What We Still Don't Know About the Miami Heat
At this point in the 2012-13 season, we know a heck of a lot about the Miami Heat.
Having won their past 20 games, the reigning NBA champions are playing the best basketball in the league.
The offense is nearly unstoppable.
The defense has picked up and is looking more like the elite unit it was the previous two seasons.
With a 9.5-game lead in the Eastern Conference, it's looking as if Miami is going to have little trouble making it to their third consecutive NBA Finals.
Still, there is one thing we don't know about the Heat: Would they beat the San Antonio Spurs if they were to both reach the Finals?
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In all likelihood it will be the Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder coming out of the Western Conference. We know the Heat can beat the Thunder simply because they have. Miami took down the Thunder in five games in last year's NBA Finals, and the Heat have beaten Oklahoma City both times they've faced off this season—the most recent matchup being a blowout for much of the game.
But throughout the Big Three era, the Heat have not faced off against the Spurs very often. Considering how well-coached and skilled the Spurs are, it's definitely a cause for concern that this Miami team doesn't know them very well.
The Heat have played the Spurs only once this season. While they did win 105-100, they played the Spurs "B-squad," as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Danny Green all sat out.
The Heat faced off against the Spurs once last season as well, in Miami. But though they won convincingly by a score of 120-98, once again, a member of the Spurs' core (Ginobili) was absent.
Even more unfortunate is that the Heat might not be able to face a full-strength Spurs in their upcoming matchup on March 31, as Parker recently went down with an ankle injury that could keep him out for quite some time.
That would mean that you would have to go back to March 2011 for the last time the Heat played the Spurs "A-squad."
We can still presume that a Spurs-Heat NBA Finals would be very close, based on the teams having many similarities.
Behind the Heat by just two games in the loss column, San Antonio has the second-best record in the league at 49-16. Like Miami, they are a very balanced team. The Spurs rank in the top seven in both offensive and defensive ratings.
Both teams shoot lights-out, with Miami having the league's best field-goal percentage, the Spurs having the second-best and both teams ranking in the top five in three-point shooting percentage.
The Spurs and Heat are also absolutely dominant at home. The Spurs are 26-4 at home, while the Heat are 30-3 in Miami. Whichever team is able to finish with the best record in the league could play a huge factor in deciding who's able to win this potential series.
Still, because Miami does have the better record and has the advantage in that its star players are better than the Spurs', they'd have to be the favorites against San Antonio at this point.
Really, Miami would be the favorites against anyone.
But, as great as Miami has to be feeling right now riding a 20-game winning streak, the Spurs would have to be their least-desired Finals opponent.
On paper, San Antonio is deadly. And Miami just doesn't have the experience, let alone winning experience, against the Spurs to enter a series with them and feel as confident as they would against an opponent like the Thunder.
The Heat seem unstoppable right now. The Spurs might be the one team that could stop them.
Unfortunately, the two teams haven't played a game with both squads at full strength since 2011, so we likely won't know if they can until their potential Finals meeting.
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