Position by Position: Spurs vs. Heat
It’s the rematch we’ll all be waiting for.
The Heat and the Spurs will replay last year’s Finals once again. While the Spurs postseason rotation is pretty much set in stone at this point, Miami’s is quite the opposite. The advantage Miami’s roster has is that it is littered with veterans who are all ready to step up when their name is called. That being said, Spoelstra changes those one or two guys in-and-out willingly based on who’s playing well and how they matchup with the opposition.
MIA: Mario Chalmers – 9.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.63 SPG, 0.22 BPG, 2.2 TOPG, .454 FG%, .385 3P%,
His name is Rio and he shoots the ball from three.
Chalmers is a winner. He is a part of the exclusive club of players that have won both an NBA Championship and an NCAA title. There are five of those players currently in the NBA. Corey Brewer, Jason Terry, and former Spur Nazr Mohammed are three of those players. The other one also happens to be on the Heat roster (Shane Battier). Chalmers likes to have the ball out of his hands, even though he is the point guard, and have LeBron or Wade make the plays while he hangs out on the perimeter waiting for the kick out. In fact, nearly half of his shots per game are from deep. In the postseason, his numbers have dipped slightly and last series was outplayed by backup Norris Cole. Cole ended many of the games against the Pacers. Expect a lot of the same. He will hit his threes, and they’ll come at crucial moments in the ballgame.
SAS: Tony Parker – 16.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, 0.53 SPG, 0.13 BPG, 2.2 TOPG, .499 FG%, .373 3P%
An interesting development for the Spurs and Tony Parker is this mysterious ankle injury. In Game Six, Parker disappeared at halftime and TNT’s David Aldridge announced he would not return with an ankle injury. Evidently, he had injured it the game before and it was bothering him. Talk about a well-kept secret. Now all eyes are on one ankle. While the Spurs have won both games that Parker has vanished from, there is no question he is needed come Thursday. Parker was crucial in a few games last June, including “the shot that could bring Eva back” in Game One to seal the victory. Parker’s production has slipped a tad in the postseason. His assist/turnover ratio was gone from 2.6 in the regular season to 1.7 in the playoffs. Does it have to do with injuries? His Parker just fatigued at this point? Can be healthy and bounce back? All those questions will be answered in the next couple weeks.
Rio is a complimentary player. If Chalmers wasn’t on the Heat, he would be relatively unknown in NBA circles. Parker is an All-Star. If San Antonio wants to take home the title, a lot of that burden will rest on Tony Parker’s shoulders and ankle. He is the better player and has to go out there and show it.
MIA: Dwayne Wade – 19.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.46 SPG, 0.54 BPG, 3.0 TOPG, .545 FG%, .281 3P%
In this edition of the NBA Playoffs Dwayne Wade looks the healthiest he’s been in years. That’s scary for NBA teams. He’s been so healthy that ESPN’s Mark Jackson has dubbed Wade “the third best SG of all-time.” I don’t know if he’s quite at that level yet, but he is definitely wicked talented. The key to stopping Wade is keeping him on the perimeter. He only hits on 28% of his deep balls, but when he’s making them, opposing teams know they are screwed. The problem with trying to keep him on the perimeter is that he is so crafty with the ball and is one of the best slashers in the entire NBA. This video says it all:
SAS: Danny Green – 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.96 SPG, 0.90 BPG, 1.1 TOPG, .432 FG%, .415 3P%
Danny Green has his hands full defending Dwayne Wade. The good news for him is how intense his defense was last series on all the switches putting him on Durant. The bad news for Green is that nobody can expect him to make 27 three pointers again this series, an NBA Finals record. Miami figured him out last season, but still expect Green to do what he does best; find an open spot on the floor and let it fly. Green is shooting an insane 48% from downtown this postseason, including 59% with a little home cooking.
Green has been great this postseason, and when he is hot, it is very difficult to beat the Spurs. Like stated before, the Spurs win 26 of 27 times when Green knocks down three or more deep balls. However, Wade is a future Hall-of-Famer and three-time NBA champion and will have a much deeper impact scoring and playmaking in this series.
