Tim Duncan: A-
30.3 mins, 17.8 pts, 10.0 rebs, 2.0 asts, 0.3 stls, 0.8 blks, 1.2 TOs, .482/.000/.871, +7.5 per game, 113.8 ORtg, 102.4 DRtg, 11.4 Net, 24.4 PER, 15 YTS pts
The Spurs' most consistent and best player in the series, Duncan put the team on his back to in overtime in Game 6 to send the fellas back to the finals, significantly outplaying the supposedly "difference-making" Serge Ibaka badly in the final two games of the series. Unlike Ibaka, Duncan can actually score in the post, as he showed time and again. He also really picked up the rebounding slack in the final two games, collecting 27 boards after Pop made the decision to go small and not pair him with Tiago Spliiter any more.
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If there was one quibble with Duncan's game it was that I was hoping for more defensive impact from him, but maybe the Thunder had such high-caliber athletes that even he couldn't get to their shots. I'm glad that he got some valuable experience playing as the lone big in this series because he'll likely have to do quite a bit of it against Miami. They probably will front aggressively to take away his post-ups against smaller guys, so he'll have to hit that mid-range shot with some consistency.
Tony Parker: C-
27.8 mins, 13.2 pts, 2.2 rebs, 4.8 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.0 blks, 2.7 TOs, .493/.286/.714, +2.3 per game, 111.7 ORtg, 107.7 DRtg, 4.0 Net, 14.3 PER, 7 YTS pts
Parker started out on fire but cratered once the series traveled to Oklahoma City and Ibaka made his return. He only had one truly bad game (Game 3), but struggled mightily defensively against both Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson. His drive-and-kick instincts were also wonky as he had 12 assists in the series opener but just 17 the rest of the way, along with 15 turnovers. Parker hurt his left ankle in Game 4, and aggravated it in Game 5, and he deserves credit for trying to gamely battle through it, but it was obvious he was lacking the zip to penetrate and whenever he's hurt he tends to over dribble, since penetration is the key to everything for him.
Hopefully four days of rest will be enough for Parker to recover and he's traditionally been a quick healer with these types of injuries. He should have his way with either Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole and the Heat don't have an Ibaka-level shot blocker. He'll also get to rest somewhat on defense since all he has to do against the Miami point guards is guard the three-point line. Where the game gets complicated for him is if LeBron James guards him and the Heat decide to play without any point guards, a lineup like Chris Andersen-Chris Bosh-LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Ray Allen, or some other variant with Rashard Lewis or Udonis Haslem. In situations where he'll have to guard Wade or Allen, he'll have to work more.
Kawhi Leonard: C+
31.3 mins, 11.8 pts, 5.5 rebs, 2.5 asts, 1.5 stls, 0.7 blks, 1.2 TOs, .412/.263/.909, +3.0 per game, 110.2 ORtg, 106.5 DRtg, 3.7 Net, 14.7 PER, 3 YTS pts
It was a relatively quiet series for Leonard, which is understandable given his defensive responsibilities but really the only thing he did poorly was shoot. His passing was as strong as it's ever been and I was generally happy with his aggressiveness. At times he actually shot it too much, but I'd rather see that from him than passivity. At times he looked a bit slow, but that's going to happen against OKC. They're really the only team that can make him look like an average athlete. Obviously, his block on Westbrook with a minute to go in overtime of Game 6 was the defensive play of the series, but he also forced a turnover from Durant late in regulation as well.
Putting Leonard on Westbrook changed the last series in that it not only slowed his rim penetrations but also, as Cameron Adamczyk pointed out, prevented Westbrook from snatching any more offensive rebounds. Everyone is expecting for Leonard to be the primary defender on James, especially given the success he had against him in the Finals last year and in their one regular season meeting this season, but I wonder if Pop will be tempted to put Leonard on Wade instead to completely take his post-ups and space away and make the Heat offense truly all about James. Boris Diaw has shown he can do a solid job on James anyway, so it wouldn't shock me to see some serious cross-matching in this series. Regardless of whom he guards, Leonard will have to make a fair share of big plays defensively and create easy points because it's just too hard to score consistently on Miami's halfcourt defense. If they put anyone other than James on him defensively, he'll have to punish that match-up, and make a difference on the boards as well. Right now, he's my pick for Finals MVP.
Danny Green: B+
26.0 mins, 12.2 pts, 3.2 rebs, 1.0 asts, 2.0 stls, 0.7 blks, 1.0 TOs, .455/.541/1.000, +9.5 per game,111.9 ORtg, 92.8 DRtg, 19.1 Net, 19.2 PER, 5 YTS pts
Green should be grateful that Manu Ginobili's taken so much abuse for his 12 turnovers and missed free throw in Game 6 of last year's Finals because it masked the fact that Green stopped covering James on the second three he made and that he was absolutely putrid on both ends of the floor in Games 6 and 7. Green has taken over Ginobili's role as the ultimate barometer for the Spurs. When he's good, they're unbeatable. When he's bad, it's much harder for them. Green was fantastic in the four wins against the Thunder. filled the box score in Game 6 and did a very nice job defensively on Durant. On the downside, he had a bonehead pass that almost cost them the game and shot 22 percent from two in the series.
