Written by Rohit Ghosh
AccuScore: Spurs To Beat Heat in 2014 NBA Finals
The two-time defending champion Miami Heat, now reaching the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year, get set to face off against a familiar opponent in the San Antonio Spurs. Despite the heartbreak of last season, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are making their first ever back-to-back trip to the NBA Finals. This meeting is the 12th NBA Finals rematch but just the fifth since the NBA-ABA merger (1976). The defending champion is 6-6 in those matchups.
With precision unlike any other, the Spurs have put themselves in the right situation to avenge last season’s Finals loss. Their system and depth will go up against the most dominant force in basketball to decide who finishes this season on top.
Game 1 - Thu, June 5 - Miami at San Antonio, 9pm ET
Game 2 - Sun, June 8 - Miami at San Antonio, 8pm ET
Game 3 - Tue, June 10 - San Antonio at Miami, 9pm ET
Game 4 - Thu, June 12 - San Antonio at Miami, 9pm ET
Game 5 - Sun, June 15 - Miami at San Antonio, 8pm ET
Game 6 - Tue, June 17 - San Antonio at Miami, 9pm ET
Game 7 - Fri, June 20 - Miami at San Antonio, 9pm ET
Trends: Miami is 10-5 against the spread (ATS) in its first 15 postseason games this spring heading into the NBA Finals. San Antonio is 9-9 ATS in 18 playoff games thus far, but 9-3 ATS in their last 12 matchups.
AccuScore: AccuScore’s industry-leading projection data has picked the Spurs to win the series 69.3% of the time, more likely than not to win in 5 games as the chart below shows. They do, however, have a combined 36.8 percent probability to win the series in either 6 or 7 games.
Miami’s best chance (11.4 percent) to win is in either 6 games or 7 games (10.3 percent).
Stats to Know
Points per game (per 100 possessions): Spurs 105.4, Heat 102.2 (Spurs 110.5, Heat 110.9)
Points allowed per game (per 100 possessions): Spurs 97.6, Heat 99.5 (Spurs 102.4, Heat 105.8) Scoring leaders: Spurs PG Tony Parker (16.7 points a game), James (27.1)
Key Factor: According to NBA.com, the Heat offense in the playoffs has improved each quarter. They put up a remarkable 121 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter, when they like to use the small lineup of a point guard, Ray Allen, Wade, James and Bosh. Applying this in a slightly larger macro level, the longer the series goes, the better the chance Miami have of three-peating.
Why Spurs Will Win in 5, 6, or 7: San Antonio is a better team than they were a year ago, while Miami has noticeably taken a small step in the other direction. The Spurs’ depth is literally unprecedented, with no starter or bench player averaging 30 minutes (or more) per game. While depth may not play a factor at this stage of the Playoffs in terms of rotations, but the rest the top 7-9 guys have gotten all season will ultimately play a factor as the series progresses.
In the playoffs thus far, both team’s offenses are working towards optimal efficiency. The Spurs are putting up 111.2 points per 100 possessions, second in NBA to Miami’s 113.7. Defensively, however, the Spurs are second and Miami is fifth. A key indicator to the series outcome will be San Antonio’s ball movement vs Miami’s attacking defense. The Heat prefer to use their speed, athleticism and timely traps to force turnovers; the Spurs, however, lead the league in assists per game and are No. 9 in the league in turnovers per game. The Thunder, with their athleticism, had some success on defense against the Spurs.
What will largely dictate the turnovers and assists is how well Chris Bosh can defend the pick and roll. This past season, the Heat ranked sixth in fewest points per possession when defending the pick and roll. The Spurs will consistently run pick-and-rolls with Chris Bosh’s assignment in an effort to bring him away from the basket. Ultimately that is expected to lead to more off-ball cuts and easier baskets with the lane cleared out. Bosh’s ability to either show or hedge, then rotate quickly will play a large role in Miami’s defensive scheme. With how calculating San Antonio’s offense is, especially in terms of court spacing and player placement, expect the pick and roll to be the Spurs’ weapon of choice when breaking down Miami’s defense.
While Kawhi Leonard will be given the burden to defend LeBron James, much of San Antonio’s success on defense will be determined by how well they protect the rim. Miami led the league non-blocked two-point percentage (58.9% FG), showing just how efficient they can be when they do get the shot off. Tim Duncan was No. 4 in the league in opponent FG% at the rim (46.3% FG). Duncan also grabbed nearly 60 percent of available rebounds, good for No. 3 in the league.
Patty Mills: Keep an eye on the energy and speed of Patty Mills. Mills had the fastest average speed in the NBA (4.8 mph) during the regular season, and has increased that average to 4.9 in the playoffs. His non-stop energy on both ends of the floor is expected at home, but game-changing on the road.
Why Heat Will Win in 6 or 7: The Spurs could have all the advantages in the world, but the Heat have LeBron James. His ability to affect both sides of the floor is unrivaled and a chance to win three titles in four years has him more motivated than ever. In 7 career playoff games (4-3) matched up against Kawhi Leonard, James averaged 25.3 ppg, 7 apg, and 10.9 rpg. Even one of the league’s better defenders one of the league’s best systems was unable to contain James. The only positive sign for the Spurs in those 7 games was James’ efficiency, as he shot 44.7 percent from the field in these matchups.
Miami just destroyed the league’s No. 1 defense in the Indiana Pacers. During the regular season, the Spurs’ defense was at its best with both Tiago Splitter and Duncan on the floor at the same time. Assuming the Heat choose to go small, Duncan may be on the floor with Boris Diaw or Matt Bonner more often than he is with Splitter. Expect Leonard to go under all screens when matched up against James, forcing him to shoot jumpers rather than get into the paint.