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.
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