Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Tiago Splitter, a man of mystery.
It is unpredictable as to which Tiago Splitter will show up before the tip off of any game. The Brazilian who completely flamed out in the NBA Finals last year has a chance to redeem himself in this repeat match up.
Lets take a look at the big man’s stats from the Finals last year.
15.4 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.4 BPG
Only grabbing two rebounds per game as the starting center is quite inexcusable, but the Spurs did have Kawhi Leonard snatching away any ball up in the air. This was one of the reasons Splitter was moved to the bench during the series.
Tiago Splitter on if this series is “personal:” “All we want is to wash away what happened and take that off of our minds.”
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 5, 2014
Which Splitter can the Spurs expect in the Finals? Splitter got off to a hot start in the first round of the playoffs. Grabbing multiple double-double’s and reaching a streak of four double digit scoring games in a row – which is rare for the big man – he looked like he was well worth San Antonio’s investment the previous summer. As the playoffs went on though, the front courts got harder defensively (sans Game 1 and 2 of the WCF without Ibaka) and it concluded with Splitters minutes and stats taking a dip.
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Splitter’s production will depend heavily on how the lineups fare in the Finals. The Heat can play small ball, which could make Splitter a non-factor defensively when it comes to the lack of post play. His defense will have to be based on how well he can protect the rim especially with LeBron James driving in. Splitter may have some Udonis Haslem and Chris Anderson duties in the paint though, and he has proved to be more than capable of defending big men like them.
The advantage of Splitter against the small ball, if he does see court time in that setting, would be his ability to work well in the post with Duncan. Those two make superb passes with one another, and if Splitter is feeling ambitions then he could try and take advantage of any smaller defenders.
Tiago Splitter is such an awesome name for a human
— Down to Dunk Podcast (@dtdpodcast) June 1, 2014
With Chris Bosh prancing around the three point line more often than usual these playoffs, it will definitely stretch out the floor. This will most likely result with Boris Diaw consuming most of the minutes, and with how he has been playing lately he is definitely a vital part of any success the Spurs hope to achieve.
Most likely, we will see Duncan and Splitter share duties at the 5-spot, with maybe some rare cameos from lineups featuring both of them.
While I wouldn’t expect Splitter to have an outstanding finals, especially with the recent hot play by Diaw, I think it’s fair to expect a much better series compared to last year’s series. Whether he is starting or coming off the bench, strong play from Splitter could make the game much easier for the Spurs. He can give Diaw and Duncan much needed rest if they start to get tired. Whatever the situation is, he needs to come out with aggression and be ready to move the ball around.
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***All stats taken from NBA.com