Back in 2001, the Lakers finished off a sweep of the Spurs 111-82 on May 27. Then they had to sit around with nine days off until Game 1 of the Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Those Lakers lost just one playoff game that season (15-1) — that first game after the long layoff. It was a combination of a rusty Shaq, Kobe (7-fof- 22) and the rest of the Lakers, and a 48-point outburst from Allen Iverson.
The San Antonio Spurs finished off the Memphis Grizzlies in a sweep on May 27, and just like those Lakers they off until June 6, waiting for a winner out of the East (it eventually was the Heat). The exact same break those Lakers had.
Will they come out rested or rusted?
Some rest is certainly good for a banged up Spurs team. For example, Manu Ginobili told the San Antonio Express News this is the best he has felt since training camp.
“Now, to tell you the truth, I even forgot about what happened during the season,” he said. “I am feeling good now, we are in the Finals, who cares (about previous injuries)? No one’s going to remember I missed 20 games during the regular season.”
The Spurs had at least a week off in 1999, 2005 and 2007 — all years they won they opening game of the Finals and went on to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It doesn’t bother them much.
Still, there could be rust. The Spurs are going to go from inactivity to facing one of the most aggressive and athletic defenses in the league in the Heat — they trap, they jump passing lanes and they use their athleticism to force turnovers.
The Spurs, with their ball movement and movement off the ball, might have the perfect antidote for that style, but after nine days off to jump right back in against this Heat defense will be an adjustment. You can’t simulate what the Heat do in practice.
Even if it takes just a half to get their flow back, which may put San Antonio in a hole they can’t dig out of in Game 1. Just something to watch.