Friday, June 14, 2013

Heat - Spurs Game Four: Forgot About Dwyane

Dwayne, Not Dre
Like many 44-year-old painfully white suburban home owners and fathers of two, I like gangsta rap. And the common point between a lot of the rap I like is that Dr. Dre is involved, either as a performer or producer.

'Dre, for those of you who aren't afflicted with my musical tastes, is behind acts like NWA, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. He's nearly as great as he says he is, which is saying something. especially for rap. He's also spectacular at getting paid, but all of that success does nothing to stop him from his most common rap trope; that of an aggrieved parent of the genre who doesn't get enough due for what he's done. "Forgot about 'Dre" isn't just a track, it's a contractual requirement for every album.

Tonight, like many other times in this playoff year, the Heat bounced back from a defeat with a vengeance. And the commonality to a lot of those wins is that it was Dwyane Wade that led his team to a defiant performance, even more than the predicted return to greatness for LeBron James. But Wade was so good tonight, it even got Chris Bosh to be great. And for a third straight game, we got a runaway win that was still good to watch, just because we got to see a player just transcend the game.

In the pre-game, it was all about whether Tony Parker is hurt, or if LeBron James is going to start at center, so that Mike Miller can go for Udonis Haslem. The former sounds to me like hype, and the latter desperation, but it's not as if the Heat should be anything but desperate tonight. The Spurs take the early lead on good energy and crowd support, and Parker utterly undresses James on a drive. LeBron answers by going to the post and getting two quick calls; quite a strong leading indicator to a Miami win, that. Miller is killing the Heat on defense nearly as much as he's helping on offense, and Kawhi Leonard caps the early 15-5 start with a corner three. So far, this is clinical, and the Spurs look unstoppable.

Down 10 and into commerce, Wade and James show some steel and turn the tide. A 6-0 run ensues, and maybe we'll have a series after all. It's contagious enough to get Bosh awake too, and the shortest 7-footer in the NBA starts to play to his height, if not his contract. Just four minutes after being up 10, the game is tied.

Parker dueling James now, and neither man blinking, but Wade is great tonight, and Manu Ginobili continuing his not so secretly awful playoffs is helping the Heat cause immensely. The first ends as Heat 29, Spurs 26, with Wade already in double figures with 10, James with 11. This game is looking special.

Haslem makes a layup, and Wade another, for a 7-point Heat lead. Chris Anderson is nowhere to be seen tonight; curious. Gary Neal takes a charge from James, enhancing it, for a dumb second foul. James gets a board and goes to freight train mode, and Wade gets the Iversonian clearout board and put-back; 20 point swing since the early minutes. Duncan is called for a moving screen as Bosh goes operatic -- that one's fine worthy, and I really wish they could review and penalize flops in real time, since these post-game $5K fines are no deterrent -- and that's the Spurs' 8th turn in 18 minutes. Ginobili gets his third foul, and Spurs Fan is selling the conspiracy stories for a long series already. Duncan denies James at the rim, then lays in a room service assist from Parker. That's such an issue for the Heat here, going against a big who defends the tin without fouling. Parker to Leonard for a key bank shot is just all kinds of pretty, and if this is Tony while hurt, I'd hate to see him healthy. 5 point Heat game, both teams bringing the A game, everything you could hope for as a fan so far.

James and Shane Battier convert and get it to five, and Bats is helping to make the Heat better in the halfcourt defense. Ray Allen's third make pushes it to seven, and Parker gets no call on contact. The replay shows that James is doing his decisive post work, the thing he did that destroyed the Pacers in Game 3. Wade to Bosh is surgical, and showing up every third game makes Bosh heroic to Jeff Van Gundy. Boris Diaw is on, rarely a good sign, but he actually gets to the line, so the end of the world is nigh. Duncan ends Norris Cole on a lay up, and Diaw drains the corner three for an instant five points and change of narrative. I'm not prepared to live in a world where Diaw helps you win a title.

Parker makes a ridiculous shot in traffic, but his attempt to get the tie after a Bosh miss is too hot by half. Allen drives -- doing more of that recently -- and stays perfect. Parker just toying with Cole now, and he's 15/3/6 for the half. Leonard blocks Cole, Diaw scores in transition, and that's a greased lighting 11-2 run for the home team. Just crazy action here, and Parker keeps getting the Heat to sag when he feints a retreat, then just keeps flying past them. Leonard takes a dumb foul to kill clock, and Bosh ends the half by not getting the drive and stuff to count before the buzzer. Funny. 49-49 game, and what a game.

