Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The NBA Playoffs are the very toughest of all the major sports postseasons in terms of generating surprising underdog scenarios. Anything can happen in one game in football or college basketball. Baseball is so random that Wildcards have just as good a chance of a champagne shower as divisional champions. But, IN THE NBA, you have to win four games out of seven, repeatedly, to advance.
That puts the best teams in the Finals most of the time. And, this year it put the favored Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat on the floor against a San Antonio Spurs team that because the Western favorites the minute Russell Westbrook got hurt for top seeded Oklahoma City.
It’s the best vs. the best. It’s a recent dynasty versus a potential future dynasty. It’s the best individual player of our generation against the very best example of “the team concept” of our generation. It’s a veteran Hall-of Fame coach against a young up-and-comer who very well could be on a similar career path in terms of longevity and championships.
And, all THAT is what the TV networks will be talking about the next few days. We’re here in the NOTEBOOK to CRUNCH THE NUMBERS! Let’s run this final series of the 2013 postseason through our gauntlet of regular season stats and rankings to get a true best expectation for the series.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
San Antonio: 31-17
Both of these teams matched up very well with class. That’s why they’re here! Note that the records equalize a bit if you include the playoffs. San Antonio went 12-2 in the West thanks to their sweep of Memphis. They’re now at 43-19 if you count those. Miami was 12-4 in the East, dropping three to the toughest team they faced. That makes Miami 42-16 overall vs. quality (if you can call Milwaukee and shorthanded Chicago “quality!”).
Edge to Miami…but not a very big one. San Antonio isn’t afraid of anybody.
OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
San Antonio: #7
With all the talk about the Spurs playing “team” ball, and Miami relying too much on LeBron James; it’s worth noting that Miami had the most efficient offense in the NBA this year. LeBron is a true force, and his teammates are there to make open looks off of double teams. They didn’t do that every game vs. Indiana…but did it enough to advance. Remember that Indiana has a great defense, and forced a very slow tempo on proceedings. Miami actually played great offense in that series, which was hidden by the tortoise-like tempos. Edge to Miami.
DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
San Antonio: #3
The Spurs don’t get much credit for defense for some reason. The league rankings in points allowed per possession this year went Indiana-Memphis-San Antonio. Everybody knew the first two were great, but the Spurs stayed off the radar. Do they have what it takes to slow down LeBron? We’ll know soon enough. Just be aware that the Spurs get the nod in this element of our stat breakdown. The media will try to tell you Miami has the better defense because LeBron can guard anybody. It’s a bit trickier than that.
REBOUND RATE RANKINGS
San Antonio: #17
We’re going to have to throw out “defense and rebounding wins championships” this year because neither of these teams emphasize rebounding as a general rule. Miami realized they had to go all out on the glass just to break even on the stat with Indiana. They will only do that in desperation mode. We’re going to call this category a wash because neither team really excels in this area.
San Antonio: #6
Miami is seen as the “running” team because they get a few breakout dunks every game. They’re not. They prefer to walk the ball up and use their great talent to score in the halfcourt. San Antonio is seen as the slower team that uses great ball movement to get open looks for its scoring threats. They do that….but they also push tempo to get as many freebies as they can. Things generally slow down when a championship is on the line, meaning Miami will be more in its comfort zone when push comes to shove.
Miami is the better team in most everyone’s Power Ratings…has home court advantage…and has the single best player in the series. That’s why they’re the favorites. Can San Antonio beat them anyway?
Helping the Spurs:
*Extended rest gives them a real shot to steal one of the first two games on the road, which would swipe home court advantage for the series.
*Extended rest gives the older Spurs a chance to play at peak levels deep into the series.
*San Antonio can get hot from three-point land, which has always been a great way to put a scare into Miami. Indiana didn’t have that capability…but the Spurs clearly do.
Hurting the Spurs:
*Manu Ginobili isn’t what he used to be, at least in terms of consistency.
*They may have to win TWICE in Miami because it’s so tough for a series underdog to sweep those middle three games at home.
*The team has a tendency to fade when they run into athletes who can truly stand up to them. This Miami team is better than the Oklahoma City group that took the Spurs out in the Western finals last season.
JIM HURLEY has his plans mapped out for the first few games in this series, both in terms of sides and totals. You can purchase the final word on game day (Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, etc…) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about basketball or baseball service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back Friday to preview the huge NL Central baseball series matching the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. We’ll talk more baseball on Saturday. Then, Sunday we’ll take an in-depth look at Game Two of Spurs/Heat.
Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s really happening in the world of sports. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK this week for BIG, JUICY WINNERS in basketball, baseball, AND THE BELMONT!