|Free Agency 2014|
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- LeBron attack. If there is one criticism of James it is that he is at times too unselfish. He puts so much pressure on defenses when he attacks the basket because defenders aren’t quick enough or strong enough to consistently stay with him. James dictates everything and his ability goes beyond just scoring or even dishing to teammates. He has the ability to get a number of players in foul trouble as teams have to account for his every move. His worth is displayed in many statistical areas, none more than minutes played, 41.2 in the postseason. James is averaging 26.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists, showing his all-around skills. He is attempting 8.5 free throws per game and needs to average at least this many in the Finals.
- Wade, Bosh play like All-Stars. No question, Dwayne Wade has been bothered by his knee injury and hasn’t been anywhere close to the explosive player we’re used to seeing. And Chris Bosh has been wildly inconsistent. Wade did score 21 points in the Game 7 win over Indiana, only his second postseason game of 20 or more points. Bosh gained notice with a 20-point, 19-rebound effort in Game 4 against Chicago. Yet against Indiana, he scored just 28 points over the final four games of the series. That just won’t cut it. In fact, he will need to be hitting from the perimeter to draw the San Antonio defense out. When healthy, Wade is still one of the better defenders, but he was constantly beaten against Indiana and a return to defensive form will be needed. If healthy, he is the type of player who will be asked to defend Tony Parker in key moments of a game.
- Feed Haslem more. Udonis Haslem has been almost a reluctant shooter, but an accurate one. He hasn’t attempted more than nine shots in any of his first 16 playoff games, but has shown outstanding accuracy. Twice in wins over Indiana, he shot 8 for 9 from the field. When Haslem is hitting that corner jumper it opens things up for Miami and more importantly, forces the opponent to respect his offensive game. He is averaging just 6.3 points in the postseason, but shooting 61 percent from the field.
- The return of the real Ray Allen. During the playoffs Allen is shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. In the Game 7 win over Indiana, he shot 3 for 5 from beyond the arc, but in the previous nine games he was 9 for 34. Allen not only needs to look for his shot more, but has to make more. He has looked hesitant in the playoffs and nobody is more capable of getting on a roll. Yet he has looked his age (37) during the postseason instead of like the person who is the NBA’s all-time leader in three point field goals.
- Cole keep it up. As stated before the conference final, who thought Norris Cole would have such a prominent role? Cole isn’t shooting much, but making the most of his chances. In the last four games of the Indiana series, he shot 11 for 17 from the field. He is averaging 21 minutes per game in the postseason and has been a vital performer off the bench. His energy and production will now be expected by the Heat in the Finals.
FOR SAN ANTONIO:
- Defending LeBron. There is nothing as important since LeBron James can single-handily take over a game. That is why so much attention will be paid to the defense of Kawhi Leonard. The second-year forward has proven his value to San Antonio by leading the Spurs in minutes played (37.1 per game) during the playoffs. At 6-7 and 225 pounds he will be undersized against James, but Leonard should be able to make him work for his shot. James sat out the second game between the two teams on March 31. Leonard has also become an underrated scorer and is averaging 13 ppg game in the playoffs. His scoring may suffer because guarding James takes an inordinate amount of energy. Couple that with the fact that James seems to be using his post-up game even more and Leonard is in for quite a challenge. In 14 playoff games, Leonard is averaging just 1.4 personal fouls per contest. Look for that figure to at least double.
- Weakside defense. If James continues to post up, then Tim Duncan will be a major factor as well in helping to contain the four-time MVP. Duncan is one of the best off-the-ball-defenders and with James likely posting up more, Duncan will have to slide from the weak side to defend.The entire series is about attempting to contain James. Miami has shown it can win when its other to players aren’t at their best. It can’t when James is having an off night.
- Parker pressure. Few guards in the NBA put as much pressure on opposing defenses as Tony Parker. He has a real quick first step and can get to the basket at will. He will have to do that and draw fouls, but more importantly attract defenders and then dish out to open teammates. Parker is averaging 5.6 free throw attempts during the playoffs. In the Finals he will likely have to increase that total. What has made Parker more dangerous is that he has become a competent mid-range and three-point shooter.
- Feed Duncan. At 36, Tim Duncan can’t play the heavy minutes, but he is highly productive and still able to dominate on both ends of the court. During the playoffs he is averaging 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in under 35 minutes per night. And with Miami not particularly strong defending the interior, Duncan should work inside even more than he usually does. He is a matchup problem either posting up or going away from the basket where he is a dependable medium range shooter.
- Increased Splitter production. Tiago Splitter has averaged just 6.8 points in the playoffs and as the total suggests he isn’t a main option in the offense. Against Miami, a team that doesn’t match up well inside with San Antonio, Splitter could have more opportunities. He must be able to look to score more.
- More consistency from Ginobili. When he is healthy, Manu Ginobili is a major difference-maker, somebody who can supply a major spark off the bench. The only problem is that Giobili has not been consistent during the postseason. In addition, he’s not looking for his shot as much. In his last six playoff games he has taken nine shots twice and six shots four times. Of course during that span he has also averaged 5.6 assists, so Ginobili is helping the Spurs as a distributor. Yet in the Finals, he will need to score more and that means shoot better. During the postseason he is shooting just 38.3 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. He is capable of being better in both areas.
- Shake off the rust. While the Spurs have an older team and can use all the rest possible, could there be too much down time for San Antonio? The Spurs swept Memphis, 93-86 on May 27. That is a long time to be off before the Finals. San Antonio can’t afford to use Game 1 to get back into rhythm.
|PROJECTION: HEAT IN SIX.|