Tag Archives: Gregg Popovich

Prediction and Preview of the NBA Finals: Heat vs Spurs

By: Jon

After nearly a month of playoff action, the finals are set and most NBA fans would say that this is the matchup they would most like to see. Last season, the Heat and Spurs played one of the greatest finals of all-time. This year’s finals should be as compelling because the storylines are even more enticing and many believe that the teams are evenly matched.

 

Why the Miami Heat will win?

They have the best player in the world and the two best players in the series. If the Heat are going to win this series, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade must play well and continue their great postseason. Although the fatigue of playing in the last three finals and the Olympics has visibly diminished LeBron’s energy, he is averaging 27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 56% from the field. During the postseason, LeBron has differentiated the games where he must go all out and defeat his opponent verses the games when he can relax and allow his teammates to shoulder the load. During the games that LeBron has tried his hardest, the Heat have won every game and most of them have not even been close.

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The major difference between last year’s Heat team and this year’s team is the consistent performances from Dwyane Wade. Last year, Wade looked like a shell of his former self throughout the playoffs and it seemed like we would never see the same aggressive Wade again. However, this year, Wade’s knees have stayed healthy and he is averaging 3 more points per game and shooting 6% higher from the field, including 15% higher from three. The two have shown throughout the postseason that they have the capability to take over tight games and win.

Besides LeBron and Wade, another key for the Heat will be their ability to hit threes. James and Wade are two of the best slashers and passers in the history of basketball, which leaves shooters, like Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Mario Chalmers, and James Jones, wide open for three. If they can shoot a high percentage from three, they will force the Spurs to play “small ball”, which will play into the advantage of the Heat. This postseason, the Heat have shot 40% for three and they must continue to shoot a high percentage in order to win.

 

Why the San Antonio Spurs will win?

They want to avenge their loss to the Heat in last year’s final and they have a better overall team than the Heat. Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been the most consistent team in the league because of their Hall of Fame head coach, top ten all time player, and the willingness to pass and play like a team. Although the Spurs have a “Big Three” of their own, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, they are really the “Big Seven” because seven of their players play more than 24 minutes per game, but none over 32 minutes per game.

The biggest advantage for the Spurs is their bench, ability to pass the ball, and size. During the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the difference between the two teams was the performances from the bench players. If the Spurs are going to win this series, the bench must play a huge role. Although they do not need Boris Diaw to score 26 points or Ginobili to average over 20 for the series, the bench must shoot threes at a high percentage and take advantage when LeBron or Wade is on the bench.

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Although Tony Parker is the only Spur who can consistently break down opposing defenses, the schemes that Pop devises and player’s ability to see open cutters or men near the basket allows them to convert easy buckets. Unlike the Heat’s big men, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Tim Duncan are capable passers. Although the big men need to look for open shooters, they must dominate the Heat down low if they are going to win the series. The Heat like to play small lineups with Bosh at the five with LeBron, Wade, Lewis, and Cole. When the Heat put these five on the field, Duncan and/or the other big man must take advantage of their matchup with Chris Bosh. Although Bosh is a capable rim defender, Duncan and Splitter have significant advantages in terms of weight and size.

The duo will need to score efficiently and punish the Heat on the glass or the Heat will hit too many threes. Similar to the Heat, the Spurs bench and role players must knock down threes and spread the floor. Last year, the emergence of Danny Green and Gary Neal almost led the Spurs to a title. This year, Green, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, and Marco Belinelli must step up and hit threes, so Duncan and Parker have room to operate in the paint.

 

Miami Heat’s X-Factor: Chris Bosh

Each year that Bosh has been with the Heat his scoring and rebounding numbers have slowly dropped. Throughout his time in Miami, Bosh has slowly transformed from a dominant big man in the paint to a more finesse player that shoots threes. When Bosh has played aggressive and well, the Heat have been nearly unbeatable. If Bosh can shoot the three at a high percentage, he will pull the big men away from the basket and allow James and Wade to drive in the lane. During the last three games, Bosh has averaged over 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. During the three games, the Heat won two and almost beat the Pacers when LeBron scored only 7 points. Bosh will want to avenge his game 7 performance from last season when he did not score and grabbed only 7 rebounds. If Bosh has a big series and the Heat win the series, LeBron will have more confidence to stay with Bosh and the Heat this offseason.

