Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While the Miami Heat are still involved in the hotly contested Eastern Conference Finals, the Western Conference will send the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA Finals after the Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals.
If Miami can get past the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the matchup with the Spurs should be one that will make basketball fans across the country and around the world very happy. It will be arguably the best team of the past 10-15 years against the all-world Heat.
San Antonio has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success in the NBA over the last 15 years. The Spurs have a system, get players who work perfectly in their system, and if the player doesn’t work, that player is gone pretty quickly.
It’s all been overseen by Coach Gregg Popovich who has led the team to four NBA championships since the 1998-1999 season. Heading into the 2013 NBA Finals, Popovich’s team will be returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 when they beat LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in a sweep.
While San Antonio has been known for its suffocating defense throughout its historic run over the last 15 years; the 2013 version has been dominant on the offensive end while maintaining the defensive intensity.
The Spurs averaged 103 points per game this year, despite point guard Tony Parker missing more than a dozen games. The Spurs scoring ranked them fourth in the league and their offensive rating of 108.3 ranked the team seventh in the NBA.
Defensively, the Spurs allowed 96.6 points per game this year, which was eleventh best in the NBA. The Spurs also sported a defensive rating of 101.6 this season which was third best in the NBA.
In the playoffs, the Spurs have been even better. They quickly disposed of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs with a 4-0 sweep. The Spurs were tested a little more against the Golden State Warriors, but even then the Spurs managed to avoid Game 7 by winning the series 4-2.
Then in the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs were far and away the superior team to the Memphis Grizzlies both athletically and via experience. The Spurs gave themselves plenty of time off before the NBA Finals with the sweep of the Grizzlies.
The Heat and Spurs met twice in the 2013 regular season. The Heat won the first contest after Coach Popovich sent nearly his entire starting lineup home for rest. The Heat won the second game thanks to some late game heroics.
The Spurs also cause a matchup problem for the Heat thanks to San Antonio’s skill at point guard with Tony Parker and the length of its big men in Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
Parker has been playing some of the best basketball in his career in the playoffs averaging 23 points per game on 48 percent shooting and 38 percent shooting from long-range. Parker is also averaging 7.2 assists per game during the playoffs.
Duncan, arguably the best power forward to ever play the game, has been playing like a man half his age. The 36-year-old Duncan routinely beat Grizzlies player up and down the court all while increasing his playoff averages to 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.
Where a team like the Heat might be able to take advantage of the Spurs will be the bench players. Looking at the Spurs’ bench, only Tiago Splitter is averaging more than 5.5 points per game. On the Heat bench, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Chris Andersen, and Ray Allen are all averaging more than 5 points per game.
Still, it’s way too early for Heat fans to be worrying about the Spurs as a very game Indiana Pacers team still has the talent and ability to knock the Heat out of the NBA Finals. It will be a tough out because Indiana will have to win three of the next four games against Miami, which is nearly impossible.