Friday, June 7, 2013

Spurs - Heat Game One: Take, Not Steal

Or Tear Paper
As part of my gym self-punishment for missing days early in the month, I spent a solid hour reading the captioned audio of the ESPN pre-game, whiling away treadmill miles while various blow-dried heads talked about how important Boris Diaw is. (Hint: he's not! Mostly because he's fat, slow and useless!) But as my physical and karmic pain intensified, it seemed a simple enough equation. The Spurs were going to be rusty, Miami was going to be tired, and this was going to be the worst-played game in the series.

And if that is indeed the case, this is going to be the best Finals ever.

Near the end of a back and forth first quarter, Miami took the lead late after Gregg Popovich made a critical mistake -- one that I suspect that he won't do again. In the goal of wearing LeBron James out with waves of fresh defenders, he put Diaw on him for one very bad minute... and in that minute, Miami made a run and James got Tim Duncan's second foul (the first coming on a terrible call when Dwyane Wade clearly charged). But given Duncan's intellect and longevity, not to mention the fact that he's not likely to play enough minutes to foul out, this really wasn't a serious problem. But honestly, the idea that a fat Frenchman can stay in front of James is absolutely nuts. Danny Green looks good for the Spurs, and Chris Bosh is doing his usual Aggro Early routine so that his final numbers don't look quite so weak. Heat 24, Spurs 23.

In the second quarter, Ray Allen got open and drained threes, and that's something the Spurs can't allow, at least not when it's Allen. Kawhi Leonard also took his second early, which is not a help. Popovich kept him out there, and credit to the young buck; he didn't panic and kept playing well. Mike Miller forces a Spur timeout with a catch and clear, and that's the Heat arc work that's such a problem. Significant run for the Heat there. Out of the timeout, Manu Ginobili connects off a Tony Parker pass, and that's all kinds of good for them... but the Heat take the hit and rip off a 7 point run on James rebounding, scoring and passing. The lead goes to nine and the Spurs look in danger for just about the only time tonight. Green's three closes things up again, and Duncan drops in a quick four, but Wade came to play tonight, and it's another Heat push. Trades and misses with pace; Miami has to love this rate of game after Slow Dance With Pacers. The half ends with Wade getting his 13th point, and Duncan his 12th; great work by Parker to set up the final score, and Wade looks aghast at the inbounds lack of panic. At the half, it's Heat 52, Spurs 49, and if every Spurs final had this kind of pace, America would never call them boring. Nice work by the Heat bench, good ball all over.

After the routine war crime that is the ESPN Chucklefest -- James is coming after your triple double record, Magic! He's got a long way to go! Now let's all pretend like we said something funny while America's brain cells die! -- we get back to it. Honestly, folks, the only thing wrong with this series is the fact that ESPN is covering it. I really need to switch over to NBA TV whenever possible.

In the third, Parker, Duncan, James and Wade were all playing the game with such a controlled quickness, it's like they are all trying to out-cool each other; fun stuff to watch. It's even rubbing off on Bosh, seemingly. James is oddly tentative with Tiago Splitter one on one; that's the kind of play that keeps the Heat's opponents in games. Wade turns it, the first against either team since the first quarter, on failed Globetrottery. Leonard lurches home a dunk; ungainly but manly, and it's answered by an ugly Bosh turn. Ginobili from Duncan, all the way to the tin, and the Argentinian looks fresh; pretty. One point game as the odious Heat PA tries to revive the crowd.

James goes glass in the blocks; unfair. Duncan then does the same thing. Both of these teams really need to deny better. Wade misses from distance; he's getting more and more like Andre Iguodala by the day. Udonis Haslem makes after an o-board, and if the Heat get a ring, he'll have earned his. Big long commerce -- sigh, it's the Finals -- before a Spurs turn, and Bosh gets to double figures on a jumper, but Manu's three is a better answer. Miami goes to Warp Passing for a Manu foul. Chalmers tries too much, but Duncan returns the favor with a turn, foul, and would've been a tech against a worse officiating crew. James feeds Chalmers for the baseline three, answered by a Gary Neal make; Spurs are answering big plays. Leonard stands up to James and gets a stop. Ginobili flops on a Wade make to no effect, and the Heat go to five. Manu misses, but Leonard saves the board, and it gets to a Neal three that's a big damned deal. Bosh misses the open jumper. Leonard's open too long three stays out. Wade roasts Manu but can't make the open jumper.; telling on both ends, really. Leonard misses another baseline three, Allen gets his, and that's too easy for him, it's back to five. Leonard with another miss, but the Spurs get the board for the final shot of the quarter. Manu gets a foul on Anderson and Jedi mind tricks the ref into free throws, which he makes. James barely misses from 40 feet, and after three, it's the Heat by three. The only thing keeping this game from being absolutely classic is that (a) the team don't hate each other (yet), and (b) it's just Game One. But in terms of ball, this game is right there.

Both teams bring the defensive wood to start the fourth, and the Spurs miss the opportunity to close margin with Wade and James resting. Parker finally gets one to drop to cut it to one. Norris Cole feeds Chris Anderson for a make. Parker is blocked by Bosh at the rim with gusto. Green misses a room service corner three. Splitter from Parker is just sound all over. Anderson tips a Bosh miss, and Erik Spoelstra has gotten away with three minutes of rest for his stars with no loss of lead.

