The All U Can Heat staff weighs in on the NBA Finals rematch between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
1. Chris Bosh called this “Game 8.” How much of last season’s Finals series carries over into this one?
Chris Posada: Mentally, there’s more of a carry over for the Spurs than the Heat. Tim Duncan’s remarks highlight the fact that San Antonio feels they let the title slip through their grasp, so they’ll be playing with that as a motivation. Aside from that, I think enough has changed for both teams that this series won’t look a lot like last year’s.
Ross Gottschalk: I think emotionally, a lot will be carried over into this series. Especially on the Spurs side. Since the beginning of training camp the typically reticent Spurs have made it no secret this season that their focus is on redeeming what happened in Game 6 and Game 7 against the Heat last year.
Kristopher Keaton: I don’t think it carries over at all. Yes, the Spurs still have the bitter taste in their mouths for throwing the championship up. But this is a different Heat team, mainly because Dwyane Wade is healthier than he was last season.
Blaine Hunkins: I believe it’s going to be a very similar series from last year. The Spurs added Bellineli to essentially make up for the loss of Gary Neal. Duncan and Parker both look like they haven’t missed a step, although Parker is a little banged up.
David Ramil: All of it. LeBron also recently said that this matchup might have a different feel if they met four times a year. Instead, having just met twice during the regular season, it’s like a continuation of the previous Finals. The wounds are very fresh for San Antonio (a purposeful move by Coach Pop) and it’s been their motivation all season. And the consistency of both organizations – from front offices, coaches and the players, themselves – plays a factor, too.
Wes Goldberg: Miami and San Antonio know what will be thrown at them from an X’s and O’s standpoint. That’s from the last seven games. We will have less of a coaching battle this time around, and it’ll be more about six hall-0f-famers going at it.
2a. The Spurs like to dare LeBron to shoot the mid-range jumper and block off lanes to the rim. Do they dare do it again?
RG: Well they should do it again. LeBron played at an elite level in Game 6 (32 pts) and Game 7 (37 pts) last year. But lost in all the craziness of those last two games is the fact that LeBron really struggled from the field in the first three games of the series (38% FG%).
KK: I think they’ll dare to do it again. The difference, however, is that LeBron won’t allow them to get off that easy this year. Even if they give him the jump shot, he’ll find his way closer to the basket to make them play defense.
BH: I think Popovich will live with LeBron shooting outside of the paint. It is, essentially, a necessary evil.
DR: Absolutely…until it doesn’t work. Look, they’ve already figured out that LeBron, somehow, shoots the jumper better when he’s being contested. They’ll let him get open looks from 15-18 feet out rather than having him change the tide of a game with a dunk at the rim that gets a crowd fired up or possibly draws a foul. But, if he’s having “one of those games” where he’s hitting the 3-pointer, this strategy goes out the door.
WG: They almost won the series doing it last season, so I don’t see why they would go away from it. Maybe they mix it up by going over the screens here and there, but Pop has never been one to worry about if the other team knows what’s coming. However, if the rest of the Heat players are making three’s, it will make it more difficult to crowd the paint.
2b. If you are Gregg Popovich, do you trust Kawhi Leonard to defend LeBron James one-on-one?
CP: Yes, but that’s because he’s their best choice. You can’t get away with Danny Green on him or else LeBron would just run him over. Diaw would be the other option, as he had some success last year, but that was because LeBron clearly was drunk and decided to settle for jumpers over a guy he could just drive by. Otherwise, a one-on-one assignment will belong to Leonard.
RG: Who else on the Spurs roster is more capable of guarding LeBron? Pop will rely on a combination of Kawhi and help from his bigs inside.
KK: I wouldn’t trust anyone against LeBron in a TRUE one-on-one matchup.
BH: Absolutely, Leonard is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. Popovich has trusted him ever since his rookie year.
DR: I don’t think you’ll have any choice. If Spo goes with Rashard Lewis in the starting lineup (which he should), that forces the Spurs’ bigs out on to the perimeter. If they double on LeBron, that leaves a lot of uncontested 3-pointers. It’s all about the floor spacing that makes Miami the most dangerous team in the league.
WG: I’m Pop? Then, yes, I do. Kawhi is as good as anyone in the league at defending LeBron. Although, if Dwyane Wade gets going, maybe I think about putting Kawhi on him. After all, LeBron is going to get his points somehow. Remember, I did it against the Thunder when I took him off Kevin Durant and put him on Russell Westbrook.
3. Which Spurs player do you expect to be the #RSHK (Random Scrub Heat Killer)?
CP: Patty Mills. He’s the kind of player that gives Miami fits, because he doesn’t really care if he shoots a bad shot or not, ala Nate Robinson and Gary Neal. Definite “Heat Check” shooter.
RG: Patty Mills could have a big game or two.
KK: Patty Mills has his name all over the Random Scrub Heat Killer title.
BH: The #RSHK this year will be- no one. No one on the Spurs is a scrub, they all play to their strengths.
