Heat, Spurs Still Virtual Strangers

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Both conference’s No. 1 teams made significant statements over the last two days.

It wasn’t just that the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs both convincingly knocked off their closest challengers. The greater message to the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder — and the rest of the league — is how they did it.

LeBron James is the runaway MVP candidate. He had an amazing streak of scoring at least 3o points and shooting 60 percent in six consecutive games. Yet, the Heat only needed 13 points (5-for-10 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds from him in trouncing the Pacers 105-91 on Sunday.

It can be argued that James creates such headaches for opposing defenses that it allows his teammates to run free. Sure, OK, but it had to be demoralizing to the Pacers, the NBA’s top-ranked field-goal percentage defense, to hold James to a baker’s dozen yet surrender 55.9 percent shooting from the field.

San Antonio earned its 105-93 victory Monday over the Thunder by having its two healthy members of the the Big Three — Tim Duncan (13 points, eight rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (12 points, four assists, 24 minutes) — make way for this big three: Tiago Splitter (21 points, 10 rebounds), Kawhi Leonard (17 points, three steals) and Danny Green (16 points, 4-for-4 on 3s).

The precision, depth and discipline of the Spurs was on full display in shooting 52.4 percent against the Thunder’s second-ranked field-goal percentage defense. San Antonio’s improving defense also cranked up, making it difficult on NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant (26 points, 7-for-13 FGs) and Russell Westbrook (25 points, 11-for-27), the leaders of the West’s second-highest scoring offense at more than 106 points a game.

Does this mean we’re headed for a Spurs-Heat Finals come June? Not necessarily. But what if? Which team would hold the advantage?

How can anyone really know? These two teams are virtual strangers.

Since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces in the 2010-11 season, the Heat and Spurs have played four times and none of those games featured lineups that would go head-to-head in a Finals series.

The fourth and most recent meeting was the infamous go-home game on Nov. 31 at Miami when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent his Big Three plus Green home. A steamed David Stern slapped San Antonio for $250,000 for pitting its reserves against the defending champs on national TV. The Heat won an entertaining game with a late comeback.

The three previous games were all blowouts (2-1 in favor of Miami) with a head-scratching average margin of defeat of 27.1 points. Two of those were played in the span of 10 days in March 2011, and the third was their lone meeting in last season’s lockout-shortened schedule, a 120-98 Heat win on Jan. 20, with Ginobili injured and Richard Jefferson and DeJuan Blair in the Spurs’ starting lineup.

Miami has yet to see the remodeled Spurs after they dealt Jefferson to Golden State for Stephen Jackson and added Boris Diaw. The Heat barely know Green, San Antonio’s leading 3-point bomber (although he did score 20 points off the bench on 6-for-7 3-point shooting in that game nearly 14 months ago).

Fortunately, the Spurs and Heat do meet again on March 31 at San Antonio. It might be our first real chance to assess how these two clubs match up.

Even then, Tony Parker might still be out with a sprained ankle. Either way, there will be plenty of intrigue if the Spurs and Heat, two virtual strangers, get together in June.

17 Comments

  1. LALA says:

    My calendar says Nov. 30 is the last nov day. Clearly this guy knows more than he’s telling us. I’m not saying there’s some sort of conspiracy going on, but if there’s extra day I don’t know about, I’d like to find out right now. I’m still a bit miffed about Feb. 29. That was bull.

  2. Franz says:

    LeBron does not have a good record in the Finals against Texan teams. Let’s hope that trend continues if the Spurs and Heat make it through =o)

    Nah seriously though, Miami look strong to win a second straight championship, but I reckon Indiana and a healthy New York are credible challengers in the East and may provide a surprise. Oh, and Boston have been known to sneak an upset in recent playoffs.

  3. Kevin Durant says:

    Let’s see Splitter, Leonard and Green perform like that for 7 games in the finals. They could only manage it for 2 last season before I went HAM.

  4. Jack says:

    @ Dink;
    Man you are a HATER of the the HEAT, i saw you angrily write in CAPS a comment at the other blogs, i suggest you change your name to SINK, because this will happen to SA once they meet the HEAT in the Finals,…

    • dink says:

      no way broham, the heat won’t even get by pacers so they won’t even probably play the spurs , im just saying if the spurs played the heat in the finals eat would be 4 – 0 spurs , broom job , just like in 07 ‘ spurs 4 Cleveland 0 remember that ?

  5. Wahoo says:

    is there even a Nov. 31?

  6. Rob says:

    Nov. 31?

  7. Chris says:

    the spurs age is starting to kick in and the lakers talent is starting to kick in so i dont think they are even getting out of the 1st round as long as the lakers hold the 8th spot

  8. dink says:

    the spurs would spank the heat , spurs in 4

  9. Ben says:

    Sorry Jeff, but the San Antonio and OKC plus/minuses tell a different story than your article. San Antonio didn’t make it difficult for Durant and Westbrook. Indeed, the OKC starters had healthy plus/minuses. San Antonio destroyed OKC’s bench, with guys like Martin, Jackson, Collison and Fisher getting punished.

    This is a concern for OKC (particularly since Parker was missing, so the winning of the first team battle might be irrelevant come playoffs). On the other hand, though, come West finals Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are likely to play more minutes, Jackson, Fisher and Collison fewer. So it’s very hard for me to see that game as indicative of anything, given neither the first time match up nor the benches overall impact on the result should be reflective of what the playoffs will look like.

    Miami Indiana is right on though. I still tend to think that Indiana are the team with the best chance of besting Miami in the playoffs (yes, better than OKC and San Antonio) and thus remain the most likely source of allowing a West team to win. But it was Indiana’s starters who allowed Miami to win that game with strong starts in the first and third quarters, and they can’t let Miami have that kind of impact if they want to win in the East finals.

    All in all, though – these are the matchups I want to see in the respective finals, so I hope we get to see it (noting that LAC and Memphis would also be worthy West finalists).

    • Addi says:

      ” San Antonio didn’t make it difficult for Durant and Westbrook”

      Durant shooting 7-13 (40 minutes) 26 points 11-11 FT
      Westbrook shooting 11-27 (38 minutes) 25 points

      Idk about you but that sounds like a good day on the job done by SA

    • E-SY says:

      I’ll take your final note about the Clippers… let them get to the finals and the world will get fireworks no matter who dominates the East!

  10. W/E says:

    The Spurs need to change their outfit colors, they are so dull.