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NBA Finals Game 6 Preview

by Photo of Scott Davis

As the Heat and Spurs enter Game 6, a look at three things each team must do to win

NBA Finals Game 6 Preview

Tonight may be the end of the 2012-13 NBA season. The San Antonio Spurs head into Miami to face the Heat, owning 3-2 series led, with tonight's Game 6 as the possible championship-clincher. For the Spurs, it means winning their first championship since 2007 and the fifth of the Tim Duncan era; for the Heat, it means forcing a deciding Game 7 and trying to become repeat champions.

The series has been unusual in how it's lacked close, down-to-the-wire games. Aside from Game 1, sealed by Tony Parker's buzzer-beater floater in the final minute, each team has swapped wins in Games 2-5, with each win coming by double-digits. Yet the series hasn't lacked drama. From blowouts to hot shooting to cold shooting to momentous performances by individual players, the series has been as good as most basketball fans could hope for, despite a lack of late-game heroics.

So with the season on the line, here's a look at three things each team should do to try and come away with a win.

How the Miami Heat can force a Game 7:

1) Utilize the Big 3. This seems obvious, and really, the keys to Miami victories are always pretty simple. The Heat have the best player in the series in LeBron James, but thus far, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh haven't appeared to be the second, third, or even fourth or fifth best players in the series. James, of course, needs to be in attack mode, bulldozing his way into the paint, getting to the line, or making the defense collapse and finding any one of Miami's numerous shooters. Wade, likewise, needs to be aggressive. Often, he's too complacent in isolation and pick-and-roll situations, opting for difficult fade-aways and deep twos when the plays don't yield the results he desires. He's nearly unstoppable off the dribble and around the basket, as evidenced by his 69% shooting from five feet or less from the basket. And Chris Bosh, as oft discussed, tends to come and go in aggressiveness. He's a good shooter, with a decent face-up and post-up game, and he's versatile in the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop scenarios. Let him put some pressure on the Spurs' big men.

2) Push the pace. Again, pretty simple. The Spurs have shown how effective they are in pushing the pace, getting transition baskets from inside and out, and they don't have half the athletes the Heat do. The Spurs, of course, have worked hard to deny transition opportunities by simply running back hard and clogging the paint to try and deny James and Wade from getting to the basket. However, the Heat have to make a concentrated effort to get the ball up the court quickly off turnovers, misses, and even made shots. James and Wade are tough to stop when they have a head of speed, and surrounding shooters like Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, and Shane Battier can run to the corners and elbows and benefit from open looks caused by the penetration of James and Wade.

3) Mike Miller and Chris Andersen. Hmm? Strange as it may seem, Miller and Andersen have the highest on-court Net Rating of any player on the Heat, logging 18.5 and 10.0 Net Ratings through the Finals. Net Ratings are calculated based on the difference between a team's Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions) and Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). With Miller on the floor, Miami's Offensive Rating is a blistering 123.1. With Andersen on the floor, Miami's defense has been at its best, allowing 101.9 points to an explosive Spurs team. Miller has been unconscious from downtown, providing Miami with key spacing, and forcing the Spurs to stick with him; Andersen is long, athletic, and a good enough shot-blocker to deny as many inside opportunities for the Spurs, therefore forcing them onto the perimeter even more. Good games from them could be enough to force a Game 7.

How the San Antonio Spurs can win the championship:

1) More three-pointers! One of the biggest stories of these 2013 NBA Finals has been San Antonio's scorching shooting from outside, led, of course, by Danny Green, whose right hand may be hot enough to grill a steak. In Game 5, Green broke Ray Allen's Finals record for three-pointers in a series, and he doesn't show signs of stopping. Others have contributed as well, from Gary Neal to Kawhi Leonard - these role players have burned the Heat in all of the Spurs' victories. It's tough for Miami to even stop the Spurs from launching, too. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan command attention and force help. When help arrives, they're both willing to send the ball to the perimeter where it finds the open man, who -- more often than not -- cans the three-pointer. So fire away, Spurs!

2) More Manu Ginobili. Arguably the biggest story of the Spurs' Game 5 victory was the long-awaited emergence of Ginobili. Gregg Popovich took a risk by inserting the usual sixth man extraordinaire into the starting lineup, but it paid off. Ginobili exploded out of a series-long funk for 24 points on 8-14 shooting with 10 assists. His long-ball still didn't drop (just 1-4 from three), but he was effective at needling his way into the paint for layups and floaters and swinging the ball rapidly to find the Spurs' shooters. Parker and Duncan have been excellent these playoffs, but as has been the case in the Big 3 era, Ginobili is the X-factor that makes the Spurs a truly dynamic team.

3) Exploit mismatches. The Spurs are one of the few teams that actually have a mismatch edge of the Heat, mostly thanks to the genius of Gregg Popovich. When the Heat make a move, Pop counters and forces them to adjust. Always the proponent of team basketball, in Game 5, Popovich thwarted the Heat's small-ball game plan by having his best offensive players isolate and go at the Heat. Tim Duncan pounded away in the paint at smaller defenders, Tony Parker scorched guards off the dribble, and the Spurs made a continuous effort to go at the likes of Mike Miller and Ray Allen. If the Spurs can continue to isolate and devastate (hat-tip to Walt "Clyde" Frazier) the Heat, then they'll keep scoring at will. If the Heat react and send help, it opens up the Spurs' rapid-fire ball-movement and perimeter game.

My feeling? The Heat are too good, and the Spurs' shooting may not hold up while they're away from home. I believe we'll be looking at a Game 7.

Let CHARGED.fm get you the best Miami Heat tickets for Game 6 of the NBA Finals.


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