NBA FInals Schedule 2013: Matchups That Will Determine Outcome in Game 1
The well-rested San Antonio Spurs finally have an NBA Finals opponent in the Miami Heat.
San Antonio will hit the road to play the first two games on the schedule in Miami, and the first game of the series is set for Thursday night at the American Airlines Arena.
Here's a quick look at the particulars of Game 1.
When: Thursday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fl.
Streaming: ESPN 3
Radio: ESPN Radio online, or check your local listings to find an ESPN Radio station in your area.
This series provides some intriguing individual matchups. Both teams feature highly skilled players who specialize in wreaking havoc on opposing teams in various ways.
Here's a look at the three most critical individual matchups that will determine the winner of Game 1.
LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard
Paul George was a feisty defender on the perimeter, but James was able to outsmart and outplay the young small forward more often than not in the Eastern Conference Final.
Next up for King James is another young player in Leonard, who is an excellent defender.
Dwyane Wade—the second-best scorer for Miami—put together a phenomenal showing in Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers. But the Miami shooting guard is ailing in a bad way and can't be counted on from game to game.
LeBron James will average ____ points per game vs. Leonard and the Spurs.
James carries the Heat's offense. If Leonard can force him into some key turnovers and pester him into a poor shooting night, San Antonio has a legitimate chance to win Game 1.
For his part, Leonard is confident in his daunting assignment: "It's just a great challenge for me to try to help my team win by playing good defense on him," the second-year Spurs forward said, via NBA.com. "I just accept the challenge and am ready to play."
Leonard, at 6'7" and 225 pounds, is a bit thicker and stronger than the last man who attempted to stop James. He's also an excellent rebounder and knows how to get into passing lanes. His efforts in the playoffs have resulted in eight rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest.
If he can somehow find a way to keep James from scoring 20-plus points, the Spurs will walk away with a one-game advantage after Thursday night's contest.
Tony Parker vs. Mario Chalmers/Dwayne Wade
Parker is the catalyst for San Antonio's offense.
He's had a brilliant postseason run thus far, scoring 23 points, dishing out 7.2 assists, hauling in 3.9 rebounds and logging 1.2 steals per game.
Parker was able to absolutely shred the Memphis Grizzlies—the top-ranked defense in the NBA during the regular season—in the Western Conference Finals.
The biggest key to Parker's game is his incredible quickness. San Antonio features a heavy dose of pick-and-rolls with Parker and the team's big men, and more often than not Parker finds a way to either score by himself or find wide-open teammates on the perimeter for three-point opportunities.
Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel believes that the Heat will lose quickly if they can't stop Parker's penetration:
And I still stand by that. If the Heat can't stop Tony Parker's penetration the series will be a wrap quickly.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) June 4, 2013
Wade, with his gimpy knee, isn't quick enough right now to guard Parker, and neither is Mario Chalmers. Perhaps the only player on Miami's roster capable of shutting down Parker is James, but Leonard and Manu Ginobili are both capable scorers, as well.
If Parker is allowed to get into the paint at will, then Miami will lose Game 1. If the Heat figure out a way to lock the point guard up, then Miami has an excellent chance of winning.
Chris Bosh vs. Tim Duncan/Tiago Splitter
Bosh had an abysmal series against the Pacers.
He was completely out of his comfort zone going up against Roy Hibbert, who is one of the best rim defenders in the NBA. Bosh was only able to manage 11 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and he was honestly a liability on both ends of the court at times against Indiana.
Thankfully, for his sake, Duncan and Splitter aren't nearly as athletic and dynamic around the rim as HIbbert, which should give Bosh a big boost of confidence.
Should Bosh get back to playing like he did during the regular season when he was averaging 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, he'll spark a big win at home for the Heat. Should he continue struggling, San Antonio will likely win.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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