San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami HeatAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
February 6, 2014, 7:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
San Antonio won its fourth straight game and moved to 8-2 over their last 10 with a road-win over Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Spurs have been healthy for two games now and the efficiency of this team, especially on offense, is starting to show. San Antonio recorded an assist on practically every made basket against Cleveland, proving that this team can once again be elite if all of the horses are healthy and in the stable come playoff time.
The win against Cleveland, no matter how impressive, does little to dispel the one lingering knock on this year's Spurs. Can San Antonio start to beat the teams it'll have to beat to win an NBA Championship now that the team can no longer use a lack of health as an excuse? It was the question of the season before the rash of injuries really took hold, and now that the Spurs are creeping towards full-strength as we enter the stretch-run of the season, the question will start to pop back up if San Antonio can't win games like tonight's against the reigning two-time NBA Champion, Miami Heat.
Just like San Antonio in the West, Miami sits in second place in its conference. The Heat are 43-15 on the season and sit two games behind Indiana for home-court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Much like the Spurs, however, Miami is more concerned about entering the playoffs healthy and on a roll than if a potential Game 7 takes place at its arena. Miami is coming off a loss to the Rockets on Tuesday night, but the Heat are also 8-2 over the last 10 games and Lebron James is starting to make a strong push to become this season's MVP.
On the season, James is leading Miami in points, rebounds and assists, He averages 27.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game on 58 percent shooting from the floor. Add in his defensive chops and it is pretty easy to realize why LeBron's PER is over 30 right now. The scary part is that he has played better than his season averages over the last month, as talk of Kevin Durant owning the rights to this year's MVP has grown louder and louder since right before the All-Star break. James is still the best player in the NBA, and like most great players, James has invented a chip to put on his shoulder.
Dwyane Wade is no longer the player he was before Lebron came to Miami, but he is starting to get healthy at the right time of the season. He led the Heat in scoring in the loss to Houston and has averaged over 19 points per game when he has been in the lineup. He has a 22.5 PER, but much like Manu Ginobili for the Spurs, the regular season no longer matters for Wade. The Heat will need him to beat the Pacers and then whichever team comes out of the Western Conference for Miami to three-peat this season.
Miami is a balanced team, ranking seventh in both points scored and points allowed, but the Heat struggle on the glass, ranking 30th in rebounds per game. Chris Bosh takes a lot of heat for being the third guy in the star-trio for Miami, but he has been forced to play center in a power forward's body through three title runs that ended in two championships. He is a capable scorer from inside and out, but he does struggle to keep giants off of the glass on defense and is not a huge threat to control the offensive glass. The Heat signed Greg Oden in hopes of taking some pressure off of Bosh and Chris Anderson in the middle, but Miami will be a perimeter oriented team again this postseason.
The role players become the difference in matchups like this one, so guys like Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen need to be limited by the Spurs defense. James, Wade and Bosh are going to be effective, but preventing the role players from getting into rhythm is how to keep Miami from leaving San Antonio with a win.
Matchup to watch: Lebron would rather make the right play than make the play himself, but he has shown the willingness to take games over offensively over the past few weeks. This game will come down to which team can execute more efficiently in the half-court, but a talent like James' can erase all of that with a career-night type of performance.
Heat perspective can be found here: Hot Hot Hoops
Game Prediction: Spurs by 1.
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 2.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA 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.
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