Breaking Down San Antonio Spurs-Miami Heat Matchups at Every Position
Last night, the Miami Heat earned a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, but the opponent they're looking at may be their toughest one yet.
They're set to face a San Antonio Spurs team who possess the same core of players they had during their past few championships, but also sport a few young, key players who have become integral parts of the rotation (Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green).
One of the most important keys for both teams in this series is winning the individual matchups. If every player at each position outplays every opponent at each position, then that team will win the game. There's nothing more to it.
This slideshow will evaluate the players at all five positions and I will decide which positional matchup favors a specific team.
Tony Parker is the second best player coming into this series, and he will continue to break down the Heat defense as he has done to every other team already throughout the playoffs.
He is currently having the second-most efficient postseason in his career, averaging 23.0 PPG and 7.2 APG with a PER of 24.1 in 14 playoff games so far (per Basketball Reference).
The Heat, on the other hand, will counter with a combination of Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers. Neither of these two players are even close to Parker's prowess on offense and neither of them are the primary focal points of the Heat attack.
However, Cole and Chalmers are both above average perimeter defenders, and their main duties on the floor will be to attempt to slow down Parker on defense. it will take a complete team effort to stop Parker though, and this matchup will be one of the more lopsided ones in the series.
However, he showed up when he was needed the most, as he posted his best performance in recent memory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
He will most likely be matched up with Danny Green of the Spurs.
Green is a very good defender and is one of the two best perimeter defenders that the Spurs have on their team—the other being Leonard, who might spend some time guarding Wade as well.
Green has shown that he's capable of holding his own, as he was the best defender that Gregg Popovich threw at Stephen Curry and Mike Conley in the previous two rounds.
Neither player went head to head this season, as Green sat out in the first game and Wade the second game.
The only other player that Wade might go up against is Gary Neal off of the Spurs bench. If anything, Wade will have to be chasing Neal and Green off of screens on defense all night long.
With that being said, Wade is still the superior player and he's still more talented than any shooting guard that the Spurs possess.
The Spurs probably have to matchup against the best player in the league in LeBron James.
Kawhi Leonard is an elite defender who has become an integral part of the Spurs' success this entire season. His combination of strength and lateral quickness on the perimeter will make him the perfect player to throw against James.
Additionally, Leonard isn't required to do too much on offense for the Spurs. He can exert most of his energy guarding James on the other end of the court to limit his effectiveness as much as possible.
However, we're still talking about the greatest player in the world here.
Paul George slowed him down in the series against the Indiana Pacers, but he was still unable to stop James in a seven-game series. Leonard isn't as long as George, but he's the same caliber of a defender as he is.
Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan. At this point, we should stop being surprised that he's able to keep up his high level of play throughout the years.
During the playoffs, Duncan has averaged 17.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 1.7 BPG in 14 games. And who do the Heat have to counter him?
Udonis Haslem and Chris "Birdman" Andersen.
Although both players bring high energy and hustle plays to the court, neither of them are skilled enough or big enough to defend Duncan. Don't even mention their offensive contributions either, as Duncan is by far the best interior defender in this series.
If the Pacers series was a precursor to the Finals, then we should see Duncan dominate the smaller Heat frontcourt like Roy Hibbert did before.
The center and power forward matchups will be hard to determine, since players on both teams could switch and defend the other position.
If we were to go by traditional lineup positions though, it would have to be Chris Bosh against Tiago Splitter.
Bosh is the more talented and versatile player, as he could score from all areas of the floor. However, he's not a terrific post defender and he allowed opposing centers to average a PER of 17.1 against him during the regular season (per 82games.com).
Bosh is more comfortable facing up and popping a jumpshot from the perimeter, rather than pound the defense down low. Splitter, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. He prefers to roam the paint and protect the rim and isn't very good on the perimeter.