Spurs-Heat Game One Preview

THE NBA FINALS - OUR GAME 1 PREVIEW AS THE HEAT LOOK TO "HOLD SERVE" AGAINST THE MIGHTY SPURS ...

PLUS BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES TOO AS BOTH CUBS AND WHITE SOX ARE STAGGERING BADLY

By Jim Hurley:

News flash: The Miami Heat is a monstrous 2.5-to-1 betting favorite in this year's NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs even though the following is true:
San Antonio is 12-2 SU (straight-up) and 10-4 ATS (against the spread) this post-season including a pair of playoff round sweeps against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies;

Also, the Spurs have won Game 1 in each of their three playoff series so far with double-digit Game 1 wins against the Lakers and Grizzlies sandwiching a tight 129-127 double-overtime triumph over the Golden State Warriors;

Finally, San Antonio actually has won nine of its 12 playoff games by 10-or-more points and so dominance has been a word that could be applied to the Spurs' "second season" even if you haven't heard the all-knowing media use that word all that much.

In short, San Antonio - the #2 seed in the NBA's Western Conference this post-season - has oodles and oodles of high-class credentials this post-season and yet they are not being given much of a chance odds-wise to win their fifth NBA crown in the past 15 years.

Hey, like it or not, this post-season has revolved around the numero uno topic in the hoops world:

Will MVP LeBron James and friends become the league's first repeat champions since the Los Angeles Lakers of 2009-2010 or might "The King" and his friends fall for a second time in three years in NBA Finals action?

The hoopla's been swirling around the past few days ever since Miami extinguished the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and - so without further ado - let's get you our Game 1 Preview of this NBA Finals but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals Side & Totals Winners when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays. Also, bang out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too each/every day online and on the toll-free telephone # here with weeknight games available after 1 p.m. ET and weekday games after 11 a.m. ET.

THE NBA FINALS -- GAME 1; Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, ABC-TV
SAN ANTONIO at MIAMI

Let's not spend much time on the "rest versus rust" question that's dogging a Spurs team that has not played a game since Memorial Day (a 93-86 series-clinching win against Memphis) and has played just two games since May 22nd.

It's likely that San Antonio's veteran players will - indeed - need a few minutes to "get their legs" here in Game 1 and so it will be interesting to see who's ahead and by how much after the first quarter when it's expected Miami will be in prime form while San Antonio might not be.

Still, there is little question that Miami not only needs its 25-or-26 points per game from James (he's averaging 26.2 ppg in this year's playoffs) but both Dwyane Wade (14.1 ppg these playoffs) and F Chris Bosh (12.2 ppg) must click in here right from the series start and our best guess is that Wade/Bosh must get more than 25 points between 'em in this NBA Finals-opener simply because the likes of PG Mario Chalmers and reserve G Ray Allen have been too much hit-or-miss in these playoffs.

Expect Wade to get into the flow of the offense right from the start - that was pretty much his complaint in Game 6 of the series against the Pacers and gotta believe Miami boss-man Erik Spoelstra will grant Wade his wishes here while Bosh - who canned just 3-of-13 field-goal tries in that Game 7 win against Indiana this past Monday night - must show he can drain those wing jumpers here or else savvy San Antonio will likely leave him alone.

Now the flip side:

The Spurs - who are averaging 101.6 ppg while allowing just 91.5 ppg this post-season - must allow veteran PG Tony Parker (23.0 ppg and 7.2 assists per game) to run the show each/every minute he's on the floor and whether that means drives to the hoop, pull-up jumpers or making sure San Antonio's surrounding cast that stars F Tim Duncan (17.8 ppg) is getting enough looks the key is Parker and the $64,000 question here is who guards him from the start?

Will James get that assignment or does the aforementioned Spoelstra believe that will force his mega-star player to expend too much energy on that particular end of the floor ... or will we see a rotation of players here in Game 1 on Parker who probably goes 43 or 44 minutes here providing he's not in any kind of foul problems.

