Tiago Splitter is the most important player in the NBA Finals.
As Indiana showed in the Eastern Conference Finals, you can beat the Heat if you can force them to abandon small-ball.
The Pacers abused Miami down low with David West and Roy Hibbert. Eventually, Miami had to do two things, 1) bench Shane Battier, and 2) crash the defensive glass with four players.
Benching Battier destroyed the spacing and three-point shooting that made Miami a juggernaut during the regular season. And sending an extra player to the defensive glass destroyed the high-flying transition game that makes Miami so deadly.
If the Spurs can pound the Heat inside the way the Pacers did, they are probably the favourite to win this series.
Enter Tiago Splitter.
If San Antonio is going to force Miami to bench Battier and abandon small-ball (even for short stretches) Splitter has to be a force on both ends of the court. He has to convincingly win his match-up whenever Miami goes small.
On paper, he can do it.
But this is a huge amount of pressure on a guy who was, if you’ll remember, publicly embarrassed and benched during last year’s Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City.
After playing 16 minutes per game in the first two series of the 2012 playoffs, Splitter’s minutes were cut to 8 minutes against OKC.
In the deciding Game 6, he only played 39 seconds after being dressed down by coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich really flipped out on him:
People like the Spurs in this series because they can do some of the same things the Pacers did in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That’s only true if Splitter plays well.
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