2013 NBA Finals Matchup: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
After the first full season of professional basketball since 2010-2011 (last year’s season was abbreviated by the lockout), two of the strongest franchises in the league have once again made their way to the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. One has a storied history they are looking to repeat, while the other is looking to make their own mark on the annals of NBA history as one of the great franchises.
With the start of the Finals on Thursday, let’s break down each point on the teams to see who has the edge in this series.
Guards – Tony Parker and Danny Green (SA) vs. Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers (MIA)
Parker and Green have been a solid part of the San Antonio lineup, with Parker at times making his impact felt more than other members of a veteran squad. Green has taken to the point guard role for the team well, willing to sacrifice his own stats to make sure that the team is running at an optimum level.
In the second half of the year, Wade has been bothered by nagging injuries that have limited his impact on the game. During the 2013 playoffs, it seems that Wade has disappeared more often than a Las Vegas magician. Chalmers is one of the “X-factors” to watch out for, as his shooting can either push the Heat over the top or be a detriment to the squad due to his willingness to continue to shoot.
The Wade/Parker matchup will basically cancel each other out, so it comes down to who will be the better of the point guards for the team, Green or Chalmers. It’s a close one, but you have to give the…EDGE: Heat
Forwards – Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard (SA) vs. LeBron James and Udonis Haslem (MIA)
Whatever Fountain of Youth that Tim Duncan has been drinking from, he should bottle it up to sell in his post-NBA days. Duncan has led the Spurs to the Finals for the fifth time (the previous four they have won), earning his tenth First Team All-NBA selection. Leonard has been one of the breakout stars of the NBA season and he looks to be the player that future Spurs teams will be built around.
What can you say about LeBron James? The two-time defending and four-time overall league Most Valuable Player continues to amaze the world with his prowess on the court. There have been times during the season and the playoffs that James has simply taken over the court, imposing his will on not only his team but on his opponents. Haslem is a veteran pro who, while not known for his scoring prowess, provides a bit of toughness and rebounding so “The Big Three” don’t have to worry about that.
The combination of Duncan and Leonard has been golden for San Antonio all season long. While it may go against the grain to go against the NBA’s MVP, as a duo it has to be…EDGE: Spurs
Center – Tiago Splitter (SA) vs. Chris Bosh (MIA)
Over the course of the season, Splitter has become a solid, serviceable NBA center, providing defense and the occasional scoring outburst to sometimes offset a poor night from others in the starting lineup. His continued development will ensure that, once Duncan retires, the frontcourt of the San Antonio lineup will remain solid.
Bosh has been one of the biggest disappointments of “The Big Three.” Expected to be a defensive force for the Heat, Bosh instead has demonstrated more of the tendencies of a shooting forward (what he was when with the Toronto Raptors) rather than a rebounding, defensive stopper inside. If there’s a member of “The Big Three” to go, it will probably be Bosh first as he is the most expendable.
With that said, Bosh is definitely the better player than Splitter. Thus, it has to be …EDGE: Heat
San Antonio’s bench has been one of the strongest in the NBA for several years and this year is no exception. Bedeviled by injuries through the year, Manu Ginobili is a former starter who has acclimated well to coming off the bench to provide a scoring punch. Matt Bonner serves as a three-point threat, while Gary Neal, Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair (a bruising rebounder and defender) can be threats whenever they step on the court. Add in playoff pickup Tracy McGrady and the bench is deep for the Spurs.
The bench has arguably been the weakest point of the Miami Heat since “The Big Three” were signed three years ago. This year’s bench is its best during that time, however, with veterans Ray Allen and Shane Battier coming to South Beach in a quest for another championship. Chris “Birdman” Anderson provides rebounding and a bit of nastiness that the team overall lacks, while Joel Anthony and Norris Cole can have moments of brilliance.
If it were to come down to a battle of the benches, you have to go with what has been the strongest not only this year but in the team’s history. Thus, it has to be…EDGE: Spurs
After winning four NBA titles during his tenure (and in search of his fifth), Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is considered one of the best in the business and a shoo-in for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame when he is eligible. He has a tremendous ability to find the opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them while he gets every drop of effort out of his own squad. When the great coaches of the NBA are mentioned, Popovich is right alongside such names as Auerbach, Riley and Jackson and deservedly so.
For many, it may be assumed that all Erik Spoelstra has to do is roll the ball out on the floor and let “The Big Three” take care of business. That would undersell Spoelstra, however, as he has become an adept game manager during his tenure with the Heat. Although in their first year many of the players (including “The Big Three”) on the Miami squad screamed for General Manager Pat Riley to return to the sidelines, Riley instead informed the players that Spoelstra was the man. That vote of confidence from the former leader of the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers has given Spoelstra the confidence and ability to become an excellent NBA coach.
Going up against Popovich, Spoelstra is the underdog in that fight, though. For the coaching, it has to be a definitive…EDGE: Spurs
The Miami Heat have had an outstanding season, challenging what was thought to be an untouchable record in the 33-game winning streak of the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. When they were on that streak, the Heat was basically untouchable. In the playoffs, however, the injuries to Wade as well as a cold streak out of Chalmers, Battier and Bosh have given the Spurs a list of vulnerabilities that they can attack. While James might be able to carry the team for a couple of games, other players are going to have to step up against the challenge the Spurs will give them.
The San Antonio Spurs have done what they have done for well over a decade… win. They have a streak of 50-win seasons that date back to the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99 and have won four titles during that span. This year’s squad is a veteran laden unit, well versed in the Popovich vision for the Spurs and willing to put aside their own laurels for the betterment of the team. With that said, any failure by any part of the Spurs hierarchy, any lack of perfection over a longer than two game span, will spell doom for the team.
It’s going to be a hard-fought series and there is something that might just swing it in a particular direction. Unlike the entirety of the NBA Playoffs, where the format was a 2-2-1-1-1 setup (with the team holding home court hosting the first two games, the fifth and the seventh), the NBA Finals is played under a 2-3-2 format. If the Spurs can earn a split in South Beach, they would go home with the opportunity to close out the series with three straight wins (note this, though: the Heat hasn’t lost back-to-back games since January).
We’re going out on a limb here, with the pick for the 2013 NBA Champion to be…San Antonio in six games. If the series reaches a seventh game, though, the Heat takes their second consecutive title.
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