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San Antonio Spurs’ X-Factor: Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili’s performance during last season’s final is the reason why the San Antonio Spurs did not claim their fifth ring. Last year, Manu averaged 11.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds while shooting only 43% from the field. During the series, Ginobili scored in the single digits 4 times, looked lost for most of series, and averaged nearly 3 turnovers per game, including 8 in Game 6. Ginobili has played better this postseason, averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 50% from the field during the series against the Thunder. If Parker is not at 100%, Ginobili will be called upon to be a facilitator and generate offense for the Spurs. Like many of the Spurs, Ginobili has the ability to shoot and pass at a high level. Manu is an incredible competitor and will be determined to avenge his horrid performance. Manu is the heart of the team and needs to have a big series in order to claim another title.

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Prediction: Heat in 7

Similar to last year’s series, the series should go to seven because they are evenly matched. However, I do not see LeBron losing a chance to win his third straight championship in a game seven. Although the Spurs will be determined to enact revenge for their loss, D-Wade and LeBron have the same intensity and tenacity to achieve greatness. While Wade wants to continue adding rings in hope of passing Kobe on the all-time list, LeBron cannot waste chances like this if he wants to reach seven rings and pass Michael as the best player of all-time.

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Like Wade and LeBron, Duncan hopes to add to his ring collection in order ascend on the all-time rankings list. Although Duncan is already the best power forward to play the game, another ring will enhance his claim as one of the best big men of all time as he would pass Shaq with 5 rings. Along with Duncan, Pop heightens his argument as one of the top five coaches of all time.

 

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

Western Conference Southwest Division Preview

By: Evan

The Southwest division will be one of the most intriguing divisions in the NBA with the potential for three different teams to win the division. The San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies all have talented teams that made significant runs in the playoffs last season and will look to make even deeper runs this season. The most significant change for the Rockets is the addition of Dwight Howard, who signed a four year $88 million dollar deal with the potential opt-out after year two. With a core of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets are looking to win a title.  But they need to best the Spurs and Grizzlies, two experienced teams with elite players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.  It should be an exciting season, now let’s look at some predictions. *Denotes playoff team

1.) *Houston Rockets

The Rockets have a formidable starting lineup, one that can shoot and score inside.                    Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Dwight Howard is a tremendous addition to an already talented Rockets starting lineup, providing a low post presence that will take some pressure off of James Harden and Chandler Parsons on the perimeter. The main issue for the Rockets will be establishing a pace as last year they averaged 106 points per game, good for second in the league, but D12 likes to body his defender in the post and slow the game down. If Kevin McHale can set the tone and find a balance, the Rockets will be tough to beat.  Another key will be Jeremy Lin’s growth from last season as the media world focused on him and his play regressed from his days in New York. If he can eliminate some turnovers and improve his 34% 3-PT shooting, the Rockets will have a scoring threat from almost every position. As Jon mentioned before, James Harden has seized the opportunity to lead a franchise as he posted a ridiculous stat line of 26 ppg 5.8 rpg and 4.9 apg, all career highs. Look for him to better his assist numbers as well as efficiency since Dwight Howard will draw some double-teams in the post. This team is dangerous and when they make the playoffs, they have a shot at knocking off the Heat.

2.) *San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich were one rebound away from a fifth NBA championship.                                                                                                               Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

The only reason why the Spurs are not the top team in this division is their age.  Popovich likes to rest his older players during meaningless regular season games, which lowers their seeding.  After the disappointment of losing in the Finals last year, it will be tough for the Spurs to get back as so many other teams improved.  Last year might have been the last chance for this current Spurs’ core to win a championship, but that has been said for a few years now, and the Spurs have continued to excel.  This year the plan will be similar for Pop — give Kawhi Leonard more of Tim’s minutes and hope Tony and Manu stay healthy.   It will be interesting to see the growth of Kawhi Leonard, a player who was considered a role player, now being called on to take the reigns from one of the greatest big men of all-time, TIm Duncan.  Kawhi has emerged as a tremendous two way player with terrific athleticism, defensive intensity and an underrated 3-PT shot. The other player to watch is Tony Parker, who made a solid case for MVP last season, putting up 20.3 ppg 7.8 apg and shooting an insane 52% from the field. If he can replicate his play then Houston and San Antonio could switch spots come May. For Spurs’ fans, its all about the playoffs.  If the Spurs stay healthy, they might have another run left in them.

