We here at, The Triangle Offense have been dialed in for the entire NBA Playoffs and today begins the final chapter of the battle for Larry O’Brien trophy. The 2013 NBA Playoffs had a new, fresher look compared to recent years. Perennial powerhouse teams such as the Lakers and Celtics made early exits, while teams like Memphis and Indiana surprised many with their runs to the conference finals. In the end though, the cream rose to the top as arguably the leagues two best teams during the regular season have secured their respective conferences, and will battle for league supremacy.
The Spurs, who have enjoyed nearly two weeks of rest after sweeping the Grizzlies will travel to Miami to kick off the 2013 Finals. The Heat, coming off a brutal seven game heavyweight fight with the gritty Pacers seem eager to get right back at it and pick up where they left off in game seven against Indiana. Both teams come in playing their best basketball of the postseason, and as a fan of the game, I cannot wait for this series to kick off. Below, both @professorcorria and I give our insight into the series, some story-lines to look for, match-ups we’re salivating over, and our prediction as to who will be raising a banner this fall.
Tiago Splitter. I’ve thought about who would be the x-factor in this series, and the usual suspects came to mind, Parker, LeBron, Duncan, but I gotta go with Spurs Center, Tiago Splitter. While his stats don’t jump off the paper (10ppg,7rpg,2apg) he is a huge component of the Spurs success this post-season. He has eased the load on Duncan and his presence down low has allowed Duncan to step away from the basket a bit, and play more of a two man game with Parker. Splitter has converted on 58% of his shots from the field this post season, and is a very good passer for a big man. He even scored 18 against the Heat in the regular season. He’ll be matched up against Unonis Haslem, and this match-up should be fun to watch. Haslem has had some huge scoring games this post season and is the enforcer down low for the Heat. This will be finesse vs strength all series, and the man who prevails will give his team a huge edge. Hey Kawhi, it’s OK, nobody can stop that man, and nobody is expecting you too either. LeBron will have his way with Leonard all series, or any Spur for that matter, but if Leonard can somehow give James fits like Paul George did, it could really throw a wrench in this series. I wouldn’t count on it though, LeBron WILL get off. Now, on the other end of the floor I am very intrigued as to who LeBron will primarily guard. After game seven he said that he expects to spend some time on Tony Parker, much like he’s done with elite PG’s in the past. LeBron at the top of the key wreaking havoc and getting out in transition could really hurt San Antonio. Now, could we possibly see LeBron guarding Duncan? Barring a switch on a screen, it’s very unlikely, but man would that be fun. The big fundamental going at the most athletic and intimidating player in the league. Please someone, anyone make that happen. What Wade and Bosh will we see in the Finals? Well, Bosh will be pitted up against the greatest power forward of all time, so I’m not expecting much from him, especially since he hasn’t really been able to put it together all postseason. Wade on the other hand has had some severe lows and some “highs” throughout the playoffs, but overall it’s been tough to even watch. Game seven against Indiana aside, Wade has been downright atrocious, considering what we and even LeBron came to expect from him. If Wade can get to the rim, get out and transition, and make those plays that we cam to expect from “Flash” then I would give the Heat a big advantage. I just don’t see THAT Wade showing up, as I’m just about convinced THAT Dwayne Wade no longer exists.
I cannot stress enough how excited I am for this series. In the east I never once doubted that Miami would reach the Finals, as LeBron James is the baddest man on the planet. While D Wade is now a shell of his old self, and Bosh looks severely out of sync out there, LeBron is just THAT good, and can will nearly anyone to the Finals as we seen in 2007, when he wasn’t nearly half the player he is today. On the contrary, I actually felt the Memphis Grizzles would not only show up, but beat the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Memphis was extremely hot after beating OKC, and I thought they’d give the “seasoned” Spurs fits with their youthful exuberance, boy was I wrong. Timmy D, who surely discovered the fountain of youth this season and his running mate Tony Parker took budding stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to school all series long. With those two playing up to their Finals MVP level of the past, and with the mastermind that is “Pop” on the bench, beating the Spurs will be a formidable task, and a task that I don’t believe the Heat will be able to complete. While the Heat have both home court and the best player in the world on their side, I cannot bet against this Spurs team, and their brain-trust, again. I bet against the Spurs last round, and I won’t make that mistake again. This well oiled machine doesn’t look like it’ll breakdown anytime soon, certainly not over the next six or seven games. So, there is it, as much as it hurts me to bet against “The King”, something I rarely do, I’m having a hard time envisioning him beating the Spurs will the little amount of help I expect he’ll get. This series can easily go either way, and many have pegged the Heat as the favorites, and understandably so, but Flanny’s on record as saying, Spurs in 6.
OK, now that you’ve read Flanny’s analysis let me tie this in a neat bow. The Miami Heat have the best player in this series, which means that if Dwayne Wade is done point shaving and Chris Bosh decides it’s safe to come outside and play the Heat will win. Although the Spurs are a much better and the more well-rounded team than the Indiana Pacers, they are a much easier matchup for the Heat than the Pacers. The spurs have a very nice inside game with Duncan and Splitter, but they won’t be pushing around the Miami Heat like neighborhood bullies like Indiana did. You can be sure that the Miami Heat bigs are very happy that they don’t have to see David West and Roy Hibbert anymore. The key for the Spurs will be trying to corral Miami’s perimeter attack, which will prove much more difficult than containing the Memphis Grizzlies anemic wings and guards. Eric Spolestra is a very good coach but Greg Popavich “does this” and will have his team prepared and in position to win. If Miami does win, they’ll have to work, because the Spurs coaching staff will make it difficult for them to do what they want to do.
I’m going with Miami in 6, even though conventional wisdom would tell you that the Spurs are going to win, especially because Dwayne Wade has been playing like a young John Bagley during the playoffs. LeBron James came to Miami so he wouldn’t have to carry his team anymore and during most of the playoffs he had to be looking at Dwayne Wade and thinking to himself, “Hmmmm.. I wonder what Mo Williams is doing right now.” They are in the finals, but the Heat are walking a slippery slope, because if they aren’t on point every game, the Spurs will out execute them into the ground. LeBron James has reached the level where I simply don’t bet against him. He truly is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan and he is at the peak of his powers. But, one thing that rings true above all else is that the NBA is a make or miss league. Either you make shots or you don’t and I think the Miami Heat will make a few more corner threes then the Spurs. But I could be wrong, enjoy the finals!