Posted June 02, 2014

Roundtable: 2014 NBA Finals X-factor?

2014 NBA Finals, 2014 NBA playoffs, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, SI.com Playoff Roundtable
Tony Parker

Tony Parker’s health could swing the outcome of the 2014 Finals. (Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest question of the day. Today, we examine …

Who is the biggest X-factor in the 2014 NBA Finals?

Lee Jenkins: Tony Parker’s sore left ankle. Early in last year’s Finals against Miami, Parker appeared to be at full strength, and he often looked like the most dynamic player on the court. Mario Chalmers was unable to stay in front of him and the Heat had no elite rim protector to alter his many layups and teardrops. As the series wore on, his hamstring woes resurfaced, and Parker was reduced to a near afterthought in the last two games. As impressive as it was to see the Spurs outlast the Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals without Parker, they cannot win the championship that way. As Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have aged, Parker in his prime has become the Spurs centerpiece, and he is especially valuable against Miami. The Spurs need to feature him in this series, but to do that effectively, he’ll have to be healthy.

MAHONEY: Thunder’s window still wide-open despite latest setback

Chris Ballard: Boris Diaw. It’s hard to know what to make of Diaw. From one perspective, he’s an overachiever. A not-so-svelte, not-so-athletic bench player who was the key to the Spurs’ Game 6 win over the Thunder.  Then again, you could also consider him an underachiever. Diaw has a high basketball IQ, the passing skills of a point guard, good defensive instincts and the ability to both post-up and hit threes. In an alternate reality, one where he stays in shape and plays with fire, Diaw might be an All-Star level player still putting up the occasional triple-doubles, as he did in Phoenix. If the Spurs get the motivated, confident Diaw – the one who doesn’t pumpfake threes but fires immediately to provide good floor spacing, who attacks the basket on occasion, who initiates the offense – they’ll have a chance to match the Heat’s small-ball lineup. If Diaw is tentative, the Spurs could struggle without their big men on the floor. One good sign for San Antonio: the last time the two teams played, Diaw went for 16, 8 and 5.

RELATED: Duncan on facing Heat: ‘We’ll do it this time’

Ben Golliver: Manu Ginobili. He was my selection as the X-factor for the Western Conference finals, and I see no reason to change now. Put simply, I don’t think the Spurs can be beaten if Ginobili continues to perform at the level he displayed against the Thunder. Even at age 36, Ginobili found so many ways to influence games, whether it was knocking down clutch three-pointers, knifing through Oklahoma City’s defense for layups, seeking opportunistic scoring opportunities in transition or simply running the show for the league’s most potent bench unit. Ginobili averaged 15.2 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 50 percent from downtown against the Thunder, and the Heat will have their hands full containing him now that he’s fully healthy and playing sharper ball than he did last year. Twelve months ago, there was plenty of talk about whether Ginobili should retire. These days, he’s a sleeper pick for Finals MVP.

RELATED: Relive the epic 2013 Finals between Heat, Spurs

Rob Mahoney: Danny Green. Green’s performance turned out to be something of a bellwether in last year’s Finals, and the same could very well be true in this season’s encore. To wit: Green averaged a triumphant 21 points per game on blistering percentages in San Antonio’s three wins in 2013, yet was held to just 8.8 points per game on 33.3 percent shooting from the field in the Spurs’ four losses. The fundamental difference was defensive attention; Miami was most effective in defending Green when locking in and denying him a high volume of three-point looks, though the full focus of Green’s primary defender was tested by the whole of San Antonio’s execution. The Heat will need to keep an eye on Green as he darts and reverses along the baseline this time around, all without losing their balance in repelling the Spurs’ primary play actions.

RELATED: 2014 NBA Finals schedule

Matt Dollinger: Shane Battier. He’s playing just 13.4 minutes per game this postseason, but Battier will play an important role for the Heat against the Spurs. Savvy and versatile enough to guard Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan, the 35-year-old will be thrust into a variety of roles against San Antonio, but no job may be bigger than his performance from behind the arc. With Mike Miller gone, Miami will need someone else to help space the floor in the Finals. Battier proved he’s up to the challenge, hitting 9-of-12 three-pointers in Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals and shooting 46.7 percent from deep this postseason. Battier’s contributions in this series might not be substantial, but they’ll be significant.

