Category Archives: Game Previews

Previews of Bulls games and other big matchups.

Game 4 Preview: Must Win for Miami

Danny Green and Gary Neal celebrate their Game 3 heroics.
Danny Green and Gary Neal celebrate their Game 3 heroics.

If you were to tell me the Miami Heat were going to lose by 36 points in game 3 without any real contribution from the Spurs stars, I would have thought you were insane. Danny Green and Gary Neal were en fuego Tuesday night, hitting a combined 13 three pointers and ending the night with 54 points. The big three for San Antonio only had 25 points all together! Crazy! Green and Neal, combined with a great all-around performance by Leonard, were all able to bail the Spurs out of Game 3, giving them a 2-1 lead in the series.

The Spurs have positioned themselves to go up 3-1 in the series if they come away with another victory tonight, putting an immense amount of pressure on this Miami Heat team. Lebron will need to go into 2k mode tonight, because it doesn’t seem like Bosh and Wade are going to contribute anytime soon. James will need to attack the rim early and make sure he gets himself going. Game 3 was the first time since the 2009 season that Lebron didn’t take a single free throw. He needs to make a conscious effort to go strong to the basket and get the San Antonio bigs in foul trouble.

If San Antonio wants to come away with a Finals victory, they cannot rely on the play of their role players. Yes, they played incredible the other night, but I don’t see them doing this night in and night out. The big three of the Spurs will need to step up and finish the series strong. Hopefully, Tony Parker’s hamstring injury will not affect his overall game. Parker has been cleared to play, but hamstring injuries can be very delicate. The Spurs will have a difficult time running their offense if Parker is injured, meaning Corey Joseph will need to play more minutes and Manu will be asked to handle the ball more.

Tonight is a must win for the Heat, and I do find them ending up with a victory, evening up the series 2-2.

Prediction: Heat 94 Spurs 88

2013 NBA FINALS PREVIEW: THE SPURS AND THE POPOWITCH OF THE WEST

In 1999, Michael Jordan announced his retirement for the second time in his basketball career. Who would have predicted that this moment in history would be just the start for the San Antonio Spurs? Since the 1999 NBA season, the Spurs have reached the finals five times, recording a 4-0 mark in the first four. Since that very same 1999 season, Michael Jordan has joined the Washington Wizards’ front office, unretired, joined the Washington Wizards’ roster, retired, bought the Charlotte Bobcats, and ruined two franchises in the process by drafting the likes of Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs’ foundation of Tim Duncan and Head Coach Gregg Popovich has pretty much been the most sure thing since Dot Com stocks. While Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili joining the scene certainly didn’t hurt, the Spurs’ success is attributed to Pop and Duncan. Can this seemingly timeless duo lead the Spurs to the promised land in this year’s Finals vs. the Miami Heat? Let’s take a look.

Just for shits, can somebody tell me what the hell people do in San Antonio other than go to Spurs’ games? How many times can you go to the Alamo? It’s not like the story changes.

Keys for the Spurs:

Not Committing Fouls:

There are two ways Miami scores points: They either run up and down the court and shoot well from 3 or get bailed out at the free throw line. It took 16 free throw attempts from LeBron James to salvage the decisive seventh game against Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals. Considering that Miami’s shooting comes and goes, it is imperative that San Antonio play solid defense without fouling. Luckily for them, the Spurs were 3rd in the league in opponent free throw attempts per game. This statistic will need to hold true in the small, unfortunately biased sample size that is called the NBA Finals. Hopefully, Stern and the boys will let the likes of Duncan and Splitter defend the interior and let Cowhi Leonard pester LBJ. Let’s face it, the only people who want to watch a series riddled with free throws are Heat fans. And God hates Miami fans. That’s why he made Jeff Loria own the Marlins.

