5. Tony Parker’s effectiveness
Tony Parker needs to be the best player in a Spurs jersey this series.
With Parker struggling due to a hamstring and ankle injury, Parker was noticeably just a shell of himself versus the Thunder. In last season’s Finals, Parker also wasn’t 100% healthy as he was playing through a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
Due to his injury and the Heat’s defensive strategy of doubling every pick-and-roll to force the ball out of Parker’s hands, Parker was uncharacteristically inefficient for a majority of the Finals. Injury or not, Parker has to be the man for San Antonio this time around. This doesn’t mean that he has to put up 25+ points every game and score at will, but he does need to be the maestro (cue funny and nostalgic Seinfeld memories) leading a Spurs offense that has been compared to listening to Mozart’s music.
The Spurs offense, much like the Heat’s offense with LeBron and Wade, is at its best when Parker is getting in the paint and either scoring or kicking it out to open shooters. Since the Heat don’t have a shot-blocking presence anywhere close to the imposing Serge Ibaka (sorry Birdman), Parker should be able to do his thing and get to the rim.
If he’s playing gimpy, then the Spurs are going to be in a lot of trouble. They may have been able to get away with Parker not playing in the second half against the Thunder in Game 6, but there’s no way they’re winning the series if Parker can’t play.
If Parker does play and the Heat opt to double him every pick-and-roll and make force the ball out of his hands, I think San Antonio is better equipped this year at exploiting the Heat defense than they were last year, especially if Boris is in the lineup. If Boris or Timmy are the ones receiving Tony’s passes, then the Spurs should be in good hands with their decision-making.
However, these four on three opportunities won’t be available if Parker isn’t a threat offensively. For the Spurs to beat the Heat four times, they need their MVP to play up to his arguable title as the best point guard in the NBA.