RELATED: Vogel on LeBron: ‘Michael Jordan’ of our era

Chris Johnson: Tony Parker. If the ankle injury that forced Parker to sit out the second half and overtime of the Spurs’ West-clinching win over Oklahoma City Saturday night lingers into the Finals, San Antonio will have a big problem on its hands. Parker’s ability to pass and score in equal measure is pivotal to everything San Antonio runs on offense. If he’s unable to go or hampered by the injury – something we saw in last year’s Finals with Parker’s hamstring – the Spurs will need to devise different ways to attack Miami’s defense. It is a testament to San Antonio’s depth that it was able to down the Thunder in OKC with Parker sitting on the bench, but that won’t work for six or seven games against Miami. The Spurs need their floor general at or close to full strength to deny the Heat a third consecutive championship.

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32 comments
Gravy
Gravy

This is a game of distinct strategies - I cant wait.  The Heat with their team first approach, and the Spurs with that individual star power.  I always back the 'team' first approach. Ball hogs like Duncan and Ginobili will pay the price

jim2222
jim2222

i heard donald sterling will be in the spurs owners box tonight. I hope they show him on TV

Gapzilla
Gapzilla

I'm going to toss one more name in here, and that is Norris Cole. He'll come off of the bench and give us 8 or 10 points, but his defense against Lance Stephenson was brilliant. He shut him down. I read a stat that when he was in the game against the Pacers, the hear were +23 per 100 possessions. If Parker regains his strength in the ankle, Cole could be a huge help in defending him.

tootallgoof
tootallgoof

For the Spurs, if they can keep a third scorer (you know James and Wade or Bosh will put up points) from going off, they should be fine.


For the Heat, it is the same thing, contain the Spur's bench from going crazy and they should be in good shape.

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

I keep telling folks there's nothing wrong with Parker. It's a ruse. I'd be shocked if he wasn't 100% at tip off Thursday evening. A little stumble in game 6 against the Thunder, and Pop pulled him, letting the team win without him, and letting Tony rest a little bit more for game 1 against Miami.

JeffreyHall1
JeffreyHall1

It's a tough series to call, because I really think the games will be close, and close games are there for either team to win. It's tough to be objective and call it either way when in my heart I want the Spurs to win. But the Heat are great, too. Not my favorite, but their resume speaks for itself.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

Spurs fans and media are too overconfident.... sure it was decided in 7 last year, but the Dwayne Wade is healthy as a horse, and Bosh is coming on strong which he wasn't doing last year.... if those 3 guys are healthy and motivated.... all your "revenge" talk is for naught.  For the fools predicting Spurs in 5... you're just that, a fool

mad_dawg_1
mad_dawg_1

IT IS NOT ANY PLAYER THAT WILL DECIDE.

IT WILL BE THE REFS, AND THEY WANT MIAMI TO WIN

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

Rashard Lewis.  To win another title, Miami needs someone to step into the Mike Miller role and drill some big threes when the D collapses on LeBron.  There's no way a Popovich team leaves Ray Allen alone, so I think Lewis is the Heat's best bet.

Tome
Tome

Last time Spurs played Heat this season they won by 24. Heat's defense could not keep up with Spurs ball movement. The Spurs bench dominated the Heat's bench in scoring. And the Spurs defense was more than up to the Heat's offense.

Expect more of the same in the first two games. Spurs in 5. Six max.

Gapzilla
Gapzilla

I'd throw Rashard Lewis into this mix, especially if you mention Boris Diaw. Lewis played some great defense against Indiana, particularly against David West, who is stronger than him. At 6'10". he could give issues with his length. Lewis also shot lights out the last two (or three. foggy memory) games as well.