Utilizing their Depth:

Year in and year out, Pop gets the most out of nearly member of his roster. While I don’t think Tracy McGrady will leave the pine (even if half of China wears his jersey on a daily basis), the Spurs have a collection of interchangeable parts that can ultimately wear down Miami. Kawhi (for you Bick) Leonard will need to dedicate most of his energy towards the defensive end of the floor on LBJ, forcing Danny Green and Manu Ginobili to pick up the scoring slack. Ginobili should be able to have his way with Miami’s second unit. If he’s truly 100%, this might be the Spurs’ biggest advantage. Boris Diaw might actually have to move his fat ass down the court because he is surprisingly good in space. I think they closed the McDonald’s that used to be located at half-court though so it’s anyone’s guess if the French men will move with no French fries in sight.

Boarding:

My dear friend and fellow Lifetime patron Geo pointed out that rebounding is essential to the outcome of this series. For the Spurs to have success, Splitter and Duncan need to assert their will on the boards. There’s nothing more to it. Miami was able to stave off Indiana by dominating the offensive glass in Game 7. If Dwyane Wade leaves his mark on the series, it will be on the offensive glass. Lance Stephenson did a very poor job of boxing Wade out when it mattered most. Effective rebounding can negate a bad shooting performance while poor boarding can do the opposite. With their backs against the walls, Miami exerted the extra effort to crash the glass and won the series. San Antonio needs to set the tone from the get-go and make sure no birds, dinosaurs or creatures named Udonis eat up rebounds.

Defending the White Man’s Shot, also known as, the Three-Pointer:

While Miami’s best canners, with exception to Mike Miller, are of the African-American variety, you get the gist. Where as LBJ, Wade and the Velociraptor rely on athleticism and strength to impact the game, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole and Miller will be counted on to knock down open treys. If there is one truly glaring Achilles’ heel of this Spurs’ defense, it’s locking down on the perimeter. Whereas Memphis, aside from my player profile Quincy Pondexter, couldn’t hit a shot to save their lives, Golden State destroyed the Spurs from downtown. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes convinced many that they were the future of the Western Conference from their play last month. While Miami’s three point barrage is not as deadly, they still have the capacity to hit some wide-open, white boy equalizers. And they have that Ray Allen fellow.

Many other keys that are more like lifetime keys and not shiny, golden keys like everybody is thinking of:

Craig Sager’s suit color, Ginobili’s bald spot and Duncan’s sex life now that he’s divorced. Actually might be a big deal for Timmy. He might have been stupid enough to believe his ex wasn’t sleeping with her physical therapist. At least it wasn’t the scuba instructor.

Matchups to Watch:

LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard:

How can you shut down the best player on earth, you can’t. LeBron James is the only one who can shut LeBron James down as stupid as that sounds. The Spurs are not looking for Leonard to keep James to 15 points on 5-23 shooting. They are just looking for him to be LeBron and not be crazy-focused, aggressive LeBron. Keep him on earth and the Spurs have got a good chance. That’s why I wish Kawhi had a little Metta in him, a little bit of Meshuggenah a day keeps a title away.

Tony Parker vs. Miami point guards:

Parker should have a field day with Chalmers. Cole’s a bit better of a defender, but the point guard position should be a big win for San Antonio. Maybe Miami will sign Brent Barry’s wife to even the playing field.

Prediction: San Antonio in 6

PART 1: HEAT PREVIEW

NBA 2013 Finals- Miami Heat Preview

2013 NBA Finals Preview: Miami (re)Heat?

Tyler Geocaris

The most hated team in basketball has done it again, making it to the NBA Finals for the third time in three tries in their Big Three era. The Heat easily cruised through the best regular season in franchise history and the first two rounds of the playoffs until they ran into the upset-minded Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers may exposed some of their weaknesses in taking them to seven games, but we knew that either LeBron and/or David Stern (NBA conspiracies…they’re true!) wouldn’t let them advance to the Finals. Now it is time for Miami’s biggest challenge of the season: the old and crafty San Antonio Spurs.

