Coachís Corner: Kevin Loughery on Heat-Spurs Matchup
By Kevin Loughery (As told to Andrew Pearson)


Loughery
The Spurs come into Miami riding a three-game winning streak, while the Heat are looking to bounce back from the 37 points Kobe Bryant hung on them out in Los Angeles. The match-up I would like to watch, although I donít think itís going to happen since Dwyane Wade will probably be guarded by Bruce Bowen most of the game, is Wade and Manu Ginobili. Ginobili is a great, great athlete. If he gets hooked up with Wade head-to-head you are going to see two of the best athletes in the NBA. The strange thing about the both of them is they arenít great three-point shooters, but they take the ball to the basket so effectively. Ginobili does it as well as anyone in the NBA and he is as strong as anybody. He has a lot of lift and a lot of hangtime to do tricks in the air. Heís not a terrific shooter, but streaky. Shaquille OíNeal and Tim Duncan is always interesting, but with Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed there, they probably wonít spend much time going head-to-head either.

KEYS TO THE GAME

The Heat have to find a way to contain Tony Parker.
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
When you have great players in the game like Duncan and Ginobili for the Spurs and Wade and Shaq for Miami, the focus is always on them. However, when you look beyond the marquee match-ups, a lot of key contributions come from the benches. That is the one problem that I have seen this year with San Antonio. Michael Finley, Nick Van Exel, Brent Barry, and Mohammed arenít playing as well as they did in the past. Finley and Van Exel are with a new team which is always a difficult adjustment.

On the other hand, for the Heat, you have Gary Payton, who has had some real good games, especially on nights when Jason Williams has been hurting. Alonzo Mourning has been pretty consistent, especially on the defensive end blocking shots where he ranks fourth in the league at 3.08 per game. Up to this point, Antoine Walker hasnít played as well as they had hoped. Bench play will be important in this game between two of the best teams in the league.

Both teams can be very poor foul shooting teams. San Antonio is very streaky from the line. Parker and Duncan are not great percentage wise, just around 66 percent for both from the charity stripe. Some days theyíre pretty good, some days theyíre not. For the Heat, Shaq is obviously going to be weak all the time. The Heat is shooting around 74 percent and that is with Shaq shooting at 44 percent. Shaq really brings them down. When you have a high profile match-up, foul shooting often comes into play.

Rebounding is always a key. For some reason against Milwaukee, who is not a great rebounding team, San Antonio was really dominated on the boards. Although they were able to pull out the 95-92 win against the Bucks, they canít let the Heat dominate the glass.

X-FACTOR

How the Heat contain Tony Parker will be big. They have to keep him out of the paint, which is easier said than done since the guy is leading the league in points in the paint. Now that is impressive. I think a part of Parkerís success in the paint is attributable to changes in the NBA. Number one, if you take the ball to the basket today, they call an awful lot of fouls. Number two, there is a limited number of shot blockers in the NBA. This game will be different in that once he gets into the paint, Parker will have to contend with Shaq and Mourning and some of their other big guys.

I donít know if Jason Williams with a bad knee and an older Gary Payton can defend him. There is a possibility of them putting Wade on him, but itís a better match-up if they leave Wade on Bowen. That would give Wade a little more rest since Bowen doesnít take many shots, instead roaming around the outside. However, at periods in the game when they need a stop, I wouldnít be surprised to see that.

BOTTOM LINE

It is going to all come down to Shaq for Miami. He is not in tremendous condition but he does rise up for big games. San Antonio has to really contain Shaq a little bit and not let him get 35 points. He really hasnít been aggressive offensively, but if he has a monster game, Miami should win.

-- Kevin Loughery appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association