For nearly a year, Tim Duncan has stewed in the anguish of last year’s Finals defeat.
The Spurs had the Miami Heat right where they wanted them in Games 6 and 7 of last year’s NBA Finals. San Antonio’s inability to execute in the most critical moments cost them their fifth world championship. Tim Duncan feels the angst more than any player heading into thew Finals rematch. It was Duncan who missed a rolling hook in the lane with the Spurs trailing 90-88 late in Game 7. The Spurs would never recover awarding the Heat their second NBA title in as many years with a 95-88 victory.
Will it be different this time?
|Game 1:||MIA at SAS | Thu., Jun. 5, 9:00 PM ET | ABC|
|Game 2:||MIA at SAS | Sun., Jun. 8, 8:00 PM ET | ABC|
|Game 3:||SAS at MIA | Tue., Jun. 10, 9:00 PM ET | ABC|
|Game 4:||SAS at MIA | Thu., Jun. 12, 9:00 PM ET | ABC|
|Game 5:||MIA at SAS | Sun., Jun. 15 | ABC | If Needed|
|Game 6:||SAS at MIA | Tue., Jun. 17 | ABC | If Needed|
|Game 7:||MIA at SAS | Fri., Jun. 20 | ABC | If Needed|
We will know in the opening minutes of this series if Tony Parker’s ailing knee will be a determining factor. Parker leads the Spurs in scoring this postseason at 17 points per contest. He is also taking 15 shots per game (leads team), a stat which could gauge the health of the ankle. The Spurs title hopes rest on Parker’s health more than anything. Danny Green’s biggest assignment in this series will be making life difficult for Dwyane Wade at both ends of the floor. Green has to be physical with Wade when he has the ball and make him chase him through screens and picks.
Mario Chalmers lacks the flash of most lead guards, but he’s undoubtedly one of the steadiest. When the Big Three are having a rough time, it’s Chalmers who’s capable of running off 10-12 points in a row. Chalmers’ younger, fresher legs will be key in dealing with Parker, regardless of his health. The Heat need solid performances from Dwyane Wade to win this series — an aggressive 27-30 points. I believe he’s capable of it only if he can get rest at the proper time. It’s no secret Wade has paced himself in these playoffs in hopes of cutting loose on the Spurs. He’ll have have his moments in what may be his last run at a title.
The Spurs didn’t allow LeBron James to become the story of last year’s finals. The problem is James can wreck any game plan in a myriad of ways. Despite averaging 27 points in the postseason, the 2014 MVP runner-up is also grabbing seven boards and handing out five assists. James has several motivating factors heading into this series and should be as driven as we’ve ever seen him. Miami will go with Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem or Rashard Lewis at the other forward position depending on the situation. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has done a great job fitting these three into situations where they can play to their strengths.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard will be the busiest player in this series. Leonard may be guarding anyone from James to Ray Allen depending who’s hot for the Heat. Leonard in the right situation can be as much of a threat, it’s just a question of how much guarding James takes out of his offensive production. Tiago Splitter has to be physical at both ends, whether it’s against Udonis Haslem or Chris Bosh.
Chris Bosh has elevated himself from the forgotten man in the Heat’s trio to the one player Miami needs to win this series. Bosh’s outstanding play in the postseason has carried over into the playoffs. Bosh is shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc — giving the Heat yet another dimension against the Spurs who will undoubtedly pack the lane. The Heat will need Bosh to be more of a factor on the glass if they’re going to win this series.
You have to question if Tim Duncan’s anxiety to get after the Heat will affect his play early in this series. Duncan has to mentally pace for a seven game series and not a one shot, one kill scenario. Duncan’s minutes aren’t much off from what he played in the regular season. Against the Heat he could push close to 35-38 minutes per contest, his playoff totals of 17 points and 9 rebounds should increase as well.
Miami is looking for Rashard Lewis to pick up where Mike Miller left off. Chris Andersen and Shane Battier will provide resistance when the Spurs want to pound the ball inside. Norris Cole is a valued backup and could have his moments in this series if there is a lull. This all falls on Ray Allen, whose exploits in Game 6 will stay etched in everyone’s memory. As aged as we may want to deem Mr. Shuttlesworth, he continues to meet the moment. James Jones and Greg Oden should see some minutes as well.
Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili anchor a solid Spurs second team. Ginobili looks to be back in stride averaging 14 points and four assists. Diaw will be looked upon to play more of an inside out game depending on the defender. Marco Belinelli, Corey Joseph and Patty Mills round out the Spurs rotation. There will be a game in this series where Mills shows out.
Tim Duncan’s comments were simply words from a player driven to make amends for last season’s disappointing loss. San Antonio’s Big Three are playing in their final series, the same could be said for Miami — whose trio is uncertain heading into the summer months. There is much at stake here. How will the Spurs handle things when they’re up double-digits and how will the Heat compensate for a lack of an inside presence at both ends are two things which will determine this series.
For the last two seasons LeBron James has been the NBA MVP and World Champion, for a player who may be at the height of his powers it would be hard to see him without either which would be the case if the Spurs pull this out.
I’m torn on this series, but I’m gonna go with my gut and take the Spurs.
Spurs in seven.