NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

After a very entertaining Conference Finals round, the NBA gods have given us the Finals we so richly deserve. LeBron Jams and the Miami Heat had the same old deal for the Indiana Pacers, while Old Man Riverwalk and the San Antonio Spurs thwarted the Thunder.

Us fans get a rematch of the best Finals in recent memory between two of the most dominant teams of the last decade. To find out who has the edge this time around, let’s take a look at how these juggernauts compare position by position.

Point Guard: Mario Chalmers vs Tony Parker

NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

Given the status of Tony Parker’s bum ankle, this matchup could be more even than it appears on paper. Head coach Gregg Popovich said that Parker is not expected to miss out on Game 1, but we have to wonder how healthy he will be when he suits up.

If Parker is able to play with minimal limitation then, of course, he has the advantage in this matchup. The structure of the San Antonio offense relies less heavily on it’s point guard to be the initiator on offense than other teams typically do. That doesn’t mean Parker is less vital to his team than other point guards, hardly.

The Frenchman is relied on for his scoring more than any other part of his game. When healthy, he can take over on the offensive end. If the ankle is truly bothering him, we will probably see him take on more of a passing role, diminishing his effectiveness in the process.

The expectations for Chalmers are much different. Rio, as his teammates call him coolly but somewhat dismissively, was seen as the little brother on the squad. Though he still makes some silly mistakes by being a bit overzealous, he has matured a bit since their first Finals run.

Still, it is Chalmers’ defense that keeps him in the starting lineup, not his leadership skills. If Chalmers can contain Parker’s offense while contributing minimally on the offensive end, then many would consider this a victory for the Heat.

Unfortunately, I believe 80 percent of Tony Parker is better than 100 percent of Mario Chalmers.

Advantage: Spurs

Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade vs Danny Green

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

The reports of Dwyane Wade’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

In last year’s Finals, Wade’s career was pronounced dead at the scene as he struggled mightily to hold his own against the Spurs shooting guards. Wade was at least partially responsible for allowing Danny Green to sink 25 three-pointers in the first five games of last year’s Finals.

His inability to close out on the three-point line almost lost the series for the Heat. But that was last year. This year, Wade got the rest he needed throughout the regular season and has had fresh legs in these playoffs.

At the same time, Danny Green has proved to be a consistent threat from distance since his coming out party in last year's Finals. Despite shooting 41.4 percent from three in the regular season, Green has upped that percentage to 48 percent in these playoffs.

Green took and hit a lot of big shots against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, and proved that he has the cojones to perform under pressure.

If Dwyane Wade can play as well as he did against the stifling defense of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, then Danny Green will have his hands full.

Advantage: Heat

Small Forward: LeBron James vs Kawhi Leonard

NBA: Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs

This one seems obvious, but hear me out as to why it might be closer than you think. Kawhi Leonard is the one Spur who can, if not equal, come close to matching LeBron’s athleticism.

Leonard is budding star in the league and was recently named to the NBA’s Defensive Second Team. Leonard’s length and ability to defend passing lanes has proven disruptive for each of the Spurs’ playoff opponents so far, and I don’t expect the Heat to be immune to his impact.

Leonard’s presence can be felt all over the court whether it is in transition, on defense or on the boards. Despite the havoc he creates, Leonard can’t match LeBron’s ability and versatility. Leonard will undoubtedly be tasked with containing LeBron on the perimeter, but when he gets to the block it will take a bigger defender to thwart the reigning Finals MVP.

The energy that Leonard will have to expend on defense may reduce his ability to contribute on the offensive end, thus reducing his impact in this series.

Though LeBron James seems to be slightly worn down due to Miami’s reliance on him throughout the regular season, he is of course the best player on the planet right now.

Advantage: Heat

Power Forward: Udonis Haslem vs Tim Duncan

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

Okay, so these two probably won’t see too much action against one another at the power forward position in these Finals, but who else should go in this slot? Rashard Lewis? Boris Diaw? Shane Battier? Jeff Ayers? Chris Bosh? Matt Bonner?

Of all the spots on the floor, this one will see the most bodies from both sides in the rotation. Who is filling it at any one time will depend on pace and match-ups.

The Spurs played most of the year with Splitter at center and Duncan at power forward. In order to escape the Thunder, San Antonio was forced to go small as they were giving heavy minutes to Diaw and even famously starting Matt Bonner to slip past OKC.

