1. Tim Duncan adding to his legacy as the greatest Power Forward in NBA history
The 37 year old “Big Fundamental” is playing in his fifth NBA finals, and he has dominated the past four. In fact, Tim Duncan has been dominating the NBA finals so long, his first championship occurred during the Clinton administration, 6 months prior to the Music City Miracle. The Spurs alternated odd year championships after that (’03, ’05, ’07) and now look to cap it off with a W in ’13. During Duncan’s best statistical season in 2006 he shot 55% from the field. His worst? That was the year before when he shot 48%. The man has been has been a model of consistency in a sport that has been anything but. Plus, when he hits that smooth bank shot from about 12 feet, it will remind you of a happy, simpler time, before referees went to the monitor 8 times in the final two minutes and before flopping was common vernacular during a playoff game.
2. Gregg Popovich’s clockwork offense vs Erik Spoelstra's suffocating defense
The casual basketball fan knows the Miami Heat for their high flying dunks and run and gun offense. While that may make up a large part of their identity, the Heat’s strength actually lies within their defense, specifically on the ball. Excluding rebounding, the Heat were in the top 5 in all major defensive categories this year, including 2nd this season in points allowed. The Spurs offense relies on drawing defenders and dishing to open shooters, so it will be very interesting to see how hard Miami will commit to helping on the drive, in lieu of leaving shooters open.
3. Tony Parker’s ability to get to the basket
Remember those open shooters that were mentioned earlier? The reason they are so open is because Parker is such a threat to score around the hoop. More than likely, it will be a combination of Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen trying to lock down Parker in the half court set. If things get out of hand, we could even see LeBron locking down on Parker late in the game. Parker's been on a tear this postseason, scoring 37 in a close-out game in Memphis, and averaging 23 during the playoffs. What I’m saying is that singlehandedly; none of these defenders stand a chance. Parker is so quick, and has such a pretty touch that quite frankly, there are very few defenders that can stop him one on one. It will be up to the big boys like Udonis Haslem and Chris “Birdman” Andersen to slide into help position to alter Parkers shot. This is costly for Miami however, as a rotation on defense leaves number 21 in Silver and Black wide open for his patented bank shot.
4. Which team can get more contributions from beyond the three point arc?
Until Ray Allen got hot in game 7, the Miami Heat 3 point shooting was virtually non-existent during the Conference finals. The exact opposite can be said for San Antonio in their series, who tied a franchise record with 14 makes in game one, and continued production from downtown throughout the series. Both of these teams thrive off of three pointers, but neither relies on them, and that’s why this can be an X-factor in the finals. When both teams are rotating the ball and hitting their open looks, the forwards on defense start cheating, and you get some wide open lanes for LeBron and Parker to get to the hole. Names like Battier, Allen, Green and Ginobili will be play a huge role in determining the style in which each team’s offense is run.
5. LeBron James, the facilitator?
No one will argue that LeBron is the absolute best player in the world and at any point in time, can take over a game by his lonesome. He is not superhuman, however, and stretches like he had in game the third quarter of game 5 against Indiana cannot hold up in a 7 game series. If you watched the first quarter of game 7, you saw LeBron feeding his teammates, specifically Wade and Bosh numerous times before he even took a shot of his own. Even though they weren’t hitting all of their looks, this was opening up the defense and took the focus off of himself, leading to confusion amongst the defense. The Spurs are a sound defensive team, but if they have to worry about Wade elevating to the rim off a pick and roll, and Bosh hitting a 15 foot jumper consistently, they are going to struggle.
This will be a fun series and I think the Spurs will get game one. With that said however, the Heat just seem to rise to the occasion of big games, especially after losses, and with any sort of production from Wade and Bosh, the Heat will get the job done. Miami wins series 4-2