In the Finals Green probably won't find the same room he got for games 1-5, but I think he consciously worked on getting his shot off quicker in the offseason and in shooting it from different spots on the floor and in transition. It's harder to limit him now. I'm more interested in him defensively. Can he limit Wade? Can he limit James? Green's home/road splits have been dramatic in these playoffs so I think no one is happier than Green that the Spurs have home court advantage.
Tiago Splitter: B-
17.0 mins, 5.5 pts, 5.2 rebs, 1.2 asts, 0.0 stls, 1.0 blks, 0.7 TOs, .600/NA/.714, +2.8 per game, 107.2 ORtg, 99.1 DRtg, 8.1 Net, 19.3 PER, 1 YTS pt
Splitter started the series well, but once Ibaka's calf miraculously healed things soured for him quickly. His strength is defending the paint against post scorers and the Thunder don't happen to have any. But Splitter's real struggles came on the other end of the floor, where he couldn't score against Ibaka and clogged the paint too much to help the guards. Once Ibaka got to play with another stretch four in a backup role, he actually helped the cause quite a bit.
Spurs vs Heat Finals: Pre-Series Links
The Spurs are rested, at home and extremely motivated. Here's your list of pre-Game 1 reading material.
It figures to be more of the same in the Finals for Splitter, who will get somewhere between 10-20 minutes a game backing up Duncan, though I guess they can play together if Andersen and Bosh are paired up. I think Splitter's experiences from the last Finals will serve him well this time around and he'll play a bit tougher defensively, but make no mistake, he will be tested. Really I think the key for him is who's guarding James while he's in there. If Pop tweaks his rotations so Leonard or at least Diaw plays those minutes instead of someone like Marco Belinelli, it's gonna be a lot easier.
Manu Ginobili: A
22.8 mins, 15.2 pts, 2.7 rebs, 3.7 asts, 1.5 stls, 0.0 blks, 1.0 TOs, .500/.500/.941, 5.0 per game,115.7 ORtg, 103.8 DRtg, 11.9 Net, 28.4 PER, 9 YTS pts
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the 28.4 PER Ginobili put up this series, a couple months short of his 37th birthday, was the second-best of any postseason series of his career, just a tick behind the 28.5 he managed against the Nuggets in the 2005 western quarterfinals. He also turned it over just once per game against an athletic, trapping defense similar to the one he'll face in the Finals. The critical number for me was Gino's relatively low minutes total, thanks to all those blowouts, and I am hopeful that fact, along with the all the rest days in The Finals, will allow him to be at his best for the Heat. Remember, he didn't have too much rest at all between the Dallas and Portland series.
I'm not gonna lie, Ginobili is my biggest concern going into the Finals. His regular season performances against the Heat weren't at all encouraging, as he averaged just 4.5 points on 30.7 percent shooting, with 2.5 assists and 1.5 turnovers against them. I'm wondering if he'll be able to stay out of foul trouble, something that he couldn't always avoid against OKC or Portland. He'll likely be guarding Wade or Allen most of the time, though he's actually fared decently against James when matched up with him. Offensively people will harp on the turnovers, but I'll be watching for his accuracy on the three ball. If he hits those early, it opens up everything else for him.
Boris Diaw: A-
26.5 mins, 13.2 pts, 5.3 rebs, 3.0 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.2 blks, 1.8 TOs, .491/.421/.708, 4.5 per game,112.8 ORtg, 102.5 DRtg, 10.3 Net, 19.5 PER, 6 YTS pts
Cory Joseph got a lot of credit for bringing life to the team in a losing cause in Game 4, but Diaw was just as inspirational and effective down the stretch of that game and his play obviously opened Pop's eyes a bit. He wasn't the starter technically, but he played starter minutes the next two games and was absolutely fantastic in Game 6, reminiscent of Robert Horry's Game 5 at Detroit in 2005. As aggressive as Diaw was, he still passed up half the open shots they gave him. He simply doesn't want to shoot the ball, but he winds up often creating a layup for himself or an open shot for someone else anyway. And yes, you better believe I noticed how high he got up to rebound Durant's missed three late in overtime.
Diaw will probably start and is in line to see a ton (no pun intended) of minutes in the Finals, though I can see Pop going really small at times with Duncan-Leonard-Green-Ginobili-Parker. I suppose he can use Splitter or even Diaw with those four too, though I really worry about the rebounding in that scenario. He'll probably cover LeBron some, though I can see Pop putting him on Bosh way out on the perimeter as well or any of their bigs. I can't imagine anyone on the Heat covering him effectively, so again he'll be the key to the series.
