Saturday, March 30, 2013
3-on-3 Preview: Heat at Spurs
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireIn another installment of the Heat Index's 3-on-3 series, our writers give their takes on the storylines before the Heat face the Spurs on Sunday (7 p.m. ET).
Tony Parker and the Spurs play host to the defending champions. Is this an NBA Finals preview?
1. Fact or Fiction: LeBron James is unguardable.
Tom Haberstroh: Fact, if we're talking one-on-one. But you could say the same for a few guys in the league. When Erik Spoelstra surrounds him with shooters, LeBron shifts into auto-buckets mode. Double up on LeBron, and he'll hit the open man. Throw single coverage on him? He'll muscle his way to the rack. Pick your poison.
Michael Wallace: Fact. LeBron simply has no weaknesses at this point. Now that he's knocking down 3-pointers consistently, he has found a comfort zone with every aspect of his game. The only chance to slow him down is to put him on the line and hope he splits free throws.
Brian Windhorst: Fiction. In transition, he's one of the best playmakers of all time, if not the best. One-on-one, it is an extreme challenge and only a few players in the league are equipped to truly take on James in such a capacity. But no player is unguardable against a team defense. The dilemma for opponents is the way the Heat are built -- there are penalties for focusing the entire team defense on James. Unguardable? No. The hardest player to guard in the game, perhaps.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Heat will finish with the best record in the NBA.
Haberstroh: Fact. If they had dropped the Hornets game, I'd go with push here. I still think the Heat will fall into a mini post-streak slump because rest will become a top priority, but the Spurs aren't healthy enough (Manu Ginobili) to make them sweat. That could change if San Antonio wins without Manu, though.
Wallace: Fact. The Heat have the best record right now, with 10 games left and an easier slate than the Spurs and Thunder face down the stretch. Although Erik Spoelstra's maintenance program is secretly in effect, it still would mean something for Miami to finish with the best record and set the franchise mark for most wins in a season.
Windhorst: Fact. It's hard to predict what the coaches will do as far as rest with star players. But the Spurs have five tough road games left against possible West playoff teams. This is the Heat's final game against the West, and they have three road games left, all against weak East teams. The schedule certainly favors the Heat.
3. Fact or Fiction: Heat-Spurs is a preview of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Haberstroh: Fiction. Still think it's going to be OKC-Heat for all the marbles again. The Spurs simply can't afford a hobbled Ginobili down the stretch. It's close, but I'm going with the Thunder, who are one of the most dominant teams in recent history.
Wallace: Fact. I've been saying this since day one. Well, maybe rather day two, considering I initially got caught up in the Lakers preseason hype and hoped for that dream showdown with the Heat. But the Spurs are the team most capable of disrupting the Heat's quest to repeat -- if they can get through the West.
Windhorst: Fact, I hope. I picked the Thunder to win the West at the beginning of the season, and there's a good chance that is going to happen. I guess I'm still picking the Thunder, although really all anyone is doing in such a series is making an educated guess that could go either way. I think Spurs-Heat would be a great Finals matching up some of the best players in this era, champions versus champions. Gregg Popovich outdueled James six years ago when LeBron was younger and not as polished dealing with a game plan aimed at his weaknesses. I'd like to see him try it again.