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NBA Finals Breakdown

NBA Finals Breakdown
SI.com's Marty Burns analyzes the matchup between San Antonio and Cleveland
Center
Fabricio
Oberto
Zydrunas
Ilgauskas
One of the few new faces in the Spurs' rotation since their last title run in '05, the 6-foot-10 Oberto doesn't score a lot but is a steady defender and high-percentage shooter who knows his role. Though only in his second NBA season, the 32-year-old has loads of big-game experience playing overseas -- including as a teammate of Manu Ginobili on Argentina's world championship national team. He likely will see a lot of Drew Gooden in this series as well as Ilgauskas, but he has the mobility to handle it. If not, the Spurs can also turn to Francisco Elson.The 7-3 true pivotman is one of the feel-good stories of these Finals, having been with the Cavs through the lean years and overcoming foot injuries that robbed him of three seasons early in his career. Now in his 11th campaign, Ilgauskas provides a reliable pick-and-pop and low-post scoring dimension, and uses his length to cause problems for foes around the basket and on the backboards. The two-time All-Star looks to be a key factor in this series with his ability to protect the rim against Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, as well as hit the offensive boards for much-needed second-chance opportunities.
Edge: Cavaliers
 
Power Forward
Tim
Duncan
Drew
Gooden
Perhaps the greatest power forward ever to play the game, the 6-11 veteran certainly knows what it takes to lead his team to a title -- as evidenced by his three Finals MVP awards. Duncan has certainly been his usual dominating self in the postseason, averaging 23.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks while shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. In this series he will have to deal with a long-armed Cavs defense as well as the flopping Anderson Varejao, but his poise and experience should enable him to play through it. The bigger challenge for Duncan will be to find a way to help stop LeBron James' forays into the lane without picking up fouls. Brought in three years ago as a replacement for Carlos Boozer, the 6-10 Gooden has done his part to fill the void. The fifth-year pro averaged 11.1 points (on 47.3 percent shooting) and a team-high 8.5 rebounds during the regular season, and has been right around those marks during the postseason. Gooden's board crashing and mid-range jumper are weapons, but he struggles defensively against bigger power forwards like Duncan. He must be aggressive and cash in on his opportunities to score, especially when matched up against Oberto, or Cavs coach Mike Brown won't hesitate to go with Varejao.
Edge: Spurs
 
Small Forward
Bruce
Bowen
LeBron
James
One of the best perimeter defenders in the game, the 6-7 Bowen will now be in the spotlight like never before. If the 11-year veteran can find a way to slow James, the Cavs have virtually no chance. Bowen will get plenty of help, but he must make LeBron work for everything and keep him from getting into the paint where he can draw fouls (especially on Duncan) and get to the line. At the other end, Bowen must knock down his corner three-point opportunities to make LeBron pay when he doubles on Duncan and Parker inside. It also will be fun to see if Bowen's questionable footwork and "Eddie Scissorhands" tactics can get inside LeBron's head. What more can be said about the young King? In just his fourth season, the 6-8 forward has taken the Cavs from a sad-sack 17-65 doormat to the NBA Finals. Now James will try to carry his team past an experienced San Antonio squad featuring a defense every bit as tough to penetrate as the Alamo. But he showed against the Pistons that he can adjust to whatever comes his way. James' size, strength and quickness could cause headaches for a Spurs team that is a tad slow at some positions -- especially since he won't have to expend much energy on defense. Like Dwyane Wade in last year's Finals, James just might be able to do it almost all by himself.
Edge: Cavaliers
 
 
Point Guard
Tony
Parker
Larry
Hughes
His relationship with Eva Longoria aside, the 6-2 floor leader has become a legit star in his own right. Parker is one of the fastest players in the league with the ball, and might be one of the all-time greats at finishing in the lane. He also has made himself into a reliable outside shooter. Parker might need to hit from outside in this series, though, since the Cavs have the long bodies inside to make it difficult for even him to get to the rim. The Spurs are going to need a big series from their two-time All-Star, especially if he's matched up against Daniel Gibson.This 6-5 swingman, signed as a free agent two years ago to be James' running mate at shooting guard, has found a home at the point. Since taking over the position at midseason from Eric Snow and Gibson, Hughes has been able to get his shots more freely on offense while using his size on defense to fluster smaller foes. However, he has been bothered of late by a sore foot, a major concern against the speedy Parker. If Hughes is not able to go full speed, Gibson will need to step up. It might seem like a tall order for a rookie, but the former Texas Longhorn showed in Games 4 and 6 of the conference finals that he can rise to a challenge.
Edge: Spurs
 
 
Shooting Guard
Michael
Finley
Sasha
Pavlovic
The Spurs' own feel-good story of this postseason, the classy 6-7 veteran is making the first Finals appearance of his 12-year career. While not a big scorer like he was during his Dallas days -- in fact, he starts only because the Spurs prefer to bring Manu Ginobili off the bench -- Finley still plays solid team defense and is dangerous from three-point range. He also can be explosive, as when he scored 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting from downtown in San Antonio's Game 5 clincher over the Nuggets in the first round. Finley's experience, as well as the Ginobili factor, bode well here for San Antonio.This fourth-year pro from Serbia-Montenegro took over the starting spot in March when Hughes shifted over to point, and for the most part did a solid job. Though he averaged just nine points in 22.9 minutes during the regular season, he helps spread the floor for James with his three-point shooting (40.5 percent) and he has the size at 6-7 to defend bigger shooting guards. Pavlovic's shooting has been off of late, however, and he has looked almost scared at times. He averaged 16 points in the Cavs' first two games against New Jersey in the second round, but has scored in double figures only twice in the past 10 games.
Edge: Spurs
 
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