The Spurs nine days off have finally come to an end, as we’re just hours away from tip-off of the 2013 NBA Finals versus the Miami Heat.
And instead of giving you the generic analysis and predictions, we decided to take a different route, thanks to a little help. Occasional blogger, Co-Founder of our old blog “Truth to the Light”, avid Heat fan and close personal friend, Aaron Baker (Twitter: @abake6), aka the Jay Electronica of blogging, joins me today.
John Diaz: Let’s start off in a fun way. Back in high school you used to write about sports for our school paper. You’ve been watching and covering LeBron for so long, and dealt with your fair share of Spurs fans. Honestly, how excited are you at the thought of revenge after 2007?
Aaron Baker: I’m ecstatic about the Heat being in the Finals more than anything, but I’d be lying if I downplayed the “revenge” subplot. The fact that LeBron has the opportunity to check off another box on his mental “to-do list” is awesome. I would assume this is near the top of that list.
JD: It’s incredible how just a couple days ago we were having to deal with talks of “breaking up the big 3″ again, as if Miami wasn’t the defending champions. Now that the Pacers series is over, the Heat are overwhelming favorites against San Antonio. Is it wrong of me to think the Spurs can pull this off a la the 2011 Dallas Mavericks?
AB: For the Heat, it’s been the same story since July 8, 2010. There is no margin for error. Failure to live up to expectations, however unfair they may be, will always cause overreaction. The fact of the matter is that there are no shortcuts to winning a title, and that holds true in this series. The Spurs boast a core of veterans with championship experience, solid and versatile youth, a deep bench, and a hall of fame coach. They have all the ingredients to beat Miami, but can they put them together for four games?
JD: That’s the biggest challenge. Miami hasn’t lost consecutive games since January, so my confidence in the Spurs winning four out of seven games isn’t great. The Heat were the NBA’s best team defensively versus the pick and roll, which the Spurs rely upon heavily on the offensive end. And we don’t have anything from this season to go off, with the whole “Bench-gate” nonsense. I do think Miami is beatable when they have their lulls offensively, but these guys can turn it on at any time. Just look at every series deciding playoff game in the last two years. Is there anything the Spurs do that concerns you in the slightest?
AB: Their offense. They are seemingly limitless in what they can do. They have an array of intricate sets that are unlike anything the Heat have seen so far this postseason. They have sets with multiple screens where their big men cut in different directions, where one of them (Diaw, Bonner) can step out and shoot threes. Parker is an absolute nightmare in the pick and roll. They have the shooters to match their ball movement, which has been the standard in the NBA for some time.
The thing I do see working in the Heat’s advantage is that the Spurs offense hinges on timing and precision, as opposed to being physical and beating you up inside. The Pacers showed the world that the Heat’s kryptonite is a lack of a solid inside presence, and while Duncan and Splitter are solid, neither are physical terrors like Hibbert and West. All that being said, the Heat are athletic enough and have the defenders to disrupt the Spurs, but they will have to prove it. What do you see as the Spurs primary concern?
JD: Miami has so many similar qualities. I would say their offense isn’t as complex as San Antonio’s, but it’s highly unpredictable. That’s the beauty of LeBron James. He can shoot, post up, drive, pass, rebound. And he has a plethora of guys to turn to, unlike when he was in Cleveland. But what worries me the most is containing the Heat in transition. The lack of size the Heat have is so overstated, no one pays attention to the havoc they cause on defense. The Heat force nearly 17 turnovers a game in the playoffs. And once Miami gets their hands on the ball, they’re so good at getting out in transition and throwing accurate outlet passes, that we see the “Flying Death Machine” come to life.
Now you already covered Bonner and Diaw’s three point range and ability to create for others from beyond the arch. But what other role player, outside of the “Big 3″ are you most worried about the Heat containing?
AB: Kawhi, even though calling him a “role player” seems pretty disrespectful. He’s the most explosive player on the roster, and he’s able to score in a number of ways. His jump shot is improved, he can finish at the rim, and he crashes the offensive glass well. That being said, the biggest reason Kawhi is the X-factor is because of what he does on the other end of the floor. The 6’7″ forward will take the bulk of the minutes guarding LeBron, and the more successful he is, the more pressure mounts on Bosh and Wade. Not only will they have to perform, but the role players and bench will have to contribute.
Is there a player you see as a key to the series, that might be flying under the radar?
JD: You mean besides Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, “Birdman Birdman”, Mike Miller and Shane Battier? No, not really. Ha.
You know I love Norris Cole’s game and what he brings to the table. He’s such a precise passer and a great shooter. The only part of the floor Cole shoots less than 40% from is within 3 to 9 feet, and even though he only averages two assists a game, one of those comes at the rim (Thanks, Flying Death Machine). And his speed on defense should be key to disrupting the passing lanes and help keep Tony Parker in front of him, in case Chalmers proves ineffective.
Now, I can’t let you off without a prediction. As much as I would love Duncan to get his fifth ring and become the second player in NBA history to win a championship in three different decades (Shout out to John Salley), I don’t see it happening. San Antonio has to play near perfect basketball for four games to win this series. And with their age and without homecourt advantage, it’s going to be extremely difficult. So with all that, my prediction is the Miami Heat win in 6 games. How do you see this series playing out?
AB: My gut, brain, and heart are all telling me the same thing – Heat in 6. It’s going to be a great chess match between two head coaches with an array of weapons at their disposal, and the teams are more evenly matched than some would admit. That being said, the Heat have one thing the Spurs don’t: LeBron James. Now I could sit here and gush about him and spew adjectives, but it’s simple – he’s the best player in the world and there is literally nothing you can stop him from doing.
Those 2007 Finals have never seemed like such a distant memory. He’s hungry to further cement his legacy as one of the all time greats, and this is the next step. I can’t bet against that.
JD: Thanks for joining me, Aaron.