MIA: LeBron James – 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.57 SPG, 0.34 BPG, 3.5 TOPG, .567 FG%, .379 3P%
Just look at that stat line and be in awe. LeBron James led the league in shooting percentage from somebody that was not a center. The next highest from a non-frontcourt player? Dwayne Wade. LeBron is just too good at getting where he wants to be and, quite often, that’s at the rim.
Half of his shots come at the rim. Out of those shots, he converts on 75% of them. Keep him out of the paint is the key to victory.
SAS: Kawhi Leonard – 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.73 SPG, 0.76 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .522 FG%, .379 P%
The impact that Kawhi Leonard makes on the floor is hard to show stat-wise. He is undoubtedly the best perimeter defender the Spurs have, and really is the reason the Spurs had a couple down years, by their standards circa 2009-2011. He was what they were missing. The Bruce Bowen role has worked well for Leonard. He will be largely tasked with defending the best player in the world. Unless he is in foul trouble, he will most likely play every minute LeBron plays. Which is good, because LeBron is scared of him. Never forget.
LeBron is the best player in the world. Period.
MIA: Rashard Lewis – 4.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.88 SPG, 0.13 BPG, 0.6 TOPG, .415 FG%, .343 3P%
As stated above, Spoelstra loves to switch up his rotations. In all honesty, Rashard Lewis could get zero minutes in this series and there would be no shocked look on my face. Spo decided Lewis was the best matchup advantage for the Heat last series, so that’s why he is listed here. Based on the way he is playing and how the Heat have played with him on the court, one could expect Lewis to be out there again. Other candidates would be veterans Udonis Haslem or Shane Battier. In his last two games against the Pacers, Lewis delivered some vintage Seattle SuperSonics days performance with 18 points in one, and 13 in the other.
SAS: Boris Diaw – 9.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.56 SPG, 0.41 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .521 FG%, .402 3P%
This is an assumption. Splitter doesn’t play well against two teams: OKC and Miami. Bonner was the starter against the Thunder, but that was to draw Ibaka away from the rim, not to defend or make plays. Diaw got the majority of the minutes anyway. Since Lewis is a perimeter shooter, I would expect Diaw to get the start. If Splitter returns to the starting lineup, again, it would not surprise me. The power forward rotations for both teams is the biggest question mark coming into the series.
Diaw was absolutely fantastic against the Thunder. In fact, I would go as far to say he was the MVP of the series. Rashard Lewis is, for the most part, washed up. If Diaw makes an impact on both ends of the floor like he did against OKC, the Spurs are winning this series.
MIA: Chris Bosh – 16.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.01 SPG, .99 BPG, 1.6 TOPG, .516 FG%, .339 3P%
Bosh is not a shot-blocker. Essentially, in the starting lineup, Miami does not have that rim protector. When Bosh starts at center, the Heat play with five shooters on the floor. Bosh’s three point shot has come a long way the past couple seasons, and is a legitimate weapon in his game nowadays. However, he is still one of the best mid-range shooters in the game, shooting above average from almost every mid-range area on the court.
SAS: Tim Duncan- 15.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.58 SPG, 1.88 BPG, 2.1 TOPG, .490 FG%, .000 3P%
I can’t think of a more vintage moment from Tim Duncan in the last few years then Duncan putting the team on his back, drawing the foul on Ibaka in the post, then coming back one play later, looking a double team in the eye, and using every inch of the rim to get a clutch shot to drop. Tim Duncan has been Tim Duncan this entire playoffs. Are we sure he’s 38?
While Tim Duncan doesn’t have a perimeter shot, he’s a much better defender than Bosh, even in his “old as dirt” age. Just like in the Dallas series, Duncan was a superior defender to Dirk Nowitzki, but I gave the advantage to Dirk for offense firepower. Bosh isn’t as good as Nowitzki. In fact, a big storyline could be how Splitter plays against Bosh, as he is a similar player to Dirk and LaMarcus Aldridge.
