This is the best possible match-up. Without a doubt.
After the majority of series in the series leading up to the Finals ending after four or five games, there’s been no series more hotly-contested than the one that gives the winner the Larry O’Brien Trophy—and rightfully so. Each team has answered the call after being dealt a tough loss and, tied 2-2 through four games, it’s San Antonio’s time to pick up the phone after Miami pulled away from the Spurs late in Game 4 to earn a 103-93 win that tied the series again. Although the level of competition has been very high, so have the scores and margins of victory. Only one game so far has been decided by less than 10 points—San Antonio’s 92-88 Game 1 victory in Miami—with every other game having been won by double-digits, highlighted by San Antonio’s 36-point demolition of Miami in Game 3 followed a 19-point loss to the Heat in Game 2.
It’s all about offense
Seriously. Throw defense out the window. Obviously the team with the higher offensive rating will generally win every game, but the differentials have been massive. Save for Game 1, when San Antonio’s 108.2 ORtg beat Miami’s 103.5 mark. In Game 2, Miami’s ORtg of 124.1 far outstripped the Spurs’ mark of just 101.2 while Game 3 saw the Spurs go insane offensively as evidenced by their 130.3 ORtg which directly correlated to their 36-point win over the Heat and their measly 88.3 ORtg. And in Game 4, Miami dominated the scoring game once again with a 116 ORtg which gave the Heat a clear edge over the Spurs and their ORtg of 99.
As for some of your more traditional numbers, the San Antonio Spurs did an absolutely fantastic job of keeping the Heat’s biggest stars from shining as bright as usual. Dwyane Wade averaged just 14 ppg through Game 3 and LeBron James failed to score more than 20 points in any one of the first three contests. It’s one thing to let LeBron get his and hold his supporting cast down. But when LeBron isn’t scoring while Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller are being relied upon for points, the Heat are going to run into trouble as they did when the Spurs took a 2-1 series lead. Then LeBron scored 33 on 15-for-25 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds while Wade pulled out a vintage Flash performance with 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting with six rebounds and six steals. It also doesn’t hurt that the third member of the Big Three showed up with 20 points and 13 rebounds of his own after San Antonio asserted dominance in the paint for three games.
The Four Factors have been deciding factors
Of the four games so far, the team to hold the advantage when it comes to the Four Factors has won three out of four games. The only outlier comes when the teams tied with advantages in two categories apiece in Game 1, which San Antonio won. For those who don’t know, the Four Factors consist of effective field goal percentage (eFG%), Turnover Rate (TOV%), Offensive Rebound Percentage (ORB%), and Free Throw Factor (FT/FGA). Basically, the Four Factors show what a team does in the four most important components of the game—shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws.
Game 1 saw the Spurs take control of the turnover (4 percent TOV) and free throw (.179 FT/FGA) department, while the Heat held the edge in shooting (49 percent eFG%) and rebounding (23 percent ORB). In the Heat’s 19-point Game 2 victory, Miami controlled the shooting (55 percent eFG%), turnover rates (six percent against San Antonio’s 16 percent rate), and got to the line more with a 13 percent FT/FGA.
In Game 3, the Spurs dominated every aspect of the first game at the AT&T Center. The Spurs outshot the Heat (58 percent against the Heat’s 46 percent eFG%), turnover game (11 percent TOV% opposite Miami’s 17 percent rate), rebounding (41 percent over Miami’s 21 percent ORB%) and got to the line more (13 percent FT/FGA against Miami’s nine percent). It’s no wonder San Antonio won by 36.
Of course, as the Heat have done the dozen or so times they lost a game, Miami responded with a victory. Miami topped San Antonio in the shooting, turnover, and rebounding departments en route to its 10-point Game 4 win. As the series continues, pay attention to how these Four Factors play out for each team as they seem to hold some heavy sway when it comes to who wins each game.