Throughout the post season, Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra has emphasized imposing your identity. Whichever team can impose their identity onto the other and forcing them to make adjustments on the back of that, will win. So far that has been the case as Miami have strolled through the Eastern Conference, losing just three games in the 15 games prior to the Finals.
Then again that shouldn’t exactly be much of a surprise. After all, they have a freakishly athletic monster in LeBron James, who so happens to be the best basketball player on the planet, as well as a “Center” who can knock down 3pointers with the best of them, in Chris Bosh. That’s before you throw in a shooting guard who is one of the all-time greats at the position (Dwyane Wade) and the other extremely talented role players who have sacrificed considerable sums of money to play in South Beach.
However, imposing their will on the San Antonio Spurs may prove to be a little bit troublesome. As such, they are considered to be the underdogs in the 2014 NBA Finals (even with all that talent), primarily because San Antonio is the one team that can match the Heat and still be able to maintain their basic philosophies.
The Spurs are all about team, team and team. No other statistic illustrates that, more so than their league leading 25.2assists per contest during the regular season. That’s why they were able to score 105.4points per game (sixth in the NBA), average a league best 39.7 percent from 3point range (48.6percent overall FG percentage – second best) and that is why Miami’s high pressure defense won’t work – or at the very least, be as effective.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat were able to crank it up against the Indiana Pacers with full court pressure becoming the staple defensive base from Game 2 onwards. They were able to put enough pressure to coerce Indiana into isolation plays, pick and rolls (which didn’t suit Roy Hibbert) and jack up desperation shots as the shot clock expired.
That won’t work as much against San Antonio because:
A). they know how to move the ball around to the open man. As such, it makes it much tougher to trap the ball handlers since they have capable (and willing) passers. Something Dwyane Wade pointed out when he said: “They’re very smart team. They play team basketball, play together very well and they understand having patience. They have a great system offensively and they have the right individuals to plug into it.”
B). San Antonio is an excellent pick and roll team with plenty of personnel to make you pay. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are great attackers and finishers off the screen. Although, they also have a knack of making the right decision with the ball in their hands; Whether it’s finding the rolling man (usually Tim Duncan), finding one of several shooters spreading the court, or simply taking the shot themselves. It’s basically a matter of pick your poison and each one is just as damaging as the other.
Defensively, the team first mantra has resulted in the Spurs ranking third in defensive rating, allowing 102.4 points per 100 possessions. Furthermore, they were in the top 10 in blocks (5.1per game), opponent Field Goal percentage (44) and opponent FG percentage within 3ft of the basket (61.2 percent), in addition being second in personal fouls (18.2). Long story short: they defend the basket well and do so without fouling – something which the Miami Heat do not want to hear.
LeBron James has been living in the paint shooting 81.3 percent from the restricted zone, which is the best among player with at least 30 attempts. San Antonio will try and force him to be a jump shooter and if he attempts to barge his way into the lane(as he so often does), odds are there will be plenty of bodies there to make it damn near impossible for him to score – not like that’s stopped him before.
And then there is the coaching.
Miami faced a couple of rookie coaches in Jason Kidd and Steve Clifford, who were both new to the Head coaching role. While Clifford at least had some experience as an assistant coach for several NBA teams, Kidd had absolutely none. He hung up his sneakers only to pick up the pen and coaching board soon after. Even the assortment of battle veterans tested wasn’t enough to bridge the gap to Coach Spoelstra and it told, with Miami running away 4-1 winners.
The biggest test, in terms of strategic minds was Indiana’s Frank Vogel, though his tactical acumen fall short to that of Spoelstra. Gregg Popovich on the other hand, is one of the greatest coaches this game has seen. Add that to the mix and you’ve got the trifecta, making San Antonio (by quite a stretch) the most complete team the Miami Heat will have faced in the post season.
Plus, they are angry. Like, punch something angry. Then again, wouldn’t you be having come so close to securing an NBA title? However, Tim Duncan said things would be different this time around.
“We’ve got four more (games) to win and we’ll do it this time,” the future Hall-of-Famer declared.
Although, LeBron and Co. aren’t backing down either: “They wanted us, they got us.”
Buckle up folk, this should be fun.
Tags: Miami Heat