Hello All, On New Year’s Eve, the Heat will get their night started off with a nice game of basketball against the San Antonio Spurs before what I am sure will be a thrilling night on the Riverwalk. The Heat will face a streaking Spurs team that started the season slowly but has won 9 of 11, including their last 3, and seems to be doing their usual number, wherein they round in to shape as the season rolls along. The Spurs are 18-11 overall but 13-5 at home and have night off leading in to the game, while this is the second game of a back-to-back set for the Heat. PROJECTED STARTERS Miami Heat PG- C. Arroyo T. Parker SG- D. Wade K. Bogans SF- Q. Richardson R. Jefferson PF- M. Beasley T. Duncan C- J. O’Neal D. Blair San Antonio Spurs PG- T. Parker SG- K. Bogans SF- R. Jefferson PF- T. Duncan C- D. Blair The Spurs are lead, as always, by Tim Duncan. Tony Parker is still a dominant playmaker when he is on their game, but early in this season he has struggled with consistency. Recently, however, he has looked more like Mr. Parker and less like Mr. Longoria. Manu Ginobli, the Sixth Man and most explosive scorer on the roster, is also beginning to round in to form after being hampered by injuries, and Richard Jefferson has become a nasty option out on the wing in his first season as a Spur. And let’s not forget that the Spurs can bring Antonio McDyess off the bench at either center or power forward. The Spurs would appear to have the advantage at 3 of the 5 positions, and possibly 4, depending upon O’Neal’s output at center. STATS BREAKDOWN (as of 12/30/09) Effective Field Goal % The Heat rank 17th in the league at 49.3%, while the Spurs rank 3rd at 52.9%. EDGE: Spurs (Big) Turnover % The Heat rank 2nd at 12.4%, while the Spurs rank 13th at 14.5%. EDGE: Heat (Big) Offensive Rebound % The Heat rank 22nd at 25.3%, while the Spurs rank 12th at 27.3%. EDGE: Spurs Free Throw Rate The Heat rank 7th at 32.5%, while the Spurs rank 12th at 31.7%. EDGE: Heat The categories are split, and we all know that the Spurs and the Heat play pretty similar styles of basketball. This appears to be a pretty even matchup, at least according to Statsheet.com HEAT KEY TO THE GAME Simple. Find a way to stop Duncan down low (and who hasn’t had an easy go of that in the last 12 years?) while at the same time stopping the slashing of Parker, Jefferson and Ginobli. Simple. SPURS KEY TO THE GAME Just play their game. Shoot above 50%, take away all options outside of Wade and keep on hammering away. It has been working for them for ten years. And right now they are on roll. This is why I am picking the Spurs. For all the reasons above, plus a gut feeling that the Heat will play this one pretty closely and yet come up short. Kind of like my Hurricanes. Sigh.