In the Conference Finals, Rashard Lewis did exactly what Bonner did for the Spurs: spread the floor against a bigger lineup and drain threes. LeBron James has played the power forward role in small ball lineups in the past and had great success in last year's Finals in the role.

If I were considering this matchup purely as one between Udonis Haslem and Tim Duncan, it would undoubtedly go to Duncan. But since this battle will be won by the team with the deepest and most flexible power forward rotation…

Advantage: Spurs

Center: Chris Bosh vs Tiago Splitter

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

If the power forward position is the most up for grabs in terms of possible match-ups, then the center position ranks second in the category.

Let's assume for the moment that Bosh vs Splitter is the primary matchup at this position. Chris Bosh has the ability to spread the floor and knockdown threes for Miami. Bosh improved his regular season three-point shooting by nearly five percent between last year and this year.

So far in the playoffs, he is attempting four threes a game and hitting 41 percent of them. In last year's playoffs he attempted a mere one shot from distance per game. Don’t expect that to happen again.

Splitter has become an underrated player on both ends of the floor. The big Brazilian has proven an adept scorer and interior passer on the offensive end and a big body that clogs the lane and protects the rim well on the defensive end. The question for Splitter is who he will actually be guarding.

He lacks the speed to close out on Bosh’s three-point attempts, and the Heat lack a big who can do damage in the post aside from Chris Andersen. Splitter’s defensive ability may be diminished by the match-ups, thus relegating him to a help-defense role or less playing time.

Bosh’s ability to take up some of the scoring load for his team far outweighs his limitations on the defensive end, though they are many. In the 2013 version of this Finals matchup, Duncan had his way with Bosh in the post. There is no indication that if those two are matched up again this year, the outcome would be any different.

Despite Bosh’s defensive limitations, his scoring ability tilts this matchup to Miami.

Advantage: Heat


NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat

This year, Gregg Popovich employed a simple yet effective philosophy that at once provided the rest needed for his aging veterans and his role players with much needed floor time in order to build chemistry.

This strategy led to the Spurs being the first team ever to have their team leader in minutes played average less than 30 per game (Tony Parker, if you were curious). This method was so effective that it helped earn the Spurs the best record in the NBA and Popovich his third Coach of the Year honor.

Erik Spoelstra had to face a similar issue this year: how to keep Dwyane Wade healthy and give enough rest to LeBron to ensure he is fresh during the Finals.

Spoelstra did succeed in preserving Wade’s health for the Finals, but a lack of dependable bench scoring during the season forced Spoelstra into relying on LeBron to win games almost single-handedly in January and February.

The Heat bench has performed well in these playoffs despite Shane Battier seemingly misplacing the portrait of himself he kept in his attic and suddenly aging 10 years. Norris Cole has proven to be a fearless defender and Ray Allen has once again submitted an age-defying performance. Even Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis have contributed in smaller doses.

The Spurs, though, have an 11-man rotation. You never know which role player is going to step up on a given night. They also have some dude name Manu Ginobili coming off the bench for them.

Advantage: Spurs

Coaching: Erik Spoelstra vs Gregg Popovich


Given the previous section, you might have already guessed where I come down on this one. But for the sake of a full column, please indulge me.

Yes, Popovich is the reigning Coach of the Year. Yes, he has the rings. Yes, he has the swagger. But sometimes Pop can overthink things. Case in point: Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. With the Spurs up three with 19 seconds left, Pop removed Duncan from the game and replaced him with 6-foot-8 Boris Diaw.

When a LeBron three clanged off the rim, it was Chris Bosh who snagged the rebound and flipped it to Ray Allen for his famous corner three. The logic provided by Pop is that Diaw’s athleticism was key in defending the pick-and-roll game of Miami. Some of the blame for the Spurs loss in that series was laid at Pop’s feet for that decision.

Spoelstra’s lasting mark on this team is as a defensive guru. When the Heat are at their best, they are playing with a defensive intensity that could very well be the hallmark of these recent Heat teams. The team bought into what Coach Spo was selling and are now in their fourth straight finals.

Aside from his acerbic and witty demeanor, Pop is known for his in-game adjustments. This season has been full of them and this series will require a multitude of them.

Advantage: Spurs



I could not be happier that we will be treated to another matchup between these two teams for the second year in a row. Last year’s Finals were spectacular, and I think this year’s version may even top it.

I think we’ll once again get seven games out of these two and since I can’t see the Spurs losing their last game on their home court two years in a row, I’m going with San Antonio.

Spurs in 7


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