The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs feature two of best-run NBA franchises over time. For comparison's sake, over the last twenty years prior to this season, the Golden State Warriors have a combined winning percentage of 40% (634-958). They have yet to withstand the test of time.
A look at the Heat and Spurs team match-ups by the numbers for the entire season.
The Spurs lead the NBA in 2-point scoring and least amount of free-throws allowed. They are the second oldest team, second in FG% and 3P% (though 25th in 3PA), second in FT%. They are among the top three in FGs made, 2PG% and assists. The Spurs average the least minutes played per player and free-throw attempts.
The only league-leading stat for the Heat over the entire season is blocks, while the Heat commit personal fouls at the third lowest rate.
The differences between them over the entire season are the Spurs have won 18 more games, make more shots, excel in three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, assists, steals, turnovers and points.
The post-All-Star Heat have closed many of gaps between the two teams. The true test will be whether the Heat can score over a hundred points versus a Spurs team, that limited the Warriors to 79 points, and hand the Spurs their first defeat of the season (and beyond) on their home court.
Surprisingly the Spurs don't hoist many shots, though their accuracy is outstanding and assist rate is one of the highest in the league. As the NBA's second-oldest team, they hide that fact by spreading the minutes among the players.
They are 25th in offensive rebounding, which the Heat could benefit from because, besides Hassan Whiteside and Amar'e Stoudemire, Justise Winslow is an elite rebounder with his strength and youthful energy. The team is following the 2006 Heat blueprint of out-rebounding opponents with a defense leads to offense mentality.
On the whole, the negative numbers for assists, turnovers and steals still highlight how the Spurs outmatch the Heat in playing as a cohesive unit. The Heat will need to up their communication skills on the court to another level for a victory.
Historically the Heat are a horrible 3-24 in San Antonio during the regular season. An A++ team effort will be needed for tonight's game to keep the Heat in third place. Oddly the third through sixth teams in the Eastern Conference all have exactly 41 wins. A tight race indeed.
Dan Craig of the 37-8 Skyforce juggernaut has a simple trick to motivate his players: he circles the number 38 to give them a definitive purpose, rather than a vague "play hard" chant. The Heat could circle the number 4 to remind them of winning only 3 previous times in San Antonio over 28 regular seasons.
Reflecting those numbers the Spread has Miami as double-digit underdogs at +11.5 points tonight.