The Spurs and Heat are ready to rumble, and to my mind it’s Nellieball III, the third straight all-Nellieball Finals we’ve been privileged to witness. Some may disagree, pointing to the Spurs conventional starting lineup of Splitter and Duncan. But I think the Spurs will spend the greater part of every game playing a Nellieball lineup with a stretch-four alongside one conventional big man. There are 6 three-point shooting fours in this series: Bonner, Diaw and Leonard for the Spurs; Lebron, Bosh and Battier for the Heat. And two of those players have seen major minutes at stretch-five: Diaw and Bosh.
So there will be stretching.
There will be cross-matching and positionless play.
There will be fast-breaks, and early offense threes.
There will be small ball. Lots of small ball. Both the Spurs and the Heat are going to put their best, most talented players on the floor, regardless of position.
In other words, Joe Lacob won’t know what the hell is going on.
The Heat are a mere 2-1 favorite. Injuries might have a lot to do with that. Wade is playing on one leg, and Bosh is dinged up. The Spurs are well rested, and the Heat are not.
I’m rooting for Popovich and the Spurs, but give the edge to the Heat (assuming Wade and Bosh make it through the series). I don’t think the Heat will have the same problems rebounding against the Spurs that they had against the Pacers — the older Spurs have largely conceded the offensive glass in favor of getting back on defense. Which means the Heat will have an easier time getting into the open court, where they obviously excel.
And I think the Heat have the tools to make life really hard for Tony Parker. They run the most effective blitz in the league, and should be able to force Parker further away from the basket than he likes, taking away his layups and short midrange jumpers. And the Heat have a secret weapon in reserve for Parker: Lebron James. If this series goes to the wire, I believe Spoelstra will find this obvious answer to stifle the Parker pick and roll. We’ve seen how devastating length in the form of Thabo Sefolosha and even Klay Thompson can be to Parker’s pick and roll. Lebron James can take that to another dimension, as we saw him do against Derrick Rose at the end of that great Heat-Bulls conference championship series. He ate Rose alive.
Unless Manu Ginobili miraculously finds the fountain of youth in this series, the Spurs offense is completely reliant on Parker. No one else can create for them. And that’s their Achilles heel.
Scott Brooks realized this, and swept the Spurs out of the playoffs. Mark Jackson realized this, and gave the Spurs a scare. Lionel Hollins failed to realize this, and allowed Parker free rein to run rampant over the third best defense in the league.
Tony Parker’s facing the best defense in the league now (sorry, statphreaks, it ain’t Indiana). And I think Spoelstra will get it. Either he or Pat Riley.