The San Antonio Spurs are relatively healthy minus their best player, Tony Parker, who is dealing with a “variety of maladies.” Parker has a sprained left ankle as well as a strained left hamstring. The severity of the ankle injury is unclear.
Be rest assured though San Antonio won’t disclose their starting lineup to the Miami Heat until a few hours before the tip, if not later. Gregg Popovich as well as the Spurs’ organization have been fined for sitting players before. However if Tony tells Pop he’s good to go Parker will likely be in the starting five come Thursday.
San Antonio is the slight favorite over Miami to avenge a heartbreaking 2013 NBA Finals loss. One of the reasons why, aside from home-court advantage, is depth. Popovich has started 31 different lineups this season including inserting Matt Bonner (for his first start of the year) during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
Silver And Black Lineup Shake-Up Reveals Unselfishness, Strength In Numbers
The most common starting five for the Spurs–Tony, Tim Duncan, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter–has made 64 starts, including the first 16 games of the playoffs. Splitter, however, was sent to the bench for a spread-4 who took the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka out of the paint.
The Heat have also had multiple starting lineups this postseason, with the most frequent being Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis also started for Miami, who put out three different sets of starters in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat may not even stick with Battier come Thursday, but if they do, how will San Antonio respond? Don’t underestimate Popovich for doing something radical. Jeff Ayres (10 starts), Aron Baynes (four), Marco Belinelli (25), Boris Diaw (24), Manu Ginobili (three), Cory Joseph (19) and Patrick Mills (two) have all started this year.
Tiago, who was taken out of the starting five the last two games, had 50 starts during the regular season. Splitter, however, is a question mark to start Game 1 of the Finals with Miami likely going small and Tiago’s minutes going down in the WCF.
Splitter was one of 19 San Antonio players during the regular season to play less than 30 minutes per game. Nobody on the Spurs’ roster has played more than 32.6 MPG in the playoffs, further illustrating the silver and black’s strength in numbers.
Game 1 NBA Finals Starters Could Be The Same As Last Year
Three definite members of the Spurs starting unit for Thursday’s opener are Duncan, Green and Leonard. If Parker’s good to go he should also get the start. What if Tony’s not or Pop isn’t convinced, then what?
Does Ginobili, Joseph or Mills start? Manu and Patty have been big producers off the bench all season long, which lends me to think Cory would get the call. Joseph began the second half of Game 6 against OKC and despite being just 22 shows no fear.
Cory’s limitations are offensively, but the way San Antonio’s built a defensive engine staying glued to Chalmers or Wade and running the offense the first four minutes of Game 1 is appealing.
As well do the Spurs return with Tiago or go with Bonner or Diaw to start the opener? My best guess is as good as yours. However, if history repeats itself Haslem, Parker and Splitter will start in Act II of the Heat/San Antonio NBA Finals beginning Thursday.