The San Antonio Spurs (50-11) will face the Miami Heat (43-18) for the first time this season at the AT&T Center and look to continue their winning ways in San Antonio. The Spurs have won 21 straight home games.
The Spurs are coming off a 109-99 win against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers led by George Hill's 22 points. The Spurs also have won three straight games against Miami including a two-game sweep of the Heat last season.
For the Heat, they are coming off an embarrassing 99-96 loss to the Orlando Magic blowing a 24 point lead. Miami will be itching to prove they can beat the NBA's number one team and erase memories of last night's debacle.
To talk about tonight's contest, I turn to friend of Project Spurs Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops. The absolute best Heat blog on the Internet.
in this Q&A, Surya talks about the off season additions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Heat closing out games, which Spur concerns him and more.
Jeff: The Heat made a big splash in the off season acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh. How would assess their development now that they had time to develop chemistry?
Surya: This might not be a good time to ask me this question after their horrific meltdown last night against the Orlando Magic. Looking back at the season as a whole though, there's a reason why LeBron James is one of the leading candidates for MVP consideration. His skill set is so unique the Heat need every facet of it to earn a victory. He's such a force that I think it's more of a question of whether his teammates have truly learned to play with him and not the other way around. His trust in his players is still a work in progress, as is this team. Once he settles into a comfort zone with the team and he can really start to click together with Wade, the Heat can be unstoppable.
Chris Bosh has struggled as of late, especially in big games, but through the first half of the season he was arguably their most consistent player. He still gets lost a bit in the offense because LeBron and Wade have the ball so much but his short absence due to injury last month showed how important he is to the offense with his spacing and passing ability. The Big 2 attract so much attention from opposing teams' defense that the mid-range jumper will always be there for Bosh so it's up to him to nail them. I honestly thought he had more of a post-up game with his back to the basket but as soon as he receives a pass in that kind of a position he'll just swing around and use his footwork to get free or create contact while penetrating. Bosh has been good but you wonder how much better this team would have been with someone who plays the position a bit more traditionally and with power like Carlos Boozer does.
The Boston Celtics seem to have Miami's number and are 3-0 against the Heat. Do you feel this Heat team can beat the Celtics come playoff time or are you hoping to avoid Boston at all costs?
The Celtics have the mental edge over the Heat, no question about that. But the first two games of the series took place so early in the season it's a bit unfair to take too much out of those games. Even still they've all been very close games so the difference between both teams isn't too great. The problem is that the Celtics execute down the stretch of tight games and the Heat have not proven they can do that against most teams, let alone a team with so many weapons like Boston has. The Heat would definitely prefer to play the Chicago Bulls or Orlando Magic if they had a choice but LeBron and Wade have a score to settle with the Celtics because they beat the Heat and the Cleveland Cavs last year in the playoffs so the motivation is there. I still see the two of them meeting in the conference finals but the Heat would have to be quite a different team than they presently are to beat them four times in seven games.
You recently wrote on how Miami seems to not be able to close out games in crunch time. In a nutshell, why?
The offense in crunch time gets static and predictable. Usually it involves LeBron dribbling the ball until the shot clock is nearly ending and either taking an ill-advised long jumper or passing it to Wade who does the same. Zero movement off the ball, no cuts to the basket, nothing. The defense loves it because iso sets are easy to plan for and the two have been erratic with their jump shots. Their offense at the end of games looks nothing like it does any other time in the game. It's quite frustrating and Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff have to shoulder a lot of the blame because they're not drawing up many effective plays that can be executed quickly and successfully.
Which one player from the Spurs concerns you tonight and why? What's your game prediction?
Ginobili. He's too smart and crafty not to wear down his defender, which should be Wade. If he gets it going, I'm not sure how the Heat will respond because they don't have a lockdown perimeter defender (like a Bruce Bowen) to come off the bench to relieve Wade. Their guards off the bench are shooters like Eddie House and I don't see Mike Bibby defending Ginobili.
This is the toughest back-to-back set for the Heat, especially after the emotionally draining loss last night to the Magic. The Spurs should win the game but the Heat might be extra motivated to prove their doubters wrong and if the Big 3 are firing on all cylinders they can be unstoppable.