5 Reasons Why Spurs Will Beat The Heat
The two best teams in the NBA have reached the Finals, and now we are in for a treat, in what should be an epic championship series. While there’s no way this series will be lopsided, here’s my take on five reasons why the Spurs will cool down the Heat:
1. Tony Parker
He’s the best point guard in the NBA and he’s the motor that keeps the Spurs going. San Antonio’s ball movement, cutting and spacing is specifically predicated on Parker’s ability to penetrate and wreak havoc on defenses. While LeBron James is by far the best player in this series, Parker is by far the second best player and he can impact the game with his scoring, passing and driving. Don’t think that containing Parker is easy and don’t think that the Spurs don’t have the personnel to exploit the Heat overplaying Parker (excellent three point shooters and another terrific ball handler in Manu Ginobili).
The Spurs do a terrific job at utilizing different angles in the pick-and-rolls they run for Parker. They will run it at the wing, at the top of the key, at the elbow, whatever allows Parker to find daylight. While the Grizzlies are one of the worst teams at defending the pick-and-roll (Parker torched them), the Heat are one of the best. But all those stats go out the window when you have someone as talented, quick and dangerous running the pick-and-roll. If Parker is dictating the pace and the flow of the game, the Heat are in big trouble.
No one has a bench as deep or as flexible as the Spurs’. Their versatility allows them to play any brand of basketball they desire. They can go big with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter and try to punish Miami for pretending Chris Bosh is a center. They can go small by playing with Kawhi Leonard at the four and space the floor. Heck, if Miami decides to play small ball, the Spurs can easily play with five three-point shooters at once (Parker, Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and either Matt Bonner or Boris Diaw). The reality is the Spurs have an arsenal of guys who are great passers, great shooters and who intricately understand ball movement and spacing. Their ability to adapt to different styles is what has gotten them this far.
3. Three-Point Shooting
The great equalizer is three-point shooting, and few teams can create as many quality looks from deep as the Spurs. San Antonio has nine players that shot 35.3 percent or higher from three-point range during the regular reason. The Spurs were fourth in the league in three-point field goal percentage and seventh in three-point makes per game during the regular season.
But it’s the way that San Antonio creates those looks that should be problematic for Miami. They drive-and-kick, they penetrate the defense, they space the floor, they make the extra pass and they love their corner threes. If Miami’s entire defensive scheme is based on its length and athleticism, it’s not rocket science to point out that ball movement causes a defense to shift and scramble. That aspect of Miami’s defense is pretty terrible as they were the 10th worst team in allowing threes per game throughout the year.
While the Heat’s inability to rebound and defend the post has been exposed so far in the playoffs, their inability to defend the perimeter has not been remotely tested (Milwaukee finished 13th, Indiana finished 16th and Chicago finished 29th in three-pointers made per game during the regular season).
Miami is also a great three-point shooting team (second in the regular season in three-point field goal percentage), but the Spurs are the fifth best team in threes allowed per game. In other words, anything related to three-point shooting: advantage Spurs.
4. Defensive Rebounding
There’s no way Miami can suck more at rebounding than they did against the Pacers, right? Not so fast. While the Pacers finished tied for fifth in the NBA with a 76.6 defensive rebound rate, the Spurs were a tick better at 76.9, good for third in the NBA. The Pacers might look more physical and imposing, but the Spurs are just as effective and will not allow the Heat to have second chances.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Heat offense will be bad by any stretch. After all, Miami had the 26th best offensive rebound rate this year and managed to lead the league in offensive efficiency. But as we all know, games slow down in the playoffs and the number of possessions in a game decrease, which is why offensive rebounding is a must and the Heat simply don’t have it, and the Spurs simply don’t allow it.
5. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs’ X-Factor
It’s no secret: no team in the NBA has as much championship experience as the Spurs. Ginobili, Parker, Duncan and Popovich have been there, done that, multiple times and you can’t really quantify team cohesiveness, experience and how much coaching matters.
Simply put, Popovich should have an edge over virtually any coach in the NBA. And while you can argue that a coach doesn’t determine the outcome of a series, I’ll counter by saying that it’s how a team adjusts and adapts throughout a series that can ultimately tilt the balance.
The Spurs managed to eliminate Steph Curry and Klay Thompson after Game Two in their series and they managed to make Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol look like very average players. They know a thing or two about how to get a team to play outside of its comfort zone. They know how to negate a team’s best player.
Dealing with LeBron James is a whole different monster and you can only hope to limit his tremendous ability. But you just know that in these 10 days of rest, Pop has been scheming, planning, trying to find anything that can disrupt James. My guess? He’ll try and force Dwyane Wade to beat the Spurs. He’s going to challenge the Heat to put the ball on the floor and drive, and he’s not going to be afraid to make James only a scorer. After all, with the way the Heat played against Indiana, Pop knows that Miami depends on James’ playmaking ability more than ever.
Lastly, we can’t end this piece without discussing the Spurs’ x-factor: Ginobili. He can breakdown a defense, he’s a tremendous passer and he’s fearless. Even if he hasn’t played up to the level he has us accustomed to, Ginobili has the ability to win a playoff game by himself and he’s been instrumental in the Spurs’ championship success because he’s the guy that’s not afraid to do something different.
No team in the NBA is better equipped to beat the Heat than the Spurs. They have discipline on defense, a terrific point guard, coaching, experience, depth, ball movement and shooting to dethrone the Heat. It’s going to be one heck of a series.