Heat vs. Spurs: Keys to Victory for Each Team in Game 7

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Heat vs. Spurs: Keys to Victory for Each Team in Game 7
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The struggle has been intense, but only one team can come away with a championship after Game 7.

A Game 7 is the most exciting, drama-filled event possible in all of sports.

This particular Game 7 is especially intriguing: a battle between the experienced, wily, seemingly ageless Spurs, and the star-laden, high-powered, unrelenting Heat.

The teams have traded games three times now, and after tonight's Game 7, one of them will have fallen off the seesaw. 

The other will be hoisting the O'Brien Trophy.

Here are key things which each team can do to make sure that they are the ones on the podium with David Stern after the dust settles:

 

Spurs' Keys to Victory:

1) Don't give the Heat defense time to set up.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Taking advantage of transition opportunities will afoord Tony Parker and Co. more high-percentage shots such as this.

As we saw in Game 5, the Spurs are at their best when pushing the ball upcourt. This prevents the Heat from settling into their stifling, half-court defensive trap. The Spurs are at their best when Miami is unable to set its feet, and they are able to move the ball around quickly. 

Getting points and opportunities out of transition is also the only way that Tony Parker will be able to get into open space, as LeBron James has taken Parker on as his defensive assignment. 

That's unlikely to change in Game 7, especially since Danny Green finally fell back to Earth on Tuesday night, hitting just one of his seven three-point attempts.

San Antonio will try to get Parker chances to make plays through pick-and-rolls and screens, but Miami's defense will be ready for those. Getting into transition gets the ball into the hands of Parker and Manu Ginobili, while providing Green chances for the spot-up threes that he has taken advantage of in this series, for the most part.

 

2) Tim Duncan needs to be a starter and a closer, and must fill the scorer's sheet.

It seems slightly ridiculous that Duncan is taking heat for his Game 6 performance, since he scored 30 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in the loss. The fact remains, however, that Duncan was outplayed by Chris Bosh in the second half, and failed to score a point after the third quarter. 

When the Spurs most needed him—as their double-digit lead began to dwindle away in the final period of regulation and their chances lessened in overtime—Duncan was not able to get open.

When he did get the ball, however, he just couldn't finish. Even Duncan couldn't explain the sudden dip, simply saying after the game (in his post-game interview broadcast on NBA TV), "I don't know what happened in the fourth quarter and overtime...I did have some opportunities, and just missed shots, or whatever you want to call it."

Duncan also needs to be in the game due to his rebounding prowess. The last two possessions of regulation—which saw Bosh get two critical offensive rebounds to keep both possessions alive, ultimately netting the Heat six points—clearly demonstrates this fact.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
LeBron James will look to replicate his triple-double performance from Game 6 (32 pts, 11 ast, 10 reb).

What I'll choose to call it is: a disappearing act from one of the seven best players to ever step onto a basketball court. The Spurs need Duncan to play like the Hall of Famer that he is for all 40 minutes he's on the court in this game.

The Spurs need to start by getting him easy points in the paint down low, and continue feeding him late to open up the perimeter for shooters like Green, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal. 

The Spurs succeed through their ball movement and creating open shots. That's what needs to happen in Game 7. Efficiency is the key, and it starts with getting Duncan established down low early and often

Heat Keys to Victory

1) LeBron needs to come out of the gate as a Jordan replica, not a Magic wannabe.

The comparison of LeBron to superstars of the past is something which has been alluded to before. While ESPN's Bill Simmons has likened James to an evolved Julius Erving in the past, TNT's Charles Barkley compared the MVP on-air to Magic Johnson.

The latter makes a lot of sense given the progress James has made in the past two seasons. The clutch gene is there after a career-defining championship ring, and also he, like Magic, can play any position on the floor; he is constantly looking to get other teammates going before he looks to take over in terms of scoring.

Normally, this is the classic recipe for success. The Spurs, however, have made it clear that LeBron is their target, and if someone else is the one to beat them, so be it.

LeBron hasn't gotten off to a dominant start in any game in this series because of his desire to feed his teammates, but tonight, while the Heat still have momentum from their remarkable Game 6 comeback, James must force the issue by taking over from the get-go, and unleashing the Jordan-esque, ice-blooded killer aspect of his DNA.

James needs to take shots early, get to the basket and to the free throw line (he's currently shooting just 6.6 free throws per game, the second lowest playoff total in his career), and not give the Spurs a chance to get in the game.

2) Bosh needs to continue his resurgence, and he needs to get the better of Tim Duncan.

No one is sure yet what Miami will get from the nowhere-near-healthy Dwyane Wade, so Bosh serves as the x-factor tonight. Bosh's critical offensive rebounds, which preceded both of the Heat's last two three-pointers in regulation, kept Miami on life support, and the small ball center also held Duncan to only five points after halftime, forcing San Antonio to have to find its points elsewhere.

The Spurs will look to pound the ball early and often down low to Duncan, and will attack the basket in the hopes of opening up their perimeter offense. Bosh needs to come out with the same intensity and fire that he had in the second half of Game 6. If Bosh continues to shut Duncan down, Tony Parker will be forced to shoulder the lion's share of the offensive load himself.

"Chris made a heck on an effort to get us that second possession," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Bosh's late-game heroics in his postgame interview on NBA TV. That's something Bosh will be looking to do repeatedly while matching up against the Spurs' best rebounders—especially Duncan, one of the best rebounders of all time.

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