By Christian S. Kohl
With the Heat and Spurs set to square off in the NBA Finals, most if not all eyes will be on LeBron James and his quest for ring number two. Despite his often Herculean performances, the game is not won or lost by a single player, and the superior teamwork exhibited by either squad will likely make the difference by the end of the series. Perhaps the most key matchup of this confrontation will be Tim Duncan vs. Chris Bosh. Who will emerge as the bigger impact player?
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Duncan absolutely must reign supreme for the Spurs to have any chance against Miami. The Pacers exposed a vulnerability of Miami on the interior glass in the conference finals, and Duncan must continue to exploit that weakness. He weighs a good deal more than Bosh, and he will have to use every pound of it to secure boards on both ends of the court to limit Miami possessions and extend San Antonio's. Duncan also registered a high block total in the last round of the playoffs, and any ability to contain or contest Bosh's offense will go a long way to keeping pivotal games close.
From a pure statistical standpoint, Duncan's numbers will be superior to Bosh's whether the Spurs win or not. He plays more minutes, gets more touches, and takes more shots from in close. Moreover, in crunch time, teams lean on their superstars to carry the load, and consequently Miami can prepare for nearly overwhelming doses of Parker and Duncan throughout regardless of series outcome.
Conversely, Bosh's primary task will be to contain Duncan and the interior San Antonio attack. The matchup isn't particularly favorable for Bosh to score heavily, so his understanding of his role in this series will be crucial for the Heat. He'll need a hand in Duncan's face and the ability to remain out of foul trouble to really maximize his impact. A huge Bosh NBA Finals series, in other words, does not have to light up the stat sheet in the way that teammates and opponents surely will. Duncan makes good decisions and high percentage attempts, so much so that his style is often criticized as boring. It's certainly not flashy, but its results are unquestionably effective, and Bosh's principle role upcoming will be that of the disruptor and the spoiler as opposed to a crunch-time closer.
By the end of the series, Duncan's stat line will certainly best Bosh's, and it may not be particularly close. San Antonio really does need to lean on him that much for a chance to compete, unlike Miami's host of weapons who both start and come off the bench. Therefore, Duncan's presence and impact will be felt by the Heat more than the Spurs will feel the weight of Bosh. However, there is more than one way to help a team win, and whichever player ends up with the ring will have been the undisputed bigger impact player overall. I anticipate a huge series from Duncan in a losing effort against Miami. Bosh will play his part, hit enough shots and do enough down low to contain the Spurs, thereby causing a bigger impact than any individual scoring performance ever could. Slight edge goes to Bosh this week.
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