The San Antonio Spurs set down their marker as serious in Game 1 of the NBA Finals series. In fact, their performance was arguably so efficient and impressive that they went from serious underdogs to potentially being slight favorites. The Miami Heat enter Sunday night’s game knowing that it is a ‘must win’ contest.
The Spurs were never likely to be intimidated by what was considered by many as the NBA’s only outstanding team. Then again they never have been. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan have always gone about their business in the most efficient way. San Antonio’s consistent success and recent four NBA titles have all been a part of arguably the quietest and least celebrated dynasty in American sports’ history.
The game plan was a simple one. San Antonio wanted to force a player not named LeBron James to beat them. Dwyane Wade struggled in the second half and Chris Bosh’s shooting slump was put on full display in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Meanwhile, the Spurs looked after the ball and exploited their chances against an extremely aggressive Miami defense.
The ‘big three’ all showed up for Popovich. Duncan knocked down 20 points and picked up 14 boards. Meanwhile, Tony Parker collected 21 points and committed a total of zero turnovers. Manu Ginobili picked up a valuable 13 points from the bench.
Of course the focus on the Heat, as it just about always is, was James. The best player pulled off a triple double knocking down 18 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and contributing 10 assists. It seems like LeBron can’t really do anything right. During the Indiana series Wade and Bosh both spoke of the need for them to get more touches. The aftermath of Game 1 has seen James roundly criticized for not being more aggressive and for not taking on more responsibility.
What has become abundantly clear is that James will need help if the Heat are to repeat as NBA champions. Ray Allen stepped up with 13 points while shooting well from the bench in Game 1, while Mike Miller appears to have replaced Shane Battier as the second bench scorer. However, Bosh’s 6-16 shooting and 0-4 from three point range was devastating for a team that needed to be efficient. Wade struggled in the second half after a bright first half performance.
Betting Preview: Miami (-6) vs. San Antonio
A Game 1 loss won’t be overly concerning for the Heat, who have gained experience playing from behind in these NBA playoffs. They were surprised by the Chicago Bulls in the first game of their second round series, they edged Game 1 against Indiana, but then lost Game 2. It’s very dangerous to believe that you have worked out a formula to beat this Miami team and all of its fantastic talent.
The spread has actually gotten a little wider for the Heat entering Game 2 despite the opening loss. It should still be generous enough to back ‘King James’ and his supporting cast to break through and tie the series though. A six-point margin is reasonable to expect.
Of more concern for Miami fans will be the potential trends of this series. Can the Heat win four games against the Spurs? There’s definitely reason to doubt it.
The Pick: Miami (-6) (5dimes.eu)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 19-12