A lot of people picked the Miami Heat to make it to the Finals before the season started, but how many really thought the San Antonio Spurs would be here? Be that as it may, we're here now and the Spurs are showing everyone what it takes to remain dominant in the NBA. This series is intriguing in many ways: how will the Heat deal with the finesse and technique of the Spurs, how will the Spurs handle the rough and tumble power game of the Heat, will Tony Parker make it look easy as he continues to dominate at the point guard position, will Tim Duncan slow down a little, he is 37 after all, will Dwayne Wade show up or continue to play at a level that wouldn't have been fathomable only a couple of years ago. One thing is for sure, the questions we have going in only make it that much more exciting. When the Finals start whoever wants to win better show up, and show up at 100%, because each team has the ability and the weapons to take the other one out.
It took the Heat seven games against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals to look like the team we expected them to be all along. After coming off a very impressive regular season, what Indiana was able to do was a little surprising. Their physical, disciplined defense, took away the shots at the rim and beyond the 3-point line that are Miami's strengths. Bad news for the Heat, the Spurs bring many of the same tools to the table. They ranked third in defensive rating during the regular season and are alone atop the mountain at No. 1 during the playoffs. The Spurs try to live by a time tested motto that has served many well across many sports; take away what your opponent does best. Greg Popovich is a master strategist and his game plan will be impeccable.
Still, the Heat won't have as much trouble with the Spurs in that regard as they did with the Pacers. The Spurs aren't quite as strong on the inside, and they're not quite as athletic. That means they will be able to enforce their will a little more without having to make as many adjustments.
Everybody knows how things start and end with Miami; Lebron James. Thinking you will shut him down is a pipe dream, but the Spurs can contain him. They'll likely have Kawhi Leonard guard him, a tough, rangy forward who won't hesitate to get in his face. He doesn't have the strength of James (not many do), but over the course of 48 minutes he's going to make the superstar work. However, whether or not Miami succeeds isn't going to be based on the production of James, it's going to depend on Chris Bosh and Wade.
It's safe to say that Wade isn't the player he used to be. All those years of hitting the ground night after night appear to have finally caught up to him. He doesn't have the biggest frame and the human body can only take so much. He is still an elite player, but Shaq wouldn't give him the nickname Flash if he were playing with him today. Bosh needs to make sure he doesn't disappear on the glass. Roy Hibbert gave him more than he could handle during their series and while there is no one on the Spurs who will be able to do that as well as he did, it proved where the weakness in Bosh's game lies.
The Spurs are no dummies, especially head coach Popovich. It was obvious to everyone around what the Achilles' heel of the Heat is, the paint. They have a pair of 6-foot-11 frontcourt starters who will look to be physical on the inside every chance they get. Miami has a tough defense and they will likely look to collapse on Tim Duncan when he gets the ball, but he is such a master of dictating action and passing from the block that he can make things happen without even scoring. But that may not even be the bread and butter that the Spurs use in this series.
Besides the post game, the Spurs can also generate open shots from their pick-and-roll game. Parker is playing lights out right now and his go-to move is the pick and roll. When he gets in his rhythm he is able to easily penetrate the lane and kick out to wide open guys on the wing for easy mid-range jumpers. The Spurs have made a living by being great passers and not allowing selfish play from any one man on the court. Miami plays a type of defense that relies on aggressive, high energy play and requires everyone to be sharp, there is very little room for error. Good ball movement is the key to breaking that down.
Even though on paper the Spurs appear to be playing much better ball right now, the NBA is a game of matchups. While the Heat struggles with the Pacers, the Spurs may have beaten them in 5. But that doesn't mean the Heat can't turn it around and hammer San Antonio. If Bosh, and more importantly Wade, are able to turn it on and bring some fire to the court there isn't a team in the league that they can't beat. This series will go a long way in seeing what James is able to do. He is the unquestioned leader of the team and he will have to show it when the going gets tough. It will be up to him as the floor general to do everything he can to put his teammates in the best possible position to succeed. Just like Dwayne Wade almost single-handedly destroyed the Mavericks for his first ring, James may have to go to even another level as well.
All that being said, the game isn't decided on paper or in the conversations in bars across the country. It's decided over the course of a grueling seven game series...I can't wait to see how it turns out.