MIA: Ray Allen – 9.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.74 SPG, 0.11 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .442 FG%, .375 3P%
MIA: Norris Cole – 6.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.94 SPG, 0.06 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .414 FG%, .345 3P%
The best shooter in NBA history is back in the Finals once again. Although it may seem like he never misses, Allen is in the midst of one his worst NBA seasons according to the stats. Obviously, a majority of that has to do with the fact that he is aging, but he is still there, hanging around to hit that crucial shot late in the game. Norris Cole may actually be the better of the two point guards the Heat own. Mr. Flattop himself is enjoying one of his best NBA season, averaging a career-high in assists. Cole is the first player since 92-93 to appear in the NBA Finals in his first three seasons. Both are complimentary role players on this Heat. Ray Allen is the Heat’s x-factor of this series. Much like Mike Miller for the Heat last year, Allen will be relied upon to knock down threes to match Danny Green and Manu Ginobili.
SAS: Manu Ginobili – 12.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.03 SPG, 0.25 BPG, 2.0 TOPG, .469 FG%, .349 3P%
SAS: Marco Belinelli – 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.63 SPG, 0.09 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .485 FG%, .430 3P%
SAS: Patty Mills – 10.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.84 SPG, 0.11 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, .464 FG%, .425 3P%
Manu Ginobili is still the heart and soul of this Spurs team. He is second on the team in PER, and always seems to make THE play. Having him on the court with Patty Mills gives the Spurs and playmaker and a shooter, just at the opposite positions. Speaking of Mills, his shooting (9th in three-point percentage) has put him in that Gary Neal position that was so effective last season against the Miami Heat. On top of that, Mills is the only regular rotation player to average less than one turnover per game. Belinelli has somewhat dropped out of the regular rotation due to his lack of defensive prowess, but is still a deadly deep ball shooter.
The way Ginobili has played this postseason, nearly a complete turnaround from the dreadful way last season ended, has pushed this Spurs team to new heights. While Ray Allen is the best shooter of this group, Ginobili makes plays. The Heat’s plays come from LeBron and Wade, not the bench.
MIA: Chris Andersen – 6.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.44 SPG, 1.35 BPG, 0.7 TOPG, .644 FG%, .250 3P%
MIA: Shane Battier – 4.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.68 SPG, 0.53 BPG, 0.3 TOPG, .382 FG%, .348 3P%
MIA: Udonis Haslem – 3.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.24 SPG, 0.33 BPG, 0.5 TOPG, .507 FG%, .000 3P%
Birdman (does anyone actually call him Chris Andersen?) is a pure energy guy. His Player Efficiency Rating is the highest on the team outside of the Big 3, and he averages over six rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time in the postseason.
Nearly 87% of his attempts come at or around the hole. Most of those are off cuts or alley oops where he’s getting fed by LeBron or Wade, or put backs on the offensive end. Keeping him out of the paint keeps him irrelevant. Battier was much more of an impact player last season, but can still come in and hit the three with good defense. Udonis Haslem may get a lot of minutes, or may get zero minutes. When he is on the floor, he is a solid rebounder and one of the best mid-range shooters from the baseline in the league.
SAS: Tiago Splitter – 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.49 SPG, 0.53 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .523 FG%, .000 3P%
Tiago Splitter earned his money in the first two series of this season’s playoffs. However, there are two specific teams the Brazilian does not match up well against. Those two teams happen to be the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. It’s in no way a demotion for his play that he is not the starter anymore. Splitter will spell Duncan, keeping a big and a rim protector in the game at all times, similar to the way the Spurs played the end of the Thunder series. He will most likely be guarding Bosh quite a bit and, when he’s not, will need to use his body to keep Birdman off the glass.
It’s hard to judge because of all these players are significantly different role players. Andersen is a momentum-changing player, but if Splitter can be play the defense we saw on Aldridge and Nowitzki, it can change the game as well.
Once again, the best, and longest-tenured coach in the NBA won the chess match in a Western Conference series. Pop took a lot of flak for benching Duncan on the Allen three-pointer, but he really outcoached Spoelstra the entire series, and will probably do so again this season.
When all is said and done, the Spurs are going to win Game Six and Miami and take home the title they should’ve had last year in Miami. Book it.