Baring age catching up to the San Antonio Spurs and injuries slowing down the Miami Heat, this will be the most anticipated NBA Finals match up in quite some time. Although the Heat made it interesting in the Eastern Conference Finals, we got the series we wanted. On paper this should be a classic. However, there are too many unknowns that both teams have to deal with to be victorious.
The Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals in a series that was closer than the outcome indicated, with two games going into overtime. The Spurs won that series because they shut down the Grizzlies big men, especially Zach Randolph, who was a beast up to that point in the playoffs. But the main reason why they took out Memphis was the play of Tony Parker. Parker scored 37 points in one game and dished out 18 assists in another. Memphis Head Coach Lionel Hollins had no answer for the French import, who just abused the talented Mike Conley.
Tim Duncan was his old, typical, efficient self, although he was not putting up big scoring numbers, his passing, rebounds and defense kept Memphis at bay.
The only main concern that Coach Popovich has is the health of Manu Ginobili., who has an assortment of injuries that has slowed him down during the post season. He has only had a few games that reflected his normal output. However, when the Spurs backs are against the wall, the Argentine assassin usually comes through.
Coach Pop has his Big Three in Parker, Duncan and Ginoblil. But he also has a great set of role players. Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and Kawhi Leonard all have made significant contributions throughout this post season, while only doing what the coaching staff asks them to do.
The Spurs have the perfect combination of stars, role players and coaching and they are clicking on all cylinders. They have had nine days to rest and heal up. So they go into the Finals in a good state where the defending NBA Champions will be waiting for them.
While the Spurs may come into these Finals fresh and rested, some may say that the Heat are limping into the Series after needing seven games to close out the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Although they looked dominant in their 99-77 victory in Game 7, everything looked status quo in that close out game. LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Wade put his bum knee out of his mind and summoned enough strength to chip in with 21 points and corral 9 rebounds. There was even a Chris Bosh sighting, as the Big Fella grabbed 8 boards, 6 offensive, and hit some big long range shots when the Heat went on that second quarter tear. One might look at Game 7 and come to conclusion that the Heat are back. Not so fast my friends.
If I were a Heat fan, I would be concerned, very concerned. I said after the Chicago series that I felt Miami looked vulnerable. Take nothing away from the Pacers but the Heat looked nothing like the team that raced out to 27-straight victories during the regular season.
LeBron got no help from his Co-Stars, particularly from Wade, Bosh, Ray Allen and Shane Battier. It got so bad that James was quoted saying that he felt like he was back in Cleveland. Ouch! His teammates did not like it but they got the message in Game 7. Wade and Bosh were their old aggressive selves on Monday. They might not produce the numbers that we are accustomed to seeing from them but their aggressiveness opened up things for others. Even Allen hit three huge three pointers. If Allen and Wade don’t come through for LeBron, this will be a short series for the folks in South Beach.
I have to give Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra credit. He made two key moves that propelled his team to victory. In Game 3, he moved Bosh away from the basket, opening up the court for James to do his thing as Roy Hibbert was forced to go out to guard Bosh. Then in Game 7, he doubled down hard on Hibbert and David West, forcing them to give up the ball right away.
The key to the upcoming Finals will be the production of Wade and Ginobili. Whoever wins that battle, their team will win the series. James, Duncan and Parker will get theirs but Wade and Ginobili will be the key to this series. LeBron can’t rely on Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem to be his wingmen. Allen, Bosh and Wade must come through for James. He came to Miami so the weight of the world will not be on his shoulders.