Keys for Miami:

The Health of Dwyane Wade:

As seen in the last series against Indiana, Wade’s knee is definitely going to be an issue throughout the Finals. Wade averaged just 15 points along with fewer than five rebounds last series. Whether he is battling another knee injury, or simply in a race with father time, the days of “Flash” seem to be slowly fading. Like many physical guards that have played in the NBA (Allen Iverson is a good example), Wade’s body could very simply be breaking down due to his running back-style approach to the game. It is very odd to see a 20+ PPG scorer be so absent on the offensive end with so much on the line.  Wade will need to be a lot more productive on both the offensive and defensive ends if the Heat want to repeat. If he is not able to perform, I find it very hard to see Miami coming away with a victory. Jordan needed Pippen – LeBron needs D-Wade.

Rebounding:

“No rebounds, no rings” is a phrase coined by the Heat’s very own Pat Riley. Ironically, it is quite clear that this is his team’s major weakness. Despite their incredible season, the Heat ranked dead last in the rebounding department. The Pacers were predictably able to dominate on the glass throughout the series, showing that this might be the way to take down the almighty Heat. Due to Miami’s small-ball style of play, along with Chris Bosh being incredibly soft, a team that has any sort of height will be able to give them a good run. With the Spurs owning a size advantage at the front court with Tim Duncan, TIAGO SPLITTER (Stephen A. voice), and the slow but effective Boris Diaw, I expect the Heat to have another tough time on the boards. Miami does not necessarily have to outrebound San Antonio, they just need to keep the margin small. A team’s defense is only as good as a team’s rebounding, meaning Miami will have to put forth a lot of effort to keep the Spurs bigs off the offensive glass.

Forcing Turnovers:

This aspect of the game has been Miami’s bread and butter all season. Although they have struggled with keeping teams off the glass, they have been able to make up for it by forcing a reasonable amount of turnovers. Creating turnovers allows Miami to push the ball into transition, leading them to use their athleticism for easy buckets on the offensive end. During the season, the Heat averaged 18.6 points off of turnovers, ranking third in the league. Miami is at its best when the tempo is fast, so the Spurs will be sure to try and slow it down throughout the game. The Spurs are exceptional at keeping turnovers to a minimum, averaging only 12 turnovers a night. This means Miami will have to raise their defensive intensity to maintain their same success rate. With the experience of Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs, this will be a difficult task to overcome.

Matchups to look out for:

Lebron James vs. Kawhi Leonard

It was difficult for Gregg Popovich to part ways with George Hill, but having a guy to guard elite perimeter players is imperative in this league. This was the sole reason why the Spurs acquired the athletic Kawhi Leonard. Leonard will take on the impossible task of slowing down the four-time MVP, something that very few people on this planet are capable of doing. LeBron seems to be maintaining his quality of play at the peak levels of his career, using his strength, speed, and intelligence to allow him to score at will. Unless James mentally checks out like he did in the 2011 Finals (highly, highly unlikely), I find it hard to see Leonard being able to contain him.  Look for Leonard to try and force LeBron to take difficult fadeaways, contested jump shots, and keeping him off the low block. This is a lot easier said than done, folks.

Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole vs. Tony Parker

This might be the most important matchup for the Miami Heat. Tony Parker had an incredible season, and could very well have been in the MVP race if it weren’t for injury. Parker has been great throughout the entire playoffs, averaging 23 points along with seven assists per game. After 10 days of rest and recovery, he should continue to perform at a very high level. Point guard play is not one of the Heat’s strengths, meaning Chalmers/Cole must contribute in order to bring home another title. If both point guards are able to combine to match the play of Parker, the Heat should find themselves with another NBA championship. This may be unlikely, but that is why Chalmers/Cole are my x-factors of this series for the Miami Heat.

My Prediction:      Spurs in 7

Ed. note: Steven Kerstein’s San Antonio Finals preview will run tomorrow.