Looking at the first half numbers, the three point shooting jumps out at me: 0 for 3 for the Heat (a lot less than what they normally do) and 4 for 7 from the Spurs, also a lot less than the Game 3 fireworks. Both teams shot 50% or better from the floor, the rebounds and assists were both tied... and both teams had, and lost, 10 point leads. Just a great and wildly entertaining half.

Diaw starts the second half for Splitter, guarding Wade. I'm shocked, but he's got active hands and helps them get a tying possession after another tough love James make. Wade and James somehow don't finish in transition, and the Spurs go back up. Bosh clicks, then Duncan totures Miller, but Leonard misses from the arc. Miami gets a free possession off a blown call, and Wade takes full advantage with the old-school three. That gives him 17, gets Duncan's second, and looks like the guy who has won rings before... but Leonard scores on him as Wade collects his third, and his fourth comes on a block attempt on Duncan thirty seconds later. Erik Spoelstra keeps him on the floor anyway, which might be the coaching move of the series so far. Mario Chalmers misses and Duncan does not, and Wade gets it back. Diaw misses, but Miller gets whistled, and this game is just on a knife edge right now.

Great back and forth as Bosh blocks two shots, Danny Green denies Wade at the rim, Duncan swats James and I don't want to blink from all of that. LeBron's catch and swish gives the Heat the lead again, and a peeved Popovich timeout. That was a crazy two minutes, and just huge defensive effort all over the floor. Great, great ball.

After commerce, Green gets his second three to rattle home, but Allen replies on a great feed, and we're in many lead change land. Chalmers gets a three for his first points in San Antonio, and a Miller block lets James leak out for the dunk. For a guy with back problems and little lateral quicks, Mike Miller makes a lot of plays. Tornado 7-0 run, and James is well on is way to a huge night. I get that Tiago Splitter hasn't been good tonight, but the lack of a second shot blocker isn't helping the Spurs.

Duncan makes two free throws, just to show that no weakness in his game will be allowed to persist. Bosh scores off a LeBron miss. Leonard adjusts in the air and gets the old school three on Bosh's foul, his third. 16 minutes to go, Miami up by 3. The third quarter ends with Miami looking like they might finally get some separation, but the Spurs drain shots from the arc to stay in range, and it's 81-76 Miami.

In the fourth, Allen and Neal trade threes, and that's it for 3+ minutes, as the defense continues to astound. ESPN shows the defense numbers as Splitter makes free throws, but Wade's left hand make is crazy good, and then he steals a ball, evades two defenders and flushes for what might be the signature play of the night. Wade now with 5 steals, 26 points, and that was spectacular. Duncan banks one, but Wade won't be denied from the mid-range; he now has 30. Manu misses, Wade feeds Bosh at the rim, and it's 11 in a hurry, and the crowd sounds funereal. Duncan drops 2 FTs as James continues to rest. Bosh now with 18/10 and 2 blocks, and he gets another steal. 11 point Heat lead with the ball, and we're 6:04 from a tied series.

After commerce and the inevitable Wade highlight reel, Wade feeds Bosh for another two at the line; the lead is 13. Parker misses in the lane, and while it's overly simple to put this on him, he has no points in the second half. Wade soars and scores, and if that guy keeps showing up, Miami's unfair again. Duncan gets to 20, but James answers for his 25 and 26th points. Popovich pulls Parker with 4:27 left, and no one in the NBA concedes better or faster. Duncan turns it for the Spurs' 18th. Spoelstra pulls Wade, and Bosh dives and steals one for the Gritty Highlight.

Chalmers kicks one as Popovich goes all the way to a Nando De Colo sighting. Manu's so far down, he stays on the floor with De Colo, Matt Bonner and the rest of the Tracy McGrady-esque crew. Spoelstra keeps his starters in, because he's paranoid and wants to keep Ginobili down. It says something that Popovich goes to the shock troops despite the game still being theoretically in range -- 12-point game with 135 seconds left -- and two days off before the next game. The last two minutes close out with James, Matt Bonner, James again, Cory Joseph and James one more damned time to end it. Heat 109, Spurs 93.

Miami is now 6-0 after a loss, with each win being by 10+ points. James and Wade combine for 65/17/8, and if you want to throw Bosh into the mix, it becomes 85/30/9. Perhaps they were offended by those comparisons to Leonard, Green and Neal? That was like watching tanks against cavalry. Spoelstra never pulled his starters, and the Heat never played like they had a lead. They might not be the best team in NBA history, but they've certainly got the best ability to flick the switch after a loss, and they've got home court again.

Game Five now becomes a must-win for San Antonio, and since the Heat are prone to mailing in games they don't need, it wouldn't shock me if they get it. But after 11 straight games of the Heat winning every other game, that pattern has to end sometime, doesn't it?

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