For a transient moment during the playoffs, it seemed like the San Antonio Spurs would battle with the eventual champion Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
San Antonio held a 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder and, at the time, didn’t appear in a position to cede control to the younger Thunder.
Had the Spurs and Heat sparred in the championship, some believe LeBron James would still be searching for his cathartic first title this season.
We can only speculate but the Spurs’ offense seemed like a tougher matchup for the aggressive Heat defense. Oklahoma City’s isolation heavy offense didn’t force multiple rotations even though, in theory, the defense was vulnerable to multiple passes. Overcompensating, hedging and trapping pick-and-rolls weren’t as detrimental with the Thunder offense revolving around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Judging tonight’s game — with both offenses scoring bunches of points and distributing the ball well as Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News pointed out — won’t be fair but it could give us a decent look into what could have been or, if both advance far enough, what might be.
Miami is currently leading the Eastern Conference at 10-3, registering a four-game winning streak beginning on Nov. 15. Much like San Antonio is poised to do, coach Erik Spoelstra’s team used an early six-game road trip to propel them through the rest of the season.
Implementing a smaller starting lineup, seen as a potential game changer on both offense and defense, hasn’t been conducive to defensive success. It has, however, made scoring points — which used to be a question mark — remarkably easier. The Heat churn 113.0 points per 100 possessions when you adjust for schedule and are first in both field goal percentage (.494) and 3-point percentage (.432).
In some ways, this year’s team may be more deadly. LeBron James and Ray Allen are
making 3-pointers at career-high rates, Chris Bosh is relishing in his role as center and Dwyane Wade, despite a foot injury, is still the scoring weapon he has been since his rookie season.
Figuring out a defensive balance, currently the team is allowing an adjusted 106.7 points per 100 possessions, is the only reason why the Heat aren’t completely unbeatable.
The Spurs — who very well could be without extended minutes from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker if coach Gregg Popovich so chooses — will see just how far away the Heat are from perfecting their craft.
Where to watch: The game will be televised nationally on TNT. It will also air on stations 1200 WOAI and 1350 KCOR in Spanish.
Injury report: Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) and Stephen Jackson (fractured finger) are out.
Shane Battier (knee) is doubtful. Dexter Pittman (hamstring) and Rashard Lewis (flu) are questionable.