SAN ANTONIO SPURS at MIAMI HEAT
Sportsbook.ag Line: Miami -5 & 188.5
Two teams with plenty of championship rings are hoping to add some more hardware when the Heat host the Spurs in the series opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Both teams boast two former MVPs of the NBA Finals with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker of San Antonio and Miami’s dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all having hoisted the MVP trophy after winning a title. The Spurs have won four league championships in four NBA Finals appearances — all since 1999 — while the Heat are making their third straight NBA Finals appearance, winning it all last season. These clubs met only twice in the regular season with Miami prevailing both times. The first game was a 105-100 home win on Nov. 29, when Gregg Popovich sent four of his top players home — Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green. The Spurs did play with a full roster in the most recent meeting at AT&T Center on March 31, but even though the Heat were missing both James (hamstring) and Wade (ankle), they still pulled out an 88-86 win. San Antonio is both the hotter team in this series with six straight wins (5-1 ATS), and is also the more well-rested club, not having played since May 27 when it finished a sweep of the Grizzlies in the West Finals. The veteran Spurs have enjoyed long layoffs, going 9-1 SU (6-4 ATS) with at least three days off, outscoring these teams by 8.1 PPG. The Heat are coming off a grueling seven-game series with the Pacers that concluded on Monday, giving them two off-days before starting this series. They have been great with exactly two days in between games, going 10-2 SU (8-4 ATS) and outscoring these opponents by 8.9 PPG. San Antonio has not enjoyed the underdog role this season (6-8 SU, 8-6 ATS), but has been strong on the road all season, going 29-19 SU and 26-22 ATS (54%). This includes a 6-1 away record (SU and ATS) in the playoffs. Miami is a nearly unbeatable 44-6 SU at home this season, but is just 26-24 ATS in these 50 games at AmericanAirlines Arena. This includes a subpar 4-5 ATS mark (7-2 SU) in front of its home fans this postseason.
The Spurs are in the midst of quite a postseason, going 12-2 SU and 10-4 ATS (71%). They have outscored opponents by 10.1 PPG and outshot them 47% FG to 42% FG. Part of this great shooting has come from an unselfish and careful offense that has 23.6 APG and just 12.0 TOPG (1.96 Ast/TO ratio). Defensively, the team has generated 8.3 SPG and 5.4 BPG, which has helped make up for a minus-2.7 RPG margin during this postseason. PG Tony Parker (23.0 PPG, 7.2 APG, 3.9 RPG in playoffs) and PF Tim Duncan (17.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG in playoffs) have both enjoyed a brilliant postseason. And both have also shined in previous NBA Finals, as Parker has averaged 16.4 PPG (47% FG) and 3.6 APG over three Finals, while Duncan has posted an outstanding 22.7 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.4 APG and 3.0 BPG during four championship runs in four tries. SG Manu Ginobili (11.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.5 RPG in playoffs) has been a part of three title teams, averaging 14.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG in his NBA Finals career. The two other main contributors this postseason have been SF Kawhi Leonard (13.0 PPG on 57% FG, 8.0 RPG in playoffs) and SG Danny Green (9.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG in playoffs). Leonard scored 17 points and 11 rebounds in the one meeting with Miami this season, while Green had 12 points and three boards in his lone matchup with the Heat this season.
Miami is 12-4 SU and 9-7 ATS this postseason, but has really been struggling offensively. In the regular season, the team failed shot below 40% FG just once in 82 games (38% FG on Nov. 11 at Memphis), but in the past four contests, the club has failed to reach 40% shooting three times. After shooting a season-worst 36.1% FG in the Game 6 loss, the Heat improved to just 39.5% FG in the Game 7 clincher. However, the defense has been consistently excellent all postseason, holding opponents to 87.6 PPG on 42.9% FG and 32.5% threes. Miami has generated 8.1 SPG and 5.6 BPG, while carrying a strong 1.50 Ast/TO ratio with 20.3 APG and 13.5 TOPG during the playoffs. And just like San Antonio, rebounding has also been a problem for the Heat, who have a minus-2.2 RPG margin in the postseason. SF LeBron James (26.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.4 APG in playoffs) will be playing in his fourth NBA Finals where he’s averaged 22.5 PPG (43.8% FG), 8.1 RPG and 7.0 APG in his career. When he faced the Spurs in the 2007 Finals, James had 22.0 PPG, but made just 35.6% FG and had 5.8 TOPG in the four-game sweep. But in 17 career regular-season games versus San Antonio, James has poured in 27.9 PPG on 51% shooting while adding 7.1 RPG and 6.4 APG for good measure. SG Dwyane Wade (14.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG in playoffs) has been wildly inconsistent during these playoffs, which probably has a lot to do with his recurring knee injury. But after making just 11-of-34 shots (32%) during Games 4-6 of the East Finals, Wade had a monster Game 7 with 21 points (7-of-16 FG), nine rebounds (six offensive) and a +17 rating. He’s played in three previous NBA Finals, averaging a robust 28.2 PPG (48.4% FG), 7.0 RPG and 4.7 APG. PF Chris Bosh (12.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG in playoffs) is in the midst of a horrible shooting slump, averaging a mere 7.0 PPG on 8-of-34 shooting (23.5%). Although Bosh was manhandled in the last series by the physical Pacers (4.3 RPG in series), he averaged 20.5 PPG and 10.5 RPG in two meetings with the Spurs this season, carrying his team without James and Wade in the March 31 win with 23 points (9-of-15 FG) and nine boards. SG Ray Allen (10.0 PPG, 37% threes in playoffs) has played in two NBA Finals in his career. He shot lights-out in 2008 with 20.3 PPG on 51% FG and 52% threes, but two years later, Allen struggled to a 14.6 PPG average on 37% FG and 29% threes. For his career against San Antonio, Allen has averaged 18.5 PPG on a pedestrian 43.4% FG, but has made an impressive 42.9% threes. PG Mario Chalmers (8.9 PPG, 3.5 APG in playoffs) is playing in his third straight NBA Finals, posting a solid 11.2 PPG (38% threes), 3.7 APG and a 2.1 Ast/TO ratio in those previous 11 games.