On Thursday night in prime time (8 p.m., TNT), something will have to give in the matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Tim Duncan and the Spurs own the best road record in the NBA (9-1) and they are trying to wrap up a six-game road trip with a perfect record, but LeBron James and the Heat are tied with the Utah Jazz for the best home record in the association (6-0).
Will the Heat defense hold up? Miami and San Antonio both boast top-5 offenses -- the Heat are No. 2 at 110.3 points per 100 possessions, while the Spurs are No. 4 at a 105.9 offensive rating -- but defense has held back LeBron and company early in the season. How have the Heat fallen to No. 23 in defense this year? Miami has allowed opponents to shoot 36.6 percent from deep and hoist an NBA-high 24.0 three-point attempts per game. The Spurs are No. 9 in the NBA at converting threes (37.5%), Matt Bonner is the top specialist in the NBA to-date. He's hit 63.2 percent of his threes (12-of-19), and Danny Green is hitting 38.0 of his triples while take 5.1 attempts per contest.
How will the Spurs defend pick-and-roll? Greg Popovich has his team playing great defense this year, and the No. 1 mark in preventing points on isolation plays (0.57 points per possession) is a good sign, but pick-and-rolls and spot-ups are where the Spurs tend to struggle. According to MySynergySports, San Antonio's 0.81 ppp allowed on pick-and-roll ranks No. 21 in the NBA, and their 1.01 ppp given up on spot-ups is good for No. 23 overall.
LeBron and Wade have the Heat offense humming on PnR opportunities (No. 1 in the NBA at 1.34 ppp), while Ray Allen and company have worked well as spot-up options when primary PnR action breaks down (No. 2 rank at 1.13 ppp). Can the Spurs stop LeBron, Wade and Bosh on pick-and-roll? Even if they do hold up initially, can they also stay close enough to bother Ray Allen and Mike Miller on secondary spot-up looks along the three-point line? It's a tall task.
The Spurs might have to simply outgun the Heat on Thursday night if they want to come home from their road trip with a perfect 6-0 mark.
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET