Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spurs - Heat Game Three: Historically Hot

The Wear Down
For the past four NBA playoff years, there has been one constant: the Miami Heat would benefit from world-class ball pressure on defense, and make their opponents struggle to get quality shots. They might get undone by spectacular three-point