Marco Belinelli: D+
16.2 mins, 5.2 pts, 2.8 rebs, 1.2 asts, 0.0 stls, 0.0 blks, 1.2 TOs, .400/.250/1.000, -1.0 per game, 105.1 ORtg, 109.3 DRtg, -4.1 Net, 8.6 PER, 0 YTS pts
Belinelli has alternated bad series with good ones, so he's due for a pretty sweet Finals. Just do yourself a favor and don't look up his stats last year against Miami. Trust me on that one. Oddly enough the one thing he's done really well all postseason is rebound. Like every other Spur he started well enough against OKC but couldn't keep it up once the series went on the road and Ibaka entered the picture.
There's no reason for Belinelli to struggle against Miami since there will be plenty of guys to hide him on defensively, whether it's Allen, Battier, Lewis or even their point guards. The key for him will be whether he can make quick and wise decisions against their swarming defense. Rocky's leash will not be long, but he'll need to give the Spurs some minutes against Miami's small lineups.
Patty Mills: C
14.7 mins, 3.5 pts, 1.8 rebs, 1.5 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.0 blks, 0.3 TOs, .308/.263/NA, +4.8 per game, 114.4 ORtg, 93.6 DRtg, 20.8 Net, 7.8 PER, 0 YTS pts
Even weirder than Belinelli's rebounding was Mills' outstanding defense, particularly in Game 6. Even though he couldn't throw it into the ocean, the Spurs handily outscored the Thunder with Mills on the floor thanks to his pestering on the other end.
Mills will have to shoot it better against the Heat because he'll definitely have chances to shine against them. His quickness will be a mismatch against their guards. Ginobili will be trapped heavily so Mills will have to make himself available as a safety valve and secondary ball-handler. With Parker's health in question, he may have a critical role in these Finals.
Matt Bonner: C+
10.5 mins, 2.3 pts, 1.5 rebs, 0.8 asts, 0.0 stls, 0.2 blks, 0.2 TOs, .313/.333/NA, +4.0 per game, 109.6 ORtg, 91.4 DRtg, 18.3 Net, 6.1 PER, 3 YTS pts
Rocket didn't exactly bury the Thunder under a hail of threes, but there's no denying that his presence threw them off-kilter on both ends of the floor. Ibaka didn't seal off the paint as well as he had been in Games 3 and 4 and he suckered the Congolese big-man into a few ill-advised shots as well. Bonner did make a couple in Game 6, and considering the stakes, he deserves props for that.
Even though the Spurs' stretch four attack was successful, it's hard to see Bonner having a role against the Heat. I just can't see Pop taking the risk of playing him when there's really nobody for him to defend, though I suppose we can see some sweet match-ups with Lewis and Battier.
Aron Baynes: C
9.4 mins, 2.6 pts, 2.0 rebs, 0.0 asts, 0.2 stls, 0.0 blks, 1.2 TOs, .364/NA/.833, +5.6 per game, 113.2 ORtg, 85.3 DRtg, 27.9 Net, 2.4 PER, 0 YTS pts
Baynes gave the Spurs very valuable minutes in Game 1 and then wasn't really called upon in a meaningful way the rest of the series.
Unless there's extreme foul trouble, Baynes will likely be a cheerleader the rest of the way, though he'll no doubt get some playing time in blowouts. The Spurs will be loathe to use four bigs, but given the opponent, Bonner will probably get the call before Banger does.
Cory Joseph: A
8.0 mins, 5.3 pts, 0.8 rebs, 1.0 asts, 0.0 stls, 0.0 blks, 0.5 TOs, .600/.000/.889, +4.0 per game, 109.1 ORtg, 88.3 DRtg, +20.9 Net, 25.0 PER, 5 YTS pts
Joseph was inspirational and unafraid in Game 4 and even if you don't believe the mumbo jumbo about the emotional lift he gave his teammates, there's no arguing that his strong play down the stretch of that game forced the Thunder to play their starters longer than they'd like and all of those guys had noticeably less fuel in their tanks than normal in Game 5. Even more impressive to me was how he played in the third quarter of Game 6 in an actual meaningful situation. He stepped in for the hobbled Parker and was flawless. If anything, I was disappointed that he didn't get any fourth quarter minutes because he certainly deserved them.
Whether Joseph sees any meaningful time against Miami will probably depend on Parker's health and Mills' effectiveness, though he certainly has a point in his favor in that he's already gotten some experience playing the Heat on the biggest stage last year. If the Heat have guys like Norris Cole on the floor, there's no reason Joseph can't hang. If they use their no point guard lineup, then he's out of luck. Either way, Joseph has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he's a legit player.