The San Antonio Spurs have advanced to the NBA Finals for a rematch against the Miami Heat after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. The Spurs will look to redeem themselves after a disappointing Game 7 loss last year, and those hopes look good with an upgraded bench this time around.
The Spurs will look to an X-Factor role player and Marco Belinelli will be a prime candidate to fill that role. Although he’s only been averaging 5.7 points per game this postseason, the Heat offer a favorable matchup for him unlike the Thunder. These are reasons to consider why Belinelli should have a great series in the Finals.
Athleticism: You don’t hear that about Belinelli and you shouldn’t from what he showed us against the Thunder. Belinelli isn’t athletic overall, but he’s athletic against what the Heat are going to put him up against. If Miami opts to put Ray Allen or Shane Battier on him, he definitely has the foot speed to put the ball on the floor if they run at him to contest a shot beyond the arc. They also have the option of putting point guards on him like Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers, but Belinelli has shown he can post up smaller guards and easily shoot over them during the regular season.
Pick and Roll: The Spurs’ pick and roll will work in favor of shooters because of the slower Miami defense looking to rotate. Last season the Spurs had only 2 guards who can run the pick and roll in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. This season is different. San Antonio has individual offensive fire power they didn’t last Finals in Patty Mills to go along with Marco off the bench, and they can both handle the ball with a pick or spot up while a ball handler makes the defense scramble. Unlike Oklahoma City, the rotations will be slower if they decide to try to help against the pick and roll. The small Heat lineup will definitely be slower than what the Thunder brought to neutralize Belinelli.
Defense: The first year Spur is a good defensive player against players who aren’t as athletic or taller than him. He had trouble on defense against the speedier Dallas Mavericks and Thunder, but that’s not a worry for the Heat this last round of the playoffs. The Spurs typically help on screens for Allen’s 3-point shots and he can keep up with players such as Battier and Rashard Lewis, who both are beyond past their prime. His quick feet and pressure will play a huge part for him on this end and his aggressiveness should lead to transition baskets against the Heat. He can also handle the ball, which makes his defense more valuable with defensive rebounding and steals against the slower players.
Belinelli has struggled this postseason, but look for him to be a huge part in the Spurs’ run in the NBA Finals against the Heat. The slower Heat should play into Belinelli’s favor as he’s had a history of playing well against them and looking for his own redemption from last season’s playoffs as a member of the Chicago Bulls.