Jun 13 2013 10:08AM

Rested Development


Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

I have this theory, based on the fact that the San Antonio Spurs have had nine days off following a four-game Western Conference Finals that took nine days to complete, while the Miami Heat had two days off following a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals that took 13 days to complete.

The theory is simple: the Heat are tired.

Shane Battier is done. Dwyane Wade is playing on a damaged knee and no longer has much to give during second halves (2.7 points on .222 shooting with 0.7 assists per Finals second half). And Chris Bosh, who tweaked an ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, may be showing signs of recovering.

One has to wonder if this Miami Heat team can make it to the finish line, in what they hope turns into a six- or seven-game series that comes home to Miami.

Upon entering the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs were as rested and healthy as can be, logging nine off days to recover from sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies during the Western Conference Finals, with their main minuteman, Tony Parker, logging only 159 minutes in the series.

Because of that, I thought the rest would benefit the Spurs greatly in the compressed Tuesday and Thursday contests (Games 3, 4, 6 and 7).

That's my theory, at least.

In Games 1, 2 and 5--which were all preceded by two days off for the Heat players--Miami was better acclimated to drag their weary bodies on the court and muster up another frenetic effort on D, which was needed to play the Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra's desired disruptive defense.

We saw that in Game 1, where the Heat lost a close one at home to the Spurs.

We saw it in Game 2, when Miami turned up the heat in the third quarter on San Antonio to go on a 33-5 run that carried over into the final period.

But in Game 3--a game where one would expect Miami's aged (second-oldest in the NBA) and weary group to tire--the Heat did just that in the third and fourth quarters, with a six-point halftime lead turning into a Spurs' 36-point blowout victory, where San Antonio set an NBA Finals record for most three-pointers in a game (they were 16-for-32).

That said, Game 4 does not bode so well for Miami.

Like I said before, sixth man Battier can barely even play anymore, logging 19 minutes in three games, with most of that time coming during garbage minutes of the Games 2 and 3 blowouts.

Wade is a first-half player only, who is ineffective outside the paint--he was 1-for-8 on those shots Tuesday--and is playing nowhere near the status that earned him All-NBA second-team honors this season (he's averaging 14 points on .462 true shooting percentage during these Finals).

At the NBA Finals press conference Wednesday, Wade dismissed fatigue as a factor, saying, "They just played better than us in the second half. We got enough. We're a deep team."

But now we have to call LeBron James into question.

He says he is not hurt, and he is probably correct.

Or as Wade so eloquently put it, when someone put the injury question to him, "LeBron can't have an off game?"

But I would guess that he is a little tired of trying to carry this Miami team to a repeat championship.

LeBron has received a little help here and there from Ray Allen, Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Mike Miller in Game 1; Mario Chalmers, Allen, Miller, Chris Bosh and Birdman in Game 2; Miller in Game 3.

But with the prospects of only having one-day rest again, I expect those supporting cast numbers to dwindle again in Game 4, as they did in Game 3 Tuesday night on one day's rest.

LeBron logged 303 minutes in seven ECF games against the Indiana Pacers and 122 minutes in three NBA Finals games versus the Spurs.

That's 425 minutes during 10 games in 22 days.

Translation: For the last three-plus weeks, LeBron is averaging 42.5 minutes per playoff game with an average of 1.2 days off in between contests.

That is grueling.

This week alone, LeBron has played 80 minutes in three days and that total is likely to shoot up to 120-plus in five days.

By comparison, the highest Spur, 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard, has only played 62 minutes in three days and may hit the 100-minute mark Thursday night in Game 5.

That's not even taking into consideration all of the other players on the minute-heavy Heat and well-rested Spurs, who have each played similar-ratioed minutes to a lesser degree.

Do you see what I mean when I say the Spurs are the best-rested team in basketball?

And that is not even taking into consideration the latest predicament, which is a situation worth looking into now: Tony Parker's first-degree right hamstring sprain.

It will be really interesting to see how Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich handles this latest development, whether Parker plays or not in Game 4.

"I have no idea until I know how healthy he is Thursday," says Pop in the press conference.

Does he save Parker for Game 5 Sunday, letting Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal and Cory Joseph handle the ball-handling duties in Game 4?

Does he play Parker and use him more off the ball, serving as a spot-up decoy and spot-duty opportunist as he feels his way safely around the court?

Or does he turn his All-NBA point guard loose into typical Tony mode, if informed at game-time decision time that Parker is good to go?

We shall see.

"Today the MRI just confirmed what I felt," says Parker in the press conference. "It was a strain. I was just hoping it wasn't a tear or defect. So the good news is that it's not a tear or defect. So that's the good news. Now I just have to see how I'm going to feel Thursday."

But Heat fans can surely take solace that they are not the only team battling fatigue and injuries this late in this NBA marathon.

Finally.

We'll soon see how it influences these NBA Finals. Game 4 is only hours away.

Expect the Heat to give it all they have in the first half and ride the pedal to the medal in the second half to see how much mettle they can muster at the end.

As for the Spurs in Game 4, a lot will be determined by Parker's ability--or inability--to go.

If he is able, it will be really tough to keep this energized, well-rested Spurs team down, while both teams engage in their third game in five days.