It’s Spoelstra’s Move In NBA Finals Chess Match

Erik Spoelstra
The next move belongs to Erik Spoelstra in a 'back-to-the-wall' situation.

I believe it was legendary coach and now Miami Heat President Pat Riley who said of the NBA Finals, “Usually each team blows out the other and then you have tough, hard-fought games the rest of the way.” I’m paraphrasing a bit, but Riley couldn’t have been more wrong about this particular series.

The average margin of victory in the Miami-San Antonio series is a whopping 17-points with game one being the only one to be in single digits in the Spurs four-point win. The series now shifts to South Beach where the Heat face elimination. The NBA Finals to this point have been a chess match of epic proportions with coaches Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich making one calculating move after another. Neither team has won back-to-back games in the series and obviously Miami is hopeful that this trend continues tonight in American Airlines Arena.

The last two games, the Heat have started Mike Miller who had been pretty hot with his shooting coming off the bench. In his two starts, Miller has taken a grand total of two shots, missing both. I look for him to return to the pine tonight because Miller is a bit of a defensive liability as well.

Manu Ginobili
Will Ginobili return to the bench or be in the starting five tonight?

The big question for the Spurs is what will Coach Pop do with Manu Ginobili? In his first start of the series, Ginobili had 24 points on 8 of 14 shooting. He was the perfect compliment to Tony Parker’s 26 and the hotter than the sun Danny Green’s 24 points. Green by the way broke Ray Allen’s NBA Finals’ record of three-pointers in a series which was 22. Green now has 24 treys and still has potentially two games remaining.

The masterful stroke in game five was that Popovich kept Ginobili’s minutes about the same had he come off the bench in his typical sixth man spot.

The next move now belongs to Spoelstra. His Heat have been here before and he should have confidence going forward. In 2011, the first season of the ‘Big Three’ saw them return home from Dallas down 3-2 and they lost. Last year against Boston they were down 3-2 and rode a monster game six from LeBron James to eventually defeat the Celtics and advance. This season they trailed 3-2 to the Indiana Pacers and again overcame adversity to make their way tot the NBA Finals.

So here they are again down 3-2 and there are daunting questions that face them and perhaps even greater ones should they drop this series. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been inconsistent and LeBron James at times has been made to look very average at times settling for long jump shots rather than aggressively driving to the basket.

James will need help tonight and where it comes from no one is certain. I’m convinced he’ll show up in a big way tonight but can the Heat defend the outside shooting of Green while stopping penetration at the same time? My gut feeling is that Spoelstra will actually take the ‘less is more’ approach to game six. This is a veteran team that has been here before and I don’t see Spoelstra doing anything other than saying “Guys, go play Heat Basketball.”

Prediction: The Heat are favored by seven tonight at home with an over/under of 191. I’ve been very close to the over/under all series but just can’t seem to nail it as I’ve been just a little high when I’ve need to be a little low. I think you go over simply because of the situation Miami is in. I like the Heat to keep the trend of big wins going as I like them to cover and force a game seven.