If you’re jealous that the football playoffs are in full swing & feel that the basketball season is too long, head over to your local satellite aided sports bar on Tuesday night at 9pm. Put on your favorite summer shirt, ask your local bartender to crank up the thermostat to June, and change the chanel on the closest wide screen tv to the Heat-Suns game. There you may catch a glimpse of the NBA Finals, as the Conference’s two best teams will go at it in Phoenix.
The Miami Heat (27-9) were expected to challenge in a competetive Eastern conference since Kobe Bryant decided that he’d rather be the center of an average team rather than share the main stage with Shaq. However something happened to last year’s stallwarts the Pacers and Pistons (what it is I honestly don’t remember) that has left the field wide open. Right now the only serious challengers to the Heat’s path to the Finals are the Cavaliers, and Shaq’s big toe.
Meanwhile the Suns (30-4) were expected to merely “unseat one of the West’s top eight seeds” and “have to battle for survival in April.” However the Suns are sitting on top of the NBA, swatting away their opponents like Randy Johnson and the CBS press.
The similarity between the teams are plentiful. Both teams made major moves this offseason. Miami of course got Shaq in the deal (steal?) of the century, and Phoenix made two major additions in Nash & Richardson. Both teams are anchored by their centers, Shaq (26.7 PER), and Amare (27.7 PER). The Heat’s young player Dwayne Wade dramatically improved his PER from last year’s 17.5 to 24.7, as did the Suns Amare Stoudemire upgraded from 19.8 to 27.7. And just look at how close the team’s stats are:
RANK Team pPTS
1st Suns 113.3
3rd Heat 108.2
RANK Team pPTS
9th Heat 100.4
10th Suns 100.5
Of course the marquee matchups will be an undersized Amare versus an oversized Shaq, and the youthful Wade against the err…. Canadian Nash. If Amare gets beat-up by Shaq, then Phoenix will have to abandon their current game plan of “drain as many minutes out of the starters” (average of 37 Min/G), and use backup centers Hunter and newly activated Voskuhl. On the other hand the Suns have a third major option with Shawn Marion (23.8 PER), and their up-tempo game might wear down the Heat. However it turns out, this is a major game for this early in the season. It could establish the winner as an early Finals favorite.
So how do you think the game will turn out? Got some great insight on the two teams? Head over to the APBRmetrics forum (SABeRmetrics for basketball) and state your opinion. It’s replacing the Yahoo group APBR_analysis, and it still has that new car smell.