Heat Spurs Preview: Will LeBron James Or Tony Parker Be the X Factor?

The upcoming Heat-Spurs match up has me really excited. As a basketball fan, how could you not be? The best player on the planet, the hottest point guard in the game, and two totally different styles, and this has the makings for one of the best NBA Finals in recent memory.

The Heat took care of business last night in game 7, closing out the Indiana Pacers in a game that wasn’t really close for much of its duration, and certainly not indicative of the series as a whole. The Spurs, on the other hand, swept the Grizzlies pretty handily, led by strong performances from Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, and get to “enjoy” a 10 day break before the Finals start on Thursday.

Miami's star forward LeBron James is playing like a monster right now. He’s averaging 26 points, with 7 rebounds, and 6 assists to spare. These numbers are fantastic, but there is an even more fascinating dynamic to his game writ large: Lebron seems to always make the right play, even when it's not immediately obvious. This was a point Inside the NBA analyst Kenny Smith touched on last night, and he is absolutely right. LeBron is that rare breed of player that seems to always be thinking 3-4 plays ahead, making subtle decisions that do not appear to have much impact, and yet in the larger scheme of things, they do. LeBron is playing Chess out there, while most are playing Checkers.

Speaking of monsters, is there any doubt now that Tony Parker is the best point guard in the game? The Frenchman torched the Memphis Grizzlies — a great defensive team mind you — waltzing into the lane at will and putting undue pressure on the Grizzlies' front line. To really appreciate the beauty of Tony Parker’s game, it is imperative that you just focus on him, and him only, for several offensive possessions, particularly off the ball. I’m convinced Parker could run a marathon tomorrow if he needed to, because there never seems to be any lethargy or pause to his game.

Leading up to Game 1, we will likely hear all about how the Heat are the flashier team, how they play a brand of basketball more conducive to great TV ratings, etc. While there may be some truth to that, the San Antonio Spurs are a really fun team to watch in their own right, putting together a solid package of dribble drive, great spacing, excellent three-point shooting, and fundamental team defense, hallmarks of a Gregg Poppovich coached team. This more structural line of attack is contrasted to the more freelance approach that the Miami Heat employs. Because of the talent and energy the Heat bring, they can adapt their strategy when need be, as Game 7 of the Pacer series proved.

Can the Heat force the Spurs to play out of their comfort zone? Can the Heat keep Parker out of the lane? Can Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Gary Neal continue to hit shots when called upon? Does Tim Duncan continue to play like he’s 5 years younger? Can Kawhi Leonard make LeBron expend a lot of energy on the offensive end? Will the Spurs front line pose issues for Chris Bosh like the Pacers’ did?

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to find out!