Obviously, one major part of the Spurs' game is the three-point shots: Note that there are four different San Antonio players - that's Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner with double-figure triples made this post-season - and we'll put the Game 1 number at 10-or-made treys here if the 5 ½-point underdog Spurs wish to pull off the upset in this NBA Finals opener.

Two X-factors that must be eyeballed here in Game 1:

The Spurs need Duncan and F/C Tiago Splitter to play well together when head coach Gregg Popovich puts 'em on the floor at the same time. In the sweep against Memphis, that was a huge key as Duncan's ability to hit the short jumper allowed Splitter room to operate in the paint and there were times that Splitter kept balls alive that allowed Duncan and Parker second shots at the hoop.

Finally, it always comes down to defense and Game 1 is no exception:

The Heat proved it can step it up a notch on the defensive end in Game 7 against Indiana but did you realize that Miami has held seven foes to below the 90-point mark in this post-season - yes, all of them were Miami wins - and so limiting the Spurs to one shot and eliminating those 30-point quarters is key throughout the series but especially so right here in Game 1.

Let's now dig into some key spread stats for both the Spurs and the Heat:
We've already told you that San Antonio is 10-4 versus the vig this post-season and that's good for a sizzling .714 winning rate but note that Miami is 9-7 ATS this post-season (a .563 winning percentage).
The Heat - surprise, surprise - have been favored in each/every game in this year's playoffs and the defending champs are just 4-5 ATS at home and only 1-2 spreadwise in Game 1s so far this post-season.

In fact, here's Miami's Game 1 history in this year's playoffs:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-21 MIAMI - 13 Milwaukee 110-87
5-6 Chicago + 13 MIAMI 93-86
5-22 MIAMI - 8.5 Indiana 103-102 (ot)

Now, here's what the Spurs have done in their Game 1 playoff tilts this spring:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-21 SAN ANTONIO - 9 LA Lakers 91-79
5-6 SAN ANTONIO - 9 Golden State 129-127 (2ot)
5-19 SAN ANTONIO - 4.5 Memphis 105-83

Overall, the Spurs are an electric 6-1 against the odds on the playoff road this year - that's an .857 winning rate - and they're 2-0 spreadwise as underdog sides with both of those outright wins coming in the two Western Conference Finals affairs in Memphis (a 104-93 win in Game 3 as 5-point pups and a series-clinching 93-86 triumph as 2 ½-point dogs).

We'll re-cap Spurs-Heat Game 1 in our Friday edition of Jim Sez, so don't dare miss out!

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

The Biogenesis nonsense continues to hang over Major-League Baseball like the darkest of all rain clouds but let's steer our attention elsewhere for a couple of moments here:

It hasn't taken long for the baseball season to be "lost" - already - in the Windy City as the Chicago Cubs (23-33 entering last night's game in Anaheim) and the Chicago White Sox (24-32 while entering yesterday's matinee tilt in Seattle) have floundered badly and neither team has been able to hit a lick.

How about the fact the Chisox - losers of eight straight games following Tuesday's 7-4 loss to the M's - rank dead-last in the 15-team American League in runs scored and 10th in the league in home runs despite the fact they play in one of the sport's most homer-friendy parks. Maybe it's time to trade off a pitching prospect or two for a big bat or else this season will be going down the drain faster than you can say Wilbur Wood!

On the North Side, the Cubs have pitched well enough (a 3.84 ERA ranks seventh in the National League) and the starters have been fine but the bullpen's been a mess - yes, Carlos Marmol has been awful again - and SS Starlin Castro has just been moved down to the seventh spot in the lineup after going homerless for the month of May and note Castro is just 10-of-59 with one single RBI in his last 14 games. Ouch!

It's not often that both Chitown teams are "irrelevant" this early in a season but right now the Black Hawks are about the only thing "Second City" folks have to cheer about these days.
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