June 06, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: Game 1 notes

Just one of many compelling elements to this year's NBA Finals is the impending clash of styles between these two teams. Not in the sense that they are different, but because they both like to and are highly capable of scoring the basketball.

Miami averages a league high of 108.4 points per 100 possessions, the most efficient this postseason. San Antonio is at second at 106.5. The Heat also lead the NBA in half-court efficiency, averaging .94 points per play, with the Spurs second at .93. Aside from the numbers, if you've watched either of these teams play you know they both have high-octane offensive attacks, likely giving the advantage to whichever team can find ways to neutralize the other and expose deficient match ups.

For San Antonio, the challenge is maintaining a their preferred uptempo pace against the fastest team in the NBA. The conventional plan would be to dictate a slower pace (a la Memphis, Chicago, Indiana) and look to attack the Heat where they struggle the most: in the paint and on the glass. Still, it will be intriguing to see how Miami fairs against the most potent offense than they've faced this entire postseason (by far). 

For Miami, it's all about LeBron James, or is it? Dwayne Wade came up big in Game 7 against Indiana but a quick turnaround for his third consecutive Finals trip is something to watch for as he battles his right knee injury. San Antonio doesn't necessarily have the interior grit of Indiana, but they make up for it in savvy instincts and effort. If this series is in fact going to remain uptempo, advantage Heat. 

Key match ups:

- LeBron James/Kawhi Leonard: Much has been written and discussed about the 21-year-old's match up against the four-time MVP. Even with his athletic 6'7 frame and astounding 7'3 wingspan, he still has the toughest work weeks of his career approaching.

- Tony Parker: I expect to see multiple assignments for the Frenchman, especially LeBron. With Miami's constantly "switching" defense, those chances are not uncommon. Still, neutralizing Parker has to be a top priority as the starting engine and crucial catalyst for the Spurs' offense.

- Tim Duncan/Chris Bosh: Playing against "his idol", Bosh is up against a Tim Duncan that looks nowhere near 37 years of age. Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Udonis Haslem can assist, but Chris Bosh is the only big for Miami that can look to win the individual match up with Duncan.

Notes for Game 1:

- Tempo, tempo, tempo: The beginning pace will be most indicative of how these teams want to play, particularly San Antonio, as they adjust to the speed of Miami's defense. 

- Rested or rusty: San Antonio coming off of the ten day break, their physical energy should be evident in the opening minutes.

- Bench play: The Spurs' bench has played a bit more productively than Miami's in these playoffs, we should see players from both benches look to assert themselves tonight. 

- TURNOVERS: As the case is with ever opponent of the Heat, if you turn it over  15 times or more, you're probably done for. How the Spurs handle the Miami defense in terms of ball security and their scoring attack will be vital.

In the NBA Finals, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to win the series 71 percent of the time. The San Antonio Spurs are 4-0 in the NBA Finals. Miami wants to repeat. Stay tuned as I continue to track and share notes on the 2013 NBA Finals.

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