NBA Finals Prediction

Posted: 06/05/2014 by levcohen in Basketball

It’s been so long since the Conference finals finished that I feel as if this series has been over-analyzed. Yes, it’s a rematch of one of the best series of all time, but I’m not going to analyze it in the way others have. To me, this is a simple series: it’s the depth of San Antonio versus LeBron James. Well, it’s not that simple. The Spurs have to be considered the slight favorites, if only because they have the better all-around roster and because they’ve been generally more impressive throughout this season. On paper, they are also a great matchup for the Heat. Kawhi Leonard, who is more healthy than he was last year, can theoretically limit LeBron. Tim Duncan had his way with the Heat last year, and should again, as Chris Bosh doesn’t really have the size to match up well against him one-on-one (one aside: Chris Bosh is a really good defender. Just thought I needed to say that, because he doesn’t get much credit). And Manu Ginobili, who was so poor in last year’s Finals, is playing great basketball right now. In short, the Spurs, who outplayed Miami last year and should have won the series, are better than they were last year.

The Heat, on the other hand, are probably worse than they were. They had an easier time, but that’s largely because the Eastern conference is so poor and has regressed so much. Dwyane Wade has lost a step, and Bosh sometimes goes missing offensively. More often than the Heat would like, this becomes a LeBron James vs. the world game. That often works, even against teams as good as the Pacers, but it definitely won’t against the Spurs. With all that said, the Miami Heat still has the highest ceiling in all of basketball. If LeBron is Lebron, D-Wade strings together some vintage performances, and the role players hit their shots, Miami’s not going to lose. Period.

In the end, this is a super hard series to pick. LeBron James, who’s the best basketball player since Michael Jordan, still hasn’t had his huge Finals performance. Most superstars have one, and Jordan had many. This would be a great time to have that vintage performance, because his supporting cast is not as good as it has been in recent years. LeBron is also going up against probably the best Western conference team in the last four years. The Spurs have tremendous depth and flexibility. They rely on the pick-and-roll, but if Tony Parker is limited or just not playing well, they can bring in the uber quick Patty Mills to run the offense. They pass the ball around at an astounding rate, and turn good shots into great shots time after time after time. They also don’t turn the ball over much, so this is as close to a flawless team as you’re going to see. The Heat have more obvious flaws. They don’t have the same depth that San Antonio has, and if anything happens to LeBron then they are, well, screwed. They also have trouble grabbing rebounds, and rely somewhat on fast-break points, which might be few and far between against the Spurs. One thing the Heat do have, though, is a team that can go on a 10-0 or 20-4 run at any given time. They have the shooting, they have the explosiveness, and they have the defensive toughness to blow teams out, as they showed against the Pacers in game six. If everything is rolling for both teams, the Heat will probably win the series.

Keys for the Spurs:

  • Force LeBron to shoot the ball: LeBron James is a good shooter from range, but he’s even better at penetrating and is the best finisher in the NBA. The Spurs need to force him to shoot from the perimeter.
  • No Tony Parker isolation: The one time the Spurs’ offense slows down is when Tony Parker slows down at the three point line and dribbles the ball for an extended period of time. While Parker is a great finisher at the rim and good things can happen when the ball is in his hands, the offense sometimes stagnates and Parker has to force a bad shot at the end of the shot clock. The Spurs are so much more lethal when they keep the ball moving.
  • Protect home court: If the Spurs had had home court advantage last year, they would likely have won the series. This year, they need to take advantage of home court and not give up their advantage by losing one of the first two games.

Keys for the Heat:

  • Get a role player or two hot: It can be Rashard Lewis or Shane Battier or Ray Allen or Norris Cole, but somebody is going to need to step up for an extended period. Lewis might start, so he could be the best bet, but someone needs to take pressure off the big three.
  • Get on the fast break: The Spurs can defend Miami in the half-court. They can’t defend LeBron or D-Wade on the fast break. If Miami can get out in transition, they can score some easy points.
  • Be consistent: Throughout this year, the Heat have only played their best when they have absolutely needed to. Against the Spurs, they’ll need to be at their best at all times. It remains to be seen if they can put up seven games of consistent effort, but it is absolutely necessary.

Prediction: This is really tough, but the Spurs have the home court advantage and the better all-around roster. If it gets to game seven in San Antonio, I find it hard to believe that the Spurs will lose, so I’ll pick the Spurs in 7. I wouldn’t be surprised if LeBron had that vintage performance and led his team to victory, though.

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