DR: Boris Diaw. Ugh. This guy is 40, fat and looks like a taller version of the Weekend Warrior that you see playing pickup ball. Somehow, he can still get drive to the rim, has good low-post moves where he uses his height and girth very well, and he’s not a bad shooter, either. If Parker and Ginobili are healthy and aggressively getting to the hoop, Diaw will be open from the wings waiting to knock down a big shot. While eating a croissant. With extra butter.
WG: Patty Mills and even Boris Diaw wouldn’t be that random. Maybe Matt Bonner pulls a Mirza Teletovic?
4. Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade’s health. Discuss.
CP: This is the important topic. Wade gave his best in spurts, but clearly was hobbled by his knees. The Heat will definitely need him to be at his best if they want to win this series. As for Parker, if he’s not at his best, San Antonio is in trouble. In the games they lost in last year’s Finals, he was not at his best. He has to be their best player if they’re going to pull this off.
RG: DWade’s health appears to be a non-issue at this juncture. As for Tony, it will be something he’ll have to manage throughout the series. Bad ankles typically don’t get better by playing basketball on them. It may hamper as the series progresses.
KK: Parker was a bit worn down in last season’s Finals, as was Wade. Wade seems to be a lot healthier than he was at this point last year and Parker’s ankle could be a really big factor in the series.
BH: Parker should be ready for Game 1, but he may be limited. Wade has looked great throughout the playoffs, so I doubt that any knee issues will persist.
DR: I think the Wade issue is a dead topic. Through three rounds, he’s been aggressive and consistently great and that is credit to his personal trainer (Tim Grover) and the Heat medical staff and coaches. Will he be better this year than he was in the last Finals? Probably. But his biggest challenge will be on defense, preventing Danny Green from setting NBA records from downtown. As for Parker, he is such a huge factor with his incredible speed and ability to finish at the rim (and his underrated shooting). But he’s had a looooooong season, from playing in the Finals, practicing with the French national team over the off-season, and getting back to the Finals again. He’ll play but expect him to have a setback during this series.
WG: Wade is as healthy going into these Finals as the Heat could have hoped for. Parker? I guess we will see, but I expect him to be fine with all this rest. Healthy Wade has a huge impact on defense, and can reek havoc for the Spurs’ ball movement. Parker, on the other hand, can tear up Miami’s’ defense if he is penetrating and kicking it out to shooters.
5. Do the Heat miss Mike Miller this series? How do they fill the void?
CP: No. I’m as big a Mike Miller fan there is, but I think his absence has been a bit over-stated. Other than his heroics in Game 6 – HE SHOT IT WITH ONE SHOE ON! – he was actually just there. Meanwhile, the Heat have replaced him with a mixture of Norris Cole (whose three-pointer has been a revelation this postseason) and he’ll have to check Parker/Ginobili at some point, and Rashard Lewis, who can stretch the floor as a big, plus can frustrate opposing big man who play from far from the basket. But I still miss you, Mike.
RG: We all miss Mike Miller. You can’t just go out to your local grocery store and by another Mystic Wolfman like him. Ray Allen, SHARD, Norris and Mario Chalmers. At least two probably three of those guys will have to shoot well if the Heat hope to win this series. He’s been cold most of the season, but wouldn’t it be epic if Shane Battier had a Mike Miller-esqe performance before riding off into the sunset?
KK: As much as I love Mike Miller, I don’t think they’ve missed him as much as we have. Rashard Lewis has played pretty well in his place, especially in the playoffs.
BH: Miller was great for the Heat, more importantly in the playoffs. Do they need him? I don’t think so. Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis have proven that they can contribute off the bench or even in a starting role.
DR: Yes…and no? Look, Mike was great in spots, a fan favorite and his shooting, “old man” defense and timely rebounding were fun to watch. But is he the deciding factor? Of course not. Between James Jones, Ray Allen and, lately, Rashard Lewis, other bench players have provided that same Miller-esque spark off the bench. Against San Antonio, it could be Norris Cole or even Shane Battier, as he prepares for life after basketball. I loved Mike’s contributions and I thought that letting him go was a bad karmic move but he’s been gone all season and Miami’s still competing for a title. That void has been filled.
WG: Three-point shooting will be key, and whichever team hits them at a better rate could very well take the series. Chalmers, Cole, Battier, Allen, Lewis and Bosh will all need to hit from beyond the arc to make sure that LeBron and Wade have plenty of room to work in the paint. If we are looking for a specific player then I’ll go with Battier. Now out of the starting lineup, the Heat will look to him for three-point shooting and hustle plays like they wanted from Miller last season.
CP: Heat in 6. The new Finals format benefits the road team, as all they have to do is steal one in San Antonio, then hold serve at home. I don’t think Miami can steal 2 in Texas. The Heat play with a different intensity at home, so I think that they take Games 3 and 4, before wrapping it up at home.
KK: Wade is much healthier as mentioned before, so I see the Heat playing this series a bit differently than they did last season. Because of that, I’m going to go Heat in 6.
BH: Heat in 6. The Heat win it at home, and Duncan retires.