The 2013 NBA Finals featuring the Heat and Spurs assures that the NBA will have only have eight different champions (Spurs, Heat, Mavericks, Lakers, Celtics, Pistons, Bulls, Rockets) in the last 30 years.
This Finals, the Spurs will send Tim Duncan out into the sunset as a winner, securing “The Big Fundamental” his fifth title. Duncan has shown that he can turn back the clock if needed. He also isn’t a one man show. Duncan has Tony Parker, as well as shooters galore in Matt Bonner, Danny Green, Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili. He also has Kawhi Leonard, who has come into his own this past season and has done just about everything anyone could ask for from a second-year player.
That doesn’t mean the Heat will go down easily. Miami will likely bring this series to seven games. Collectively, the team has played below it’s potential since the start of the Eastern Conference Finals. If Dwayne Wade hadn’t stepped his game up in the last game of the Pacers series, his team may have been watching the Finals from home. Wade’s knee will keep him from playing at 100% throughout the series, which should play a major role in who lifts the trophy this year.
To get to the finals the Spurs started off the playoffs by sweeping the Lakers, who were down to Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks as their starting guards before the series ended. There was no way they could match the Spurs shot for shot, especially without the injured Kobe Bryant.
The sixth-seeded Warriors were the next challenge, giving Spurs just that. They managed to take two games away in a hotly contested series filled with overtime drama and buzzer-beaters. However, Parker found his shot and Ginobili found his clutch, while Duncan continued his consistent play, helping the team eventually take the series 4-2.
The next challengers were the Memphis Grizzlies, making its first-ever appearance in the Conference Finals. The big stage would prove to be too much, as the team was also swept by the Spurs. Every time the Grizz thought they were climbing back into the game, Parker hit his patented mid-range jumper or found Duncan off a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, resulting in the kind of dagger plays that demoralize opposing teams. It probably didn’t help Memphis that Zach Randolph was atrocious all series, in large part because of a committee of big men for San Antonio that included Tiago Splitter, Bonner and Duncan.
That trio helped the Spurs average 103 points per game during the regular saeason, good enough for fourth-best in the league. Meanwhile, the Heat averaged 102.9, fifth-best in the league. Needless to say, both teams know how to score but they do it in different ways.
The Spurs love to pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with Duncan now that his mid-range game has become much more consistent.. The Spurs also have the sixth-fastest pace in the league, which allows the players to get up and down the floor and utilize their speed (that includes Duncan- he lost about 20 pounds in the offseason for this very purpose). The major reason the Spurs are so good on offense is that they move the ball so well and consistently pass up good shots for better ones. This was shown with the Spurs’ league-leading 2,058 assists over the course of the season and the league’s second-best effective field goal percentage (53.1%). Ginobili happens to have rediscovered his clutch gene after a tough series with the Warriors. The Spurs were helped by their strength of schedule (11th hardest in the league) on the way to its fifth NBA Finals appearance.
The Heat actually have the best effective field goal percentage in the NBA at 55.2%, but were seventh in the league in team assists. However, the Heat also had the weakest schedule in the league (as proven by numbers), which allowed the team to have the second best margin of victory. Miami got to the line often (sixth-most in the league) which helped the players control the pace of the game at the eighth-slowest in the league. The Heat like to set up in it’s half court offense and play penetrate-and-pitch. James or Wade will drive to the bucket and dish it to one of the many shooters they have waiting in the corner or on the wing for a catch-and-shoot jumper.
The similarities between these teams are that they shoot better than 37% from beyond the arc, shoot the ball well overall (Heat and Spurs are one and two in field goal percentage, respectively) and neither team rebounds the ball well on the offensive glass (both near the bottom of the league in that category). In order for someone to gain a clear advantage in this series, one team will need to get out of character and grab some offensive boards or force the other team into a few bad shooting nights.
On the other side of the ball, the Spurs had the third-best rated defense, surrendering only 101.6 points per 100 possessions. The Heat have the ninth-best defensive rating, giving up 103.7 points per 100 possessions. The defensive turnover rates for each team are similar as the Heat turn over their opponent 14.8% of the time, while the Spurs manage that at a 13.7% clip.
The biggest difference between these teams is the defensive rebounding. That has been the Heat’s greatest weakness, as they were only 24th best in the league at rebounding on the defensive glass. Miami was pretty decent when it came to fouling as they had the 23rd most fouls in the league. Surprisingly, Mario Chalmers actually leads the team in fouls committed (most likely because of his poor help defense), with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem close behind him.
The Spurs were the third-best rebounding team in the league and grabbed approximately 75% of all available defense boards. They also boasted the fifth-best effective field goal percentage on defense, only allowing teams to shoot 48% in that category. The Spurs fouled the least amount of times in the league with only 1,427 on the season. Splitter and Boris Diaw (both lacking foot speed) were the high foul men on the season, but still did not accumulate as many fouls as Bosh (the third-highest man on the Heat).
Taking statistical evidence further to support the Spurs, Parker has assisted on 35.8% of all field goals that occurred while he was on the floor (during the playoffs) and Manu Ginobili sits at 32.2% in the same category. Surprisingly, Tony Parker’s usage rate is 30.8% for the playoffs and is actually higher than James’s. Duncan is naturally sitting at the two-spot with a 26.8% usage rate in the postseason. The most interesting statistic is that no one player on the Spurs has greater than a 1.4 offensive win share (Parker) and that Leonard is right behind him at a 1.1 average. Everyone else who gets regular time is between 0.6 and 0.3 in that category, showing just how team-oriented the offense has become and anyone can make a difference for this team. There is also a similar run of averages on the defensive side of that stat, speaking to the accountability and trust head coach Greg Popovich instills in each of his players.
All this sets up another championships for the Spurs.