The next couple of weeks are going to be a treat for basketball fans. This series has everything: interesting coaches, legacies at stake, at least six future hall of famers, beautiful but very different offensive styles, and much more.
At this point, anyone who still thinks San Antonio is boring has no business calling themselves a basketball fan and we're lucky to get to see these two powerhouses square off.
My favorite thing about this series--besides the gamesmanship we saw from both coaches in the regular season--is that I could see either team winning a short series and I could see it going seven. San Antonio is the better "team", in that each player knows and plays within his defined role, but Miami has the talent and explosiveness to sweep if they're running on all cylinders.
The Indiana series provided the blueprints for stopping Miami. If you can slow Miami down and frustrate them, they tend to resort to jump shots and they become very beatable. Tim Duncan isn't 7'2" like Roy Hibbert is, but his rebounding and defensive numbers this season were among the best of his career and he can help clog the paint and limit Miami's penetration. The size of Duncan and Splitter may keep LeBron and the rim rockers at bay, at least for stretches.
And if Tony Parker plays like he did in the last series, the Heat are in trouble. He was an artist with the basketball, displaying patience, finesse, quickness and skill that no other point guard can match.
But on paper it seems like Miami should be able to stop the things that San Antonio does well. They have the speed to nullify some of the Spurs ball movement and they are athletic enough to get out to San Antonio's shooters. Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers will harass Parker for the majority of the game and LeBron has the ability to take the other team's best offensive player out of the the game when the situation calls for it (see Paul George scored 7 points last night).
The Spurs recent shift to a more offensive-minded and running team seems to play into the Heat's hands but I won't fall victim of the moment too much and totally count the Spurs out. I like the matchup for Miami, but that could change very quickly if Tim Duncan establishes some post offense or if D-Wade goes back to being an afterthought.
The Spurs can do so many different things and have so much balance that it's impossible to predict how they will approach each game. They will adjust appropriately to whatever Miami throws at them and likely make it a long series.
Unlike the conference finals series, whoever imposes their will doesn't necessarily have a huge advantage. Both teams can run, both teams can play in the half court, both teams can score and both teams defend. There could be games with scores in the 110's and there could be games in the 80's.
This means that it could turn into a coaching battle where the team hat makes the last great adjustment wins the series. And even that doesn't give either team a clear advantage. Spo may not get his team motivated 100% of the time, but the guy knows how to take advantage of matchups and his basketball creativity is among the best.
If Miami can force a fast-paced game and the role players play well, Miami wins hands down. But that has always been the case for the Heat; they're the most talented team with the highest ceiling. The task for San Antonio is to disrupt Miami's flow and we've seen recently that it's possible if you control the pace and stay confident, two things a Greg Popovitch team certainly can do.
I apologize for not being able to provide a concrete prediction, but these two teams just don't allow for that. I can confidently predict that it will be part chess game and part roller coaster. We'll see ball movement, a million pick and roles, finger rolls from the Spurs and some monster dunks from the Heat.