The NBA finals series is saturated with story lines. A fifth title for the 37-year-old San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan would solidify his case for being his generation’s best player. A second straight title for Miami Heat’s LeBron James would cap one of the most dominant seasons in league history.
The series pits the glitz and bombast of South Beach against the quiet diligence of the small-market Spurs.
The action on the court will be no less compelling. Spurs versus Heat is a basketball purist’s dream: two teams with savvy coaches, smart schemes and plenty of skill to execute the high-wire act of adjusting on the fly at the pinnacle of competition.
Parker at the helm
In many respects, Spurs’ precise, high-scoring offence presents a formidable danger to Miami Heat. Tony Parker, a whirring blur of deceptive dribbling and crafty scoring, is the proverbial head of the snake of the Spurs attack.
If the Heat opts for a more conservative approach on Parker, it is likely to concede long 2-point jump shots, a difficult shot that Parker has nonetheless buried with efficiency throughout the playoffs.
Parker’s importance suggests that we will almost certainly see James, who loves to take on the other team’s best player in the fourth quarter, cover Parker for crucial stretches.
These will no doubt be some of the most dramatic moments in the series.
Who guards Parker, and when, is almost as interesting as how the Spurs will choose to cover James.
The Spurs game plan will include denying James the ball when possible and forcing him to take jump shots. Although Spurs coach Gregg Popovich loathes double-teaming, he may have no choice, because his most capable defender, the second-year pro Kawhi Leonard, will be no match for James’ strength and guile.
But James is a superlative passer. More important, James’ Heat teammates are excellent shooters who know how to make themselves available when James draws extra attention.
Like the Heat with Parker, the Spurs will try to keep James off balance by showing him a number of different defensive tactics.
This promises to be a breathless series of wild scoring runs and dramatic reversals.
In a series between such evenly matched opponents, James’ heavy influence tilts the odds in Heat’s favour. — New York Times News Service