Thursday, June 6, 2013

NBA Finals Preview

People begin to look at this matchup and begin to look at the contrasts between these teams, especially age. But when looking at the matchup, age appears to be the only one. Both have a big 3, all of them with rings, two great coaches, and similar game styled which depend on great ball handling, good screen and roll action, and high IQ cuts for easy layups. On defense, they each have team oriented styles which revolve around quick rotation to the ball on the perimeter and steady internal defense at the center position(except Chris Bosh/maybe occasionally Tiago Splitter). In the end of the day, we are left with two teams looking to further validate their statuses in the basketball universe. Let's break down the 5 (3 major 2 minor) categories and see who has the edge.

1.Coaching. Eric Spolestra has done a fantastic job managing the tremendous amount of talent in south beach and has done a fantastic job especially with role players. Another trait which he has demonstrated with consistency is his ability to make effective adjustments in a rather short period of time. He demonstrated this against the Pacers when using his super small ball lineup in which Shane Battier plays power forward. David West was eating him alive, so what does Spolestra do? Bench Battier, more Birdman, more Haslem, more Mike Miller. Also the decision to go LBJ pick and roll with Chalmers or Norris Cole as the screener is one of the deadliest plays in the NBA today. Bravo Mr. Spolestra, you are earning your stripes, it's just to bad Greg Popovich is managing the bench on the opposite end of the floor. He is the Michael Jordan of coaching, we could give him coach of the year every single year for the way he's managed to keep the same system throughout his entire career and his ability to insert different parts ,without any hiccups, into the well oiled machine which is the Spurs offense. As we saw last series, the Grizzlies, who have been called the best defensive team in the league, we ripped to shreds by the efficient San Antonio offense. The Spurs shot over 50% from the field in 3 of the 4 games of the series. The edge here goes to the Spurs.

2. Best Player. Obviously it's Gary Neal.... Wow aren't I a comedian? Okay so we know the Heat have the advantage here with LeBron James, so we will focus on how the Spurs will try to limit the current best player on the planet. Kawhi Leonard will be tasked with guarding LeBron out of the gate, a guy whose defense is underrated in my mind. He's from SDSU and played under coach Steve Fischer whose team was one of the premier defensive clubs in the country and Leonard might have been the best defender on that team. He's been slowed by some knee issues lately, but due to his quiet and hardworking nature, he's not one for exucses. Now we all know that ball screen is coming with the PG, so the way the Spurs need to counter that is by either hedging that screen, or putting a bigger defender on the Chalmers or Cole so that in the event of a switch there is no huge mismatch. My suggestion would be Danny Green or Gary Neal and occasionally Manu. On another alternative would be to keep Splitter and Duncan close to the middle and let the mismatch happen. Last series when George Hill was forced to switch onto LeBron, I don't think I ever saw him pull up, he almost put his head down and just went straight to the rack. By putting Duncan and Splitter close to the middle the Spurs can give themselves a shot blocking presence. Yet this is exactly the reason LeBron is so good, he requires so much attention to where his teammates are open in almost all of these situations, if you pack Duncan and Splitter in the paint, Bosh or Haslem will be open. Slowing LeBron is no easy task, but if I had to pick one coach to do it, I'd pick Pop.

3. Which weak link will show up? Well D-Wade finally showed up in game 7, and Chris Bosh didn't. He failed to score in double figures in the last 4 games of the series against the Pacers and was an exposed as a sub-par interior defender. Although his 50% shooting from behind the arc was a key factor in the earlier part of the series in some close games. For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili's slump was noticed against the Grizz as he was the only player to not produce consistently on offense for SA.  But he is rested, Bosh is not and for that reason I'm giving him the edge. Bosh will be frustrated on defense by Timmy and it might carry over to offense for the slumping member of Miami's big three.

4. Bench. Im going to make these last two quick. I like Miami's bench, their personal is just a tad better than the Spurs with Ray Allen and Chris Anderson.

5. Rebounding. Guess who has this category on lock? The Heat are the worst rebounding team to make it to the finals since the 96' Rockets. If the SA bigs can pick up where Roy Hibbert left off Miami will find themselves in a difficult spot.

Prediction: I'm not a huge LeBron fan. I Spurs saw what the Pacers did and I think they will build off of that. The Heat haven't played like a champion consistently and the Spurs have. The veteran leadership on this team is unmatched and they will not make the mental mistakes the Pacers made. The Heat have been fortunate with their last two match-ups missing crucial members of their teams. I like the Spurs in 7, Pop wins the chess match and he and Tim Duncan will get their 5th ring.-Josh Neighbors

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