3.) *Memphis Grizzlies

Can Gasol and Z-Bo lead the Grizz to a title?                                                               Courtesy of Grantland.com

The Grizzlies are another interesting team that had a shot at the NBA finals last year when the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook was injured.  The Grizzlies needed an elite 3PT shooter last year so they added Mike Miller, a stud shooter who is prone to injury and is also a liability defensively. I don’t think he is enough to make the Grizzlies true contenders to represent the West in the Finals.  But now let’s look at the positives, they have Z-Bo and Gasol, two elite post players who compliment each other’s game very well as both are good passers and can make a 15 foot jumpshot. They also have Tony Allen, probably the best perimeter defender in all of basketball, but he can’t score, making him a non-entity on the offensive side of the ball.  The other player worth noting is Mike Conley Jr, a solid point guard who played well last season, but was eventually overwhelmed by the elite point guard play of Tony Parker in the Western Conference Finals. This Memphis team might need to make a mid-season trade for a perimeter scorer if they have any hopes of making a long run in the West. The Grizzlies are good but not good enough to be a top four seed.

4.) *New Orleans Pelicans

This core of Pelicans should give the Big Easy something to be excited about.                                                                          Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

The newly named Pelicans are young, and a sleeper team.  The team has a terrific young core with Jrue Holiday 23, Eric Gordon 24, Tyreke Evans 24, Ryan Anderson 25 and Anthony Davis 20.  New Orleans’ biggest move was trading away next year’s first round pick to Philly for Jrue Holiday, a surprising move for some as the first round pick in 2014 could be a star, but New Orleans opted for a proven All-Star in Jrue Holiday. NOLA also signed Tyreke Evans, who was in a dreadful situation in Sacramento and although he has regressed since his standout rookie season, with more shooters and playmakers, he should be able to find more ways to score. The key will be Eric Gordon, an oft injured shooting guard who has past history of being a 20 point scorer and could improve the Pelicans’ playoff hopes if he stays healthy. The other integral member of this squad is last year’s #1 overall pick Anthony Davis, who was the most efficient rookie last year with a PER of 21.86 good for 15th in the entire NBA. He is a menace on the defensive side and his offensive game has clearly improved since his Kentucky season and Davis could be an All-star. The main problem with this team is the lack of girth up front as Davis isn’t your ideal big man with size and strength.   Davis is more finesse and quickness than power.  If  NOLA  trades one of their shooters like Ryan Anderson for a defensive big man, the Pelicans would have a solid team at all positions. The Pelicans should improve greatly from last season, and develop nicely as these young, talented players mesh well.

5.) Dallas Mavericks

Should the Mavs trade Dirk? Courtesy of ESPN

The Dallas Mavericks have gone from NBA champions in 2011 to the edge of irrelevance in 2013-2014. Most of this is due to the missed opportunities in free agency including the Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Now the Mavericks have constructed a team with Dirk at the helm and Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis as secondary players, a team that will be lackluster defensively to say the least. Mark Cuban won’t settle for medicority and that is why I posed the question, should the Mavs trade Dirk? The team publicly has said they want Dirk to retire a Maverick but if a borderline-championship team offers valuable picks for an aging veteran, the Mavs would be unwise to pass on the opportunity.    Dallas is not a serious contender, and they are in a rebuilding mode whether they know or accept the fact.   If this is Dirk’s last season as a Maverick, he will probably land with a contender by Christmas, and Dallas will look to get some new talent in the stacked 2014 draft.

Stats from ESPN