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

@jim2222 That would be weird, since the game is tomorrow.  Then again, he WAS just declared mentally incompetent...

Gapzilla
Gapzilla

*the Heat, not the hear. I don't know who the hear are.

twinm85
twinm85

@OldDadTheBoss it was not a ruse.  he hurt his ankle in game 4 and re-aggravated it in game 5.  his problem isn't that he can't play, it's that he can't sustain a high level for entire games, let alone entire series (as you've probably noticed) because he keeps getting hurt or stiff.   perhaps he would have played in the 2nd half on saturday if the spurs were facing elimination, but because he was so stiff and ineffective they were actually better without him.  his challenge in the finals will be playing at a high level throughout the series and not aggravating anything.

Will10
Will10

@MartyJenkins the spurs are better than they were this time last year And the heat are worse. Besides LeBron,  the heat are old and slow and dwade can't play two games in a row

michael.f.passe
michael.f.passe

@Go_Niners! Isn't that why Bosh has been taking, what, four times as many three-pointers this year as before? Allen will get his shots, you can't put two people on everyone. Miami causes a lot of matchup problems.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

@Tome 

Regular season means nothing.  I'm a Spurs fan and we witnessed how that was the case vs. OKC.  But I agree with you.  The first two games will not be close.  Spurs are gonna blast them back to the stone age. Like the Pacers, the Spurs were so focused on the Heat that they faltered against the Mavs.  But unlike the Pacers, the Spurs quickly regained full composure and will be getting medieval on the so-called "king. "

johnfschwartz
johnfschwartz

@Tome C'mon...you can't compare a regular season game to the finals. The Heat were in cruise control all season long. This series is a complete toss up and unpredictable. You are predicting based on emotion, not basketball sense. I can see the Heat winning in 6 or 7 games, and I can see the Spurs doing the same. 


Secondly, the Heat move the ball as well as the Spurs. The Spurs are not playing a one dimensional team like OKC. OKC during their half court game only averaged one pass before they shot the ball. That's insane. Made it very easy for the older Spurs to contain them. That's not the case with the Heat. If the Heat are unable to keep up with the Spurs ball movement, the Spurs will not be able to keep up with the ball movement of the Heat as well. 

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

@Tome And the time before that Miami won by 12, as the Spurs had no answer for Bosh.  But you ignored that data point because it didn't fit your preconceived narrative.

michael.f.passe
michael.f.passe

@Tome I really hope you're right but that's awfully optimistic. This looks like a pick-em to me just like last year. The Spurs are a little better and deeper than last year, but Parker is nowhere near 100% and that's a red flag to me.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

@Gapzilla 

Please.  Lewis is gonna revert back to the Lewis of the regular season. If you're counting on him to help out the Heat, this thing is over before it begins.

The difference is the team play and Spurs bench.  The starters for the Heat are better than the Spurs but the Heat bench is heavily outclassed by the Spurs bench.  Add to that the fact that the Spurs team is far greater than the sum of the individual players and you've got a 5 game series if TP is at full health.

mad_dawg_1
mad_dawg_1

If you dont think that the nba is fixed, you need to wake up

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

@michael.f.passe @Go_Niners! That's part of Bosh's shift.  I think it's also been to pull opposing big men even further from the basket and keep shot blockers out of LeBron's way.  Look for that to continue with Duncan looming out there.  Sure, you can't double everybody.  I don't expect SA to double anybody but LeBron, and if I'm SA, Ray is the last man I'm ever going to leave open.

Gapzilla
Gapzilla

@Nate the Pate Seeing as how Lewis has come on, I'd say that play continues. Momentum is huge and lineups will be shortened. The Heat play excellent team ball. Their ball movement is great. They're advantage is they have two great players who can create their own shot. Hasn't Parker been hurting throughout the playoffs though?

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@Nate the Pate @Gapzilla you're vastly overconfident... a healty DWade this year, and a Bosh that show up.... and its just as likely heat in 5 as your homer-centric prediction

KF1
KF1

@MartyJenkins well see what's your excuse if the Spurs win this series