We are *almost* there. Two more days until the Finals tips off. Seems like forever. In one corner, we have a very good regular season team that is really old. In the other, we have the greatest team to walk the earth since dinosaurs walked the earth. Which is when ESPN started covering sports and they started hiring stupid people to say stupid shit.
Yes, I’m expecting this to be all Heat all the time. And I’m thrilled.
I’m going with Spurs in 5. Yes, I know, it’s crazy. But bear with me.
Game One — The Heat Hate Joey Crawford Game
I think we’ll end up with Joey Crawford in game one. This is great. As I said in the Memphis series, he’s a no bullshit ref who you want as the road team. And you want him not allowing any cheap stuff. That is the Spurs’ game.
The Heat will get out to an early lead in game one. The Spurs will be rusty, but then the fatigue of the long Pacers series will set in and the Spurs will come roaring back. Joey Crawford will make a couple of Heat killing calls late and the Spurs will get the win.
ESPN will castrate Joey Crawford in effigy and there will be 100 articles written about the demise of the Heat.
Game Two — Heat Demolish Spurs
After they get a couple days rest, the Heat will obliterate the Spurs under a rain of 3-pointers. It happens.
Another 100 articles will be written about the greatness of the Heat dynasty. One article about the demise of the Spurs.
Games 3-5 in San Antonio
The Spurs will grind them up with a superior game plan and superior execution. The first two games will be very close.
In game 5, with the Spurs up 10 to start the third quarter, LeBron will try to go into HeroBall mode and miss shots. He will then quit. I’ll give him credit for quitting later than he used to.
ESPN will throw dirt on the Heat dynasty and talk about where LeBron will go after he opts out of his contract next year. ESPN announces a time slot for The Decision Part 2. A mini-series on the upcoming free agent year of LeBron James.
In All Seriousness
I think this will be a hell of a series. I do think the Spurs win in 5. I have no rationale for that belief. I just feel that we are a nightmare match up for the Heat. We are easily the best offensive team they have seen in these playoffs. In fact, it isn’t even close. Bucks, Bulls and Pacers are three of the worst and most predictable teams in the playoffs offensively. This Finals will involve a lot of high scores by the Spurs. We will probably hit 100 every game but one (the one game we can’t make anything).
Pop is going to push the pace. The Heat don’t have a bench and they are coming off a long series. Additionally, Wade is hurt. Pop is going to want each and every defensive possession for the Heat to be a drain. Make them hustle back. Make them work side-to-side. Make them jump. This is the way to take advantage of superior depth and fresher legs.
Attack Their Strength?
While the Heat are a great team at defending the pick and roll, their method of doing it takes its toll. They trap the dribbler and then use their speed to recover. In essence, they go into scramble mode. If Pop can get the team into those sets and get the ball out of the trap, it will really wear down the Heat.
The match ups in this series are going to be interesting. Not the individual ones, but the lineup match ups. We know Kawhi will be on LeBron and we know that Green and Manu will get Wade. We know that the Heat will put a bunch of different people on Tony.
But, the Heat don’t really like to play big. Even against Indiana in game 7, the Heat only played big half the game. They, obviously, can do this because of LeBron being able to play the 4.
The Spurs match up well in small ball. They can take Splitter off the court and play Duncan with Kawhi, Green, Manu and Parker. They’ll probably put Tim in the high post and try to run the Heat silly. The Spurs can also run Tim into the low block as well as the Heat don’t have anybody that can handle him there. I don’t like this as much. I want the Heat defense spread out with bigger passing lanes. The Heat’s strength is jumping those cramped passing lanes.
Then, the Spurs can put Tiago in for Tim and run a whole bunch of high pick and roll OR a bunch of motion from side to side. Or they can also run Tiago down into the low block. Tiago destroys defenders like Chris Anderson who like to jump. His fakes and spins are a nightmare.
Defensively, I think we saw a glimpse of a short-term strategy in the TANK game early in the season. Pop put Boris Diaw on LeBron and just played off of him. Boris parked his butt on the free throw line and was content to let LeBron fire away from mid-range. The rest of the Spurs crowded the edge of the lane where they could dig on the drive and still recover to their shooters. Boris is big enough that LeBron could just drive through him. I expect to see a little of this strategy. Especially if LeBron loses confidence in his shot.
Look for Pop to employ both Boris and Matt Bonner — yes, Matt Bonner — in very short stretches on LeBron to see if it will get the Heat out of rhythm. It’s just batshit crazy enough to work.
A Gary Neal Series
I think this will be the Gary Neal series. His combination of 3-pt shooting and runners is the perfect antidote to the Heat’s scrambling defense. I think he will have the opportunity to get a lot of minutes with the amount of small ball I expect. I also think that he is more than capable of staying in front of Ray Allen and Mike Miller. I also think Pop won’t be afraid to put him on Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers.
Kawhi — Up or Down?
I think this will be a very interesting series for Kawhi. It is his first major match up of the playoffs. I’m interested to see how much of a problem he causes for LeBron. Can he force LeBron into difficult shots? Can he keep him out of the paint?
But, I’m also interested to see how Kawhi responds offensively. I have a sneaking suspicion he will step into the moment and grab it ball the short and curlies. I think he played a little tentative early in the playoffs. I think he is going to step up and be great in this series.