Miller hurts the glass, and James misses from outside; have to love the job that Leonard has done on him so far, in that a triple double is actually something approaching containment for the best player of his generation. Splitter with all kinds of patience for the make; that's so Euro! Parker gets to the line after a James turn, and the visitors have their first lead in forever. Miami just not getting the usual turns, which is to be expected from a well-coached team, but still, golf clap to the visitors. Bosh with a big make from distance and we're on the see saw. James finally gets his triple double. Neal misses, but Leonard boards and makes. Bosh misses from three, a shot the Spurs are willing to concede. Duncan works Bosh, but the shot doesn't go. James with another turn; great steal by Leonard, and it's matched by a fantastic spin and make by Parker, who undressed Cole on that. Wow. Spurs up three halfway through the fourth, and good gravy, are these teams well suited for each other. It's Money Time, with no one in real foul trouble, and all of the stars playing well.

I jinxed it; Allen draws Duncan's fourth. First trip to the line in the second half for the home team, and Allen only makes one. Duncan with a tip off a Leonard miss (which was set up by a great Duncan pass); he's just so damn smart. Wade misses and gets no call.  Manu misses a drive, but the Heat turn it again; fourth in the quarter. Duncan is stopped down low by James; wow. Spurs missed two chances to extend the lead, which should be deadly, but their half court defense is amazing, and forces a shot clock violation after Chalmers can't get it on the rim from the corner. Parker with a massive bailout make to make it a six point lead with 210 seconds left, and that was special. The team that was supposed to lack the extreme star power to close out games is up nine in the first 8:30 of the fourth, mostly because they aren't turning it over, and the Heat are.

Miami desperately needs a make out of the timeout. Bosh misses, but James gets the board and converts; huge play. Jeff van Gundy is breathless over the idea that Wade or James will play point down the stretch, as if this doesn't happen all the damn time. James switching to Parker for the close; it works right away, but he then derps a three, and Green does not; Spurs with their largest lead with two minutes left. James goes to Hero Mode for a make; seemed a little desperate, but worked. Manu misses from three, just a bad choice and shot, and James has his 17th (!) board. Allen gets Green in the air from behind the arc, just a big mistake, and the FTs are must haves for the Heat. Allen gets three like he hasn't been struggling with this recently; two point game with 88 seconds left, but it seems almost like a Heat lead right now. Crowd willing the Heat to Big Defense now, but Duncan calmly gets his man out of position, then draws the foul on Bosh on a drive. Duncan hits both despite the full scaled ESPN jinx from Mike Breen; four point game with 68 seconds left. James feeds Bosh at the arc all alone, and the Spurs win that gamble as the ex-Raptor bricks it. Green barely controls the board and calls time, and if the Heat lose this one, that play will be a big reason why. If I'm a Heat fan, I so want the ball to stay with James there.

Parker runs clock on James, then misses against Miller; big stop for Miami. James gets the call on Manu and makes both, and it's 2 with 31.3 left. Parker runs clock smartly for 15 seconds to make sure the Spurs can't lose in regulation... and then makes a play for the ages, falling to a knee, keeping his dribble, then barely getting it off at the buzzer against James for a bank shot that stays in. That play could not have been any closer, or any less ragged, than if it had been in a movie. After extensive review, the play is correctly upheld; four point game for the Spurs with 5.2 seconds left, and less than a tenth of a second makes this a two possession game and more or less clinches things. We'll be seeing that play for the next 2 days and 10 years; just an unreal save by the Spur point. Wade misses at the rim and that's it; the Spurs are up 1-0 in a game that could not have been any closer, really. ESPN flashes the Heat stats in the fourth (5 for 18 with 5 turns), and it's really the defense that did it for them. Parker ends with 21 and 6, and so much for rust. Just four Spur turns all game, and you can't author a better script for a road win for them.

ESPN goes with the "steal Game One" motif twice in thirty seconds on wrap up, but you have stolen nothing when you play a road game and turn it over once a quarter, and never trail by double digits. When the money was on the table, the Spurs were just better, and while it didn't feel like Miami played their best game, it also didn't seem like they played a *bad* game.

Not surprisingly, this series is going long, and it also really seems to be going great. See you Sunday.


snd_dsgnr said...

What an awesome game. Credit where it's due as well, that may have been the best officiated "big" NBA game that I've ever seen. They didn't bite on flops, they let defenders jump straight up, they let them play without letting the level of contact get out of hand, just a really good job all around. Even on the Wade play they got wrong that you mentioned, they erred on the side of going with a block instead of a charge. That's how I prefer they call it.

Quick question though, on the 4th quarter foul on the Allen three pointer. Should that have really been called a foul? I know you have to let the shooter come back down, but it looked like Allen was back on his feet before Green ran into him and the ball was closer to the rim than Allen at that point. Just curious, because I don't see how it could justifiably be said that the contact altered that shot.

DMtShooter said...

I also love that they didn't roll out technicals for guys showing a reasonable amount of emotion. I'm specifically thinking of Duncan and Wade.

As for the Allen 3 foul, I'd rather it was ruled as 2 shots and post contact -- you can't let the shooter get wiped out after release, or we're going back to '90s thuggery -- but if the only things we're talking about, in re refs, is a single free throw and one block/charge call in the first, that's a game so clean, you could eat off it. Credit to both teams also, for playing hard and smart.

snd_dsgnr said...

That makes sense. I didn't think it was a "bad" call in real time last night, there was clearly a lot of contact, but it just seemed weird to call that foul as occurring in the act of shooting. As you say though, that's an extremely minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Really, really great game.

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