Heat vs Spurs: 2013 NBA Finals Preview

2013 NBA FinalsPeter Holt and I talked about getting together in the Finals in 2000,” Miami Heat managing general partner Mickey Arison said during Monday night’s Eastern Conference Championship trophy presentation. “It took fourteen years, but we’re looking forward to welcoming San Antonio to Miami.”

While this specific match-up might not be fourteen years in the making, the sentiment still carries weight. This was the match-up many people expected to see last season, before Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder crashed the party. This match-up features two organizations that took divergent paths to the same destination, Miami building its core largely through free agency while San Antonio opted to develop a core through the draft.

“We think it’s fitting to face them,” Heat head coach Erik Spolestra said of facing the Spurs in the Finals.

Spolestra harped on the “similar fabric” woven into the tapestry of the two clubs, and referenced the “mutual respect and consistency of culture”. He went on to say the team “wanted to face the Spurs” in 2007, but their championship defense fell considerably short.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” league MVP LeBron James said of his opportunity to exercise the demons of those 2007 Finals with this 2013 series.

And these 2013 NBA Finals present an intriguingly similar set of approaches to the game. The teams’ playoff statistics are near mirror images, as they are within one percentage point of each other in Field Goal percentage (MIA 47.2%; SA 46.9%), Three Point percentage (MIA 35.6%; SA 36.2%) and Opponent Field Goal percentage (MIA 42.9%; SA 42%). The teams are also within one point in Offensive Rebounds per game (MIA 9.6; SA 9.3), Plus/Minus (MIA 9.6; SA 10.1), and Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (MIA 1.5; SA 1.96).

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The Miami Heat Advance to NBA Finals

Heat vs PacersFor the second year in a row, the Miami Heat found themselves playing a pivotal Game 7 on their home floor. While most people picked Miami to defeat Indiana in the series, after Indiana’s dominance in Game 6 and their general dominance inside throughout the series, the outcome was very much in doubt. Well, that is, until the second quarter started. LeBron James led the Miami Heat with 32 points, and helped spur a 33-16 2nd quarter run that allowed the Heat to seize control of the game. The defensive pressure and aggressive offensive attack overwhelmed Indiana, and Miami earned its third straight Eastern Conference Championship with a 99-76 win.

Coming into the game, much was being made of Dwyane Wade’s performance, or lack thereof. Wade produced very little over the last three games, shooting just 11-of-34 from the field, but in Game 7 he embraced the challenge. Wade’s aggression led to 21 points and nine rebounds, and helped balance the Miami attack.

“I’m just glad we was able to do it,” Dwyane Wade said. “It was about tonight. It was about finding a way to win at home.”

Both teams started the game sloppily. Miami missed several open looks and Indiana threw the ball all over the gym. The Heat hit only 29% of their shots in the first quarter, and Indiana used their size and hustle to open up a 12-6 lead early. After a Miami timeout, though, it was all Heat. Miami forced nine Indiana turnovers in the period and closed the gap to 21-19 after one.

It was during the second quarter that the game turned. Miami’s defensive pressure on Roy Hibbert prevented the dominant big-man from establishing position down low. The Heat’s constant double teams of Hibbert forced the ball from his hands, and his lack of patience resulted in several turnovers.

LeBron James scored 12 points in the second quarter, and Chris Bosh was able to shrug off a slow start to hit a pair of jumpers. Perhaps the most welcomed sight for Heat fans was the long-distance outburst by Ray Allen. After struggling with his jumper throughout the series, Ray Allen buried three three-pointers in the period. All this, coupled with Miami’s swarming defensive activity, helped them build an insurmountable 52-37 halftime lead. Miami forced 15 Indiana turnovers, and took 15 more shot attempts through the first half. Indiana couldn’t create extra possessions on the glass, and were outscored in the paint 20-10. The Heat’s Big-3 finally lived up to the billing, as the trio scored 35 of the team’s 52 first half points.

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