San Antonio waiting in the weeds

Jun 7, 2005 6:09 AM

The NBA Finals are set to begin in San Antonio this Thursday evening as the Spurs take on the winner of Monday night’s Eastern Conference game seven between Miami and Detroit.

San Antonio had little trouble in defeating the Phoenix Suns. Winning three times on the road, the Spurs got by the team holding the NBA’s best record over the 82 game regular season.

The Spurs will be well rested after displaying their versatility in the Western Conference Finals. Known for their great defense, it was the San Antonio offense that defeated Phoenix at their own game. The Spurs outscored the Suns by an average of 108.2 to 104.0. The Finals are likely to produce such a high score only in a game going double overtime, if then.

Whichever team represents the East will be more defensive minded than were the Suns. Detroit is clearly more defensive oriented than Miami, but the Heat also can play solid defense. The Heat is capable of playing both up-tempo and deliberate. Detroit clearly prefers a slower pace and San Antonio is comfortable either way.

If Miami wins Monday night, the Heat will be concerned about the health of both Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade. Shaq injuries most of the past two months while Wade’s rib injury forced him to sit out Detroit’s game six win and had him questionable for Monday’s deciding contest.

Should Miami have overcome those obstacles to still defeat Detroit their accomplishment would be impressive. But should the Pistons overcome the extremely difficult task of winning a game seven on the road, they would be a most worthy opponent for the Spurs and have an excellent chance at defending last season’s NBA Title.

Without knowing the specific opposition for San Antonio, it is difficult to plot out a hard and fast strategy for wagering on the Finals. But a general course of action would be to expect the road team to cover at least one of the first two games.

Thus either Miami or Detroit would be attractive as underdogs in game one and, should the Eastern Conference team win game one straight up, the play in game two would be on the Spurs. Should the Spurs win game one, the play in game two would be the same — on the visiting underdog. The play on the dog in game two would be even more attractive should the Spurs win but fail to cover in game one.

The UNDER bet is likely to be the more attractive totals option throughout the series, but the lines maker will make adjustments as the series unfolds.

San Antonio and Detroit split their two game season series with each team winning at home. In early December San Antonio won 80-77 as eight and a half point favorites, staying UNDER the total of 173 by 16 points. The rematch occurred in mid March when Detroit won 110-101 in a pick ”˜em game that went OVER the Total by 37 points.

Against Miami the Spurs played a pair of UNDERs with the home team winning each game. The first meeting occurred in the season’s second week when as 12 point Home Favorites the Spurs defeated the Heat 93-84, staying UNDER the Total by six and a half points. The second meeting took place in mid-February as Miami defeated the Spurs 96-92 in a pick ”˜em game at home. This contest stayed UNDER the Total by a bare half point.

Interestingly, although the Spurs split the four games against Miami and Detroit the Spurs were 0-4 against the point spread.

Detroit would be in a better position to defeat San Antonio than would Miami. Clearly the Pistons are a healthier team as we go to press and the Spurs have also had historical success against Shaq when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The pick here is for Detroit to defeat San Antonio in six games , but for San Antonio to defeat Miami in seven games if that is the match-up. A Detroit win under this scenario would have the Pistons winning the title on the road while a seven game victory by the Spurs over Miami would be on their home court.

Next week, with the first two games in the books, we’ll revisit the Finals for what could be our Final look at the NBA for this season. It would certainly be a surprise if this season’s Finals don’t go at least six games.