NBA Handicapping: Can Any Team Match Up with the Miami Heat?
by George Monroy - 5/15/2013
The Miami Heat have the look and feel of a team that is marching toward the inevitable — a second championship in the LeBron James era. Miami has laid waste to every team it has faced over the last 40 or so games, and even when they took a knockout blow to the face by losing Game 1 at home to the Chicago Bulls, they simply shrugged it off and dominated the series. At this point, it is probably safe to assume that nobody in the Eastern Conference has a chance at stopping the Heat, and the NBA’s only hope of ending Miami’s dominant run will come out of the West.
There is no debating that the Heat are the best team in the NBA, but there are more than a few quality contenders left in the Western Conference that could challenge Miami, if not beat them all together. LeBron James and the Heat may be the super-villain trying to take over the world. However, once the West is settled, there will be a very solid team ready to challenge Miami. Let’s take a closer look at the Western Conference and figure out which teams might actually have a shot at challenging the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
Odds to win NBA title: +800
The Memphis Grizzlies have been the best team in the playoffs over the first two rounds. The team might not get as much attention as the marquee squads in the Western Conference, but Memphis’ run is not coming out of nowhere. The team is built for the half-court grind of the playoffs and the slow, methodical pace favors them greatly. On paper the Grizzlies match up favorably against the Heat, and take advantage of Miami where they are the weakest — in the post.
It might be shocking to say it, but the Grizzlies have the best chance at beating the Heat in the NBA Finals. However, trying to stop LeBron James, the greatest player since a 2001 Shaquille O’Neal, is easier said than done. Memphis dominates the post and has a perimeter defender that should, at minimum, make James and Dwyane Wade work for their points. The Grizzlies have been so good that they have only failed to cover one spread during the postseason thus far, and they have a ridiculous 9-1 ATS record.
San Antonio Spurs
Odds to win NBA title: +800
The Spurs have not really matched up against Miami during the ‘Big Three’ era, so there is hardly any test data to go on. On paper the San Antonio matches up against the Heat as the team can play fast with an up-tempo style led by Tony Parker, can play big with Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw, and can stretch the floor with Matt Bonner and Kawhi Leonard on the wings. The Spurs can match any style of play, and they may be the only team in the league with more experience and better chemistry than the Heat.
San Antonio will not flinch during a potential Finals meeting with the Heat and will not be out-coached or out-prepared. The Spurs biggest issue is age and health. It’s hard to know if the team will be up for the challenge of beating the Miami Heat after having run the gauntlet in the West.
Golden State Warriors
Odds to win NBA tile: +2500
The Warriors do not necessarily match up favorably against the Heat. However, when they are playing at their best, it doesn’t matter because the team simply imposes its skill set to the highest degree. When Golden State is hitting perimeter shots, it does not matter if they match up well or not. The team has an astounding 9-1 ATS record in the playoffs thus far and has been competitive in nearly every game they have played.
The Warriors would lack the size to play with Miami in a potential seven-game series, but they would have the energy -- and confidence of not knowing any better -- to challenge Miami. Wagering on Golden State to win the NBA title has some value at +2500, even though they still haven’t gotten by San Antonio as of yet.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Odds to win NBA title: +8000
The Thunder did not match up particularly well with the Heat even when they had a healthy Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City’s best player, Kevin Durant, is simply too cordial with LeBron James and treats him more like a friend than someone who is trying to take his NBA title away. The Thunder do not have the defense to stop Miami. And now that Westbrook is out of the picture, they probably couldn’t win one game against the Heat.
Read more articles by George Monroy
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