team that is known for weathering the storm. Miami might make a few huge exclamation points, but Tony Parker will often come back down the court and catch the defense off guard. We may see the tempo of the game change as the series goes on as a possible result of Miami wearing down San Antonio. In order for that to happen though, Miami needs to prove early that they have a strategy to outlast the competitive Spurs.
It’s no secret; if you don’t get enough stops on defense, you are going to lose games. If there is absolutely no answer to an overpowering offense, games will get out of hand and that will take a dramatic toll on the outcome of the series.
In the semifinals, both Miami and San Antonio were the superior offensive teams. Indiana had the fight and the heart to keep up with Miami but they lacked the offensive execution. Memphis couldn’t have looked better in the first two rounds but they ran into a trap when they met the Spurs, as the Grizzlies found very little success knocking down outside shots. Because both teams have such great offensive stability, it’s hard to assume that one team will regularly give the other team trouble scoring.
However, we can do our best of assessing this situation by taking what we do know. Indiana was the best in the league at stopping teams from scoring in the paint but their constant turnovers offset that. Duncan and the Spurs did a fantastic job of shutting down Memphis’ inside scoring after the Grizzlies dominated teams in the paint in the first two rounds. On top of that, Gregg Popovich’s highly structured and well-organized offense will not present Miami as many opportunities to get easy buckets. The Spurs’ chances in this series may lie on whether they will be able to make these games strictly half court.
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 long as you can, 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 LeBron James makes it even easier for him.
It is a given that LeBron will continue to create plenty of space for three point shooters such as Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers. It’s just a matter of the shooters being able to capitalize, which they did very well against the Pacers.
San Antonio has shot considerably well in the playoffs. Danny Green is one of the best percentage long-range shooters in the game, and they have other notable guys who can shoot from the perimeter like Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are the players most responsible for opening up the court for three point opportunities.
However, 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. Indiana had no choice but to control the glass in order to knock off the Heat. That being said, San Antonio will have to hold a similar type of advantage that the Pacers had on the rebounds.
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