Point-Counterpoint: Heat vs. Spurs in the NBA Finals

Who's Your Pick to Win the NBA Finals? And Why?

The Game of the NBA’s Throne began back in November, and within a few months, the strong were separated from the weak, the contenders from the pretenders. By April, only 16 challengers remained to Miami’s Throne. One by one, they fell. We waived goodbye to our favourite characters and teams, from the Pacers and Grizzlies to the Bulls, Knicks, Thunder, and Warriors. Now, only two challengers remain. The reigning Kings of the Throne, Miami, and the veteran Spurs who are making a comeback to the Finals after tasting the championship numerous times over the past decade. Who will be victorious in this epic showdown? NBA.com/India’s Akshay Manwani and Karan Madhok debate in this edition of Point/Counterpoint.

Karan Madhok
Writer, NBA India
Miami – who have dealt so far in the playoffs with Brandon Jennings, Nate Robinson, and George Hill at the point – will have their hands full when they finally have to contain an elite point guard at the height of his powers: Tony Parker. Even the best defense in the Conference – Memphis – couldn’t find a way to slow down the speedy Frenchman. Parker has improved with every series, and averaged 24.5 points and 9.5 assists in the Conference Finals. Spurs are experts at creating screens to help Parker’s offensive motion, and even perhaps the league’s best perimeter defender (read: LeBron) won’t be able to keep up with him.

Miami were greatly troubled by the size of Indiana and were outrebounded in every game except Game 7. Things aren’t going to get much easier in that department versus San Antonio. Featuring Tim Duncan (who was again one of the league’s best big men this season) and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs have a major size advantage over the Heat, and unlike the Pacers, Spurs are blessed with a big in Duncan who will provide consistent offense along with the wisdom of a Hall of Fame career, too.

On paper, Miami’s supporting cast perhaps looks better, but in reality, the Spurs crew has been far more consistent in the playoffs. Through major stretches, LeBron’s supporting cast resembled his old Cavaliers more than the squad that won 27 consecutive games earlier this year. For the Spurs, the players around Parker and Duncan know their role and have efficiently played to their strengths in the postseason. Splitter protects the paint and provides screens. Leonard and Green play excellent perimeter ‘D’ and stretch the offense. Ginobili is too clutch and too experienced to ever be ignored. Diaw, Bonner, and Neal will make sure that the bench unit gets solid production.

For most teams, a rest of 10 days means rust, and it could take time to get back in the flow of the game. But the Spurs aren’t like most teams: without this rest, the older squad would’ve run out of gas early; instead, they will be fully amped and prepared. Miami has been concentrating so long on Indiana that they may not be able to handle San Antonio’s offensive assault from the get go.

There is a reason that the Spurs are a perfect 4/4 in the NBA Finals so far in the Popovich/Duncan era. This is a team that just doesn’t make mistakes at the highest level. Unlike the Heat who stuttered their way through a close Conference Finals, the Spurs have been ruthlessly efficient, sweeping the Grizzlies 4-0 and only losing two games in the entire 2013 playoffs. They won in blowouts and showed that they could win close games too, by taking Games 2 and 3 vs. Memphis in Overtime. They can beat offensive teams (Warriors) and defensive teams (Grizzlies). Led by the legendary Coach Gregg Popovich, this is a squad prepared for everything, including the best player in the world.
Akshay Manwani
Writer, NBA India
The biggest reason this series is eventually going to go Miami’s way weighs in at 250 pounds, stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall and goes by the name LeBron James. Not only is James the best player on either team, he is the best basketball player in the world. Period. He has been phenomenal in the last 18 months, with his 29.0 PPG, 51 percent field-goal and 44.1 percent 3-point shooting against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals indicative of his red hot form. He plays big in the clutch, gets his teammates involved and is simply a handful on defense no matter what position he is guarding. The Spurs just won’t be able to contain him.

When Miami play defense, there is little that anybody can do to score against them. Indiana found this out in Game 7 where the Heat played with extra energy and explosiveness that makes them more formidable than any other opponent the Spurs have played. Also, the Spurs may look to have the advantage in the frontcourt, but the Heat are certainly more athletic. In fact, the one reason the Spurs were troubled more by Golden State than the Lakers or the Grizzlies is because they found it hard to keep up with the quickness of the Warriors’ backcourt. Unfortunately, a similar, but much bigger problem is headed San Antonio’s way in the form of Miami.

The way coach Erik Spoelstra has modeled the Heat, opposing teams pay for doubling James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. Spot up shooters like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier help space the floor for them, with LeBron and Wade looking to cut and drive to the basket all too frequently. Having James and Wade, two athletic superstars who can force their way to the rim, also gives Miami another distinct advantage over the Spurs, which is that they have attempted five more free throws than the Spurs per game in the postseason (Miami’s FTAs 26.0 to the Spurs’ 20.9). Above all, Miami’s preference to go small, with LeBron often playing the 4 spot, will be the difference in this series.

Miami have had a three-day gap, which is ideal for them heading into the finals. Unlike the Spurs, they will be in rhythm from the moment Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals is underway. Also, with Miami having played Game 7 against Indiana at home and having to play Game 1 against the Spurs at American Airlines Arena, means they are unlikely to be jaded all that much by the rigours of a seven-game series or by the travel factor. The excitement of winning back-to-back titles is sure to spur them on to their best.

This is a Miami team that posted a 66-16 record, the best in the league in 2012-13. Enroute to that record, they won 27 straight games, the second best winning streak in a regular season in the NBA. They have gone 49-6 in their last 55 games, have the best field-goal shooting percentage and offensive rating among all teams to play in the 2013 postseason. Miami have home-court advantage right through this series and, as they showed against the Pacers, are capable of taking their form to another level come crunch time. But more than anything else, they have LeBron James, the best player in the world and one who is already in the discussion for the Greatest of all Time. San Antonio may have stopped him in 2007, but LeBron will have his revenge in 2013.