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A Heat/Spurs NBA Finals May Just Be Inevitable

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After San Antonio's Game 1 win, both the Spurs and Heat hold over 70 percent Finals odds.

This is the NBA, right? This is the league where Lance Stephenson can almost singlehandedly win a playoff game and Zach Randolph can go from Portland headcase to Memphis hero and Matt Bonner can suddenly become pretty important come playoff time. The anything can happen mantra isn't only a marketer's dream; it's reality.

So why does this seem like such an utterly mismatched pair of Conference Finals series?

The Heat are on a warpath that would make Genghis Khan proud. According to our current power rankings, Miami holds a 53.2 percent chance of taking home the title. It really wouldn't matter if they played Indiana or New York or the Globetrotters or the Monstars; Miami's favored in that series.

On the other side, though? It might seem odd to admit, but especially after Game 1, San Antonio is squarely in the driver's seat. Sure, Memphis was able to take down the Clippers and the Westbrook-less Thunder, but the Spurs and their third-best defensive rating (101.6) and second-best offensive effective field goal percentage (.531) are a much different story.

So could Memphis or Indiana actually pull the upset? That depends, do 4:1 odds sound good to you?

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

Most Likely Outcome: Miami Heat in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Miami12.22%24.76%18.29%19.61%74.88%
Indiana2.20%4.38%10.09%8.45%25.12%

What to Watch For: Indiana's Offensive eFG%

For all of the talk about the rebounding of the Grizzlies and Spurs, it's actually been the Pacers that have been the most dominate on the boards this postseason. Their 31.2 percent offensive rebound rate is first. Their 78.3 percent defensive rebound rate is first. Not even Kim Kardashian rebounds this well. They'll clearly have the edge on Miami here.

In the turnover margin, though, it will be a shock if Miami doesn't decimate the Indiana squad. Miami may have only committed 0.3 percent fewer turnovers during these playoffs (and 0.6 percent fewer during the regular season), but on the defensive side, Miami is much more adept at swiping the ball. Indiana's 11.2 percent rate of playoff turnovers forced sits as easily the worst of the four teams left, and they can't get within a zip code Miami's 15.7 percent rate.

So with rebounds and turnovers about a wash, this series could very well come down to that most basic of basketball stats: who puts the ball in the hoop better? And as the odds can tell you, chances are high that will be Miami. Any time Indiana even gets close to Miami's average shooting, it will be the result of a hot, outlier day.

The Heat's regular season .552 eFG% beat out the '07 and '08 Phoenix Suns (.551) as the best single-season shooting team since the turn of the Millennium, and their .451 defensive eFG% this postseason ranks as the best in the NBA. The Pacers, meanwhile, finished the regular season shooting only a 22nd-best .479 eFG%, and their .465 eFG% in the postseason has been even worse despite winning two series. I'd say these two aren't exactly even when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop, which spells trouble if that's Indiana's necessary ingredient to winning.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Most Likely Outcome: San Antonio Spurs in 5

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
San Antonio11.82%23.18%16.76%19.78%71.04%
Memphis0.00%4.69%12.09%12.18%28.96%

What to Watch For: San Antonio's 3P%

The article may have been written in the middle of the last series, but its contents keep proving true time and time again: the Memphis Grizzlies love to win ugly. The way that Memphis dominates is through slowed down, defensive battles which minimize their weaknesses (shooting) and maximize their strengths (rebounding and second-chance points, turnovers).

So what happened in Game 1? The Grizzlies got the slowed down game they were looking for - 82.8 total possessions is one of the slowest games we've seen this postseason thus far. They just ran into a team that can thrive in that type of slow offense as well. Finding kick-out threes late in the shot clock was crucial - Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Matt Bonner each made three triples on the game.

And here's the part that should make Memphis fans cringe - San Antonio's .483 3P% isn't too much of an outlier. The Spurs shot .376 from long-range during the regular season, the fourth-best mark in the league. That's held firm with a .372 playoff rate as well, the second-best mark among all playoff teams. Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince haven't exactly been the lockdown defenders you would expect either, as Memphis' .337 3P% allowed is the fifth-highest (tied with San Antonio) among all 16 playoff teams.

The Grizzlies need to at least keep the shooting battle close in order to win with their turnover and rebounding advantages. That's how they went 13-12 during the regular season and 3-0 so far in the playoffs while shooting .442 eFG% or worse, after all. The more victory path would be keeping San Antonio's shooting down instead relying on an outlier Grizzlies offensive performance. But that all starts with stopping the Spurs on the perimeter, and our odds are skeptical Memphis is up to the task.

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In This Article

Matt Bonner
PF, San Antonio Spurs

Danny Green
GF, San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard
GF, San Antonio Spurs

Paul George
GF, Indiana Pacers

George Hill
G, Indiana Pacers

LeBron James
F, Miami Heat

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