The Spurs' final road game of the preseason will be Saturday in Miami as they take on the defending champion Miami Heat. OK, that wasn't so hard to say. Tip-off is at 6:30pm CDT.
It doesn't seem like it's been four months since these two teams last met, but that's how long it's been since Game 7 of the Finals. Heading into the rematch, shell-shocked Spurs fans would be excused if they fell into a 'Nam-esque flashback of Manu turnovers, Timmy missed tip-ins and Allen corner threes. But there should also be encouragement in just how close the team came to winning its fifth NBA championship, and Saturday's game can serve as the first step in letting those fresh wounds begin to heal. (If not, try watching the last scene of The Bad News Bears a few times.)
Despite coming off one of the closest Finals matchups ever, both teams are now firmly focused on the new season ahead of them, which means starting from square one all over again. And both the Heat and Spurs are hoping to use Saturday's game to answer a few questions lingering from training camp.
With San Antonio's roster down to 16, Coach Pop will look to give more minutes to the starters and key rotational players that he'll need to lean on this season. Newcomer Marco Belinelli is already looking good in a Spurs uniform and the Spurs' other key acquisition, Jeff Ayres, still appears to be finding himself on the offensive end of the floor. Scoring won't be something the team will count on him for much, but it would be encouraging tonight to see Ayres coolly knock down a few 15-footers.
The Heat lost swingman Mike Miller this summer to free agency, but acquired former second overall pick Michael Beasley, as well as 2007 number one pick Greg Oden. Oden, who's still working his way into game shape, won't be rushed onto the court anytime soon. Beasley meanwhile is not even on a fully guaranteed contract, and is hoping to convince the coaching staff that he can produce while staying out of trouble this season.
Miami also has some final roster decisions of their own to make, with a number of players, including ex-Spur Roger Mason Jr., still vying for one of the last spots on the team.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been giving his guys plenty of rest in the preseason. Dwyane Wade has rested all but one game thus far in the preseason, and was among several key players including Udonis Haslem, Ray Allen, and Chris Andersen who received DNP-CDs in their loss in Brooklyn on Thursday. James and Chris Bosh should both get the start against San Antonio, and I'd expect to see Wade on the floor, as well.
Defensively, it'll be interesting to see what carries over from the Spurs' Finals gameplan. We can surely expect to see a lot of Kawhi on LeBron, but how much space will the defense give James and Wade around the perimeter? The Spurs had early success in the series encouraging the two to take jumpshots, but James ended up flipping the script by punishing the Spurs in Games 6 and 7 with his three-point shooting. Either way, keeping the two Miami stars out of the paint will be a goal, but it isn't exactly as easy as, say, keeping Drake out of the Heat locker room.
The Spurs attack should look to execute better in the half court and limit its turnovers, after committing a combined 43 the last two games. Part of that can be attributed to the limited minutes Tony has played thus far, but as everyone shakes off their summer rust and gets accustomed to the pace of the NBA game once again, I expect the number of those mistakes to go down.
After this game, the Spurs will head back to the friendly confines of the AT&T Center to finish out the preseason with three home tests. And then no one's allowed to ever mention Game 6 again. Right?
Heat perspective can be found at HotHotHoops.
Game prediction: Spurs by six
As always Tony must dominate Fisher. The game can be seen on NBA TV, but League Pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
More from Pounding The Rock:
- What Vegas thinks of the Spurs' chances this season
- San Antonio Spurs Season Preview
- NBA Finals Game 7: An imagined oral history - Part 3
- Matt Bonner is our nemesis, you guys
- J.R. Wilco talks about the Spurs roster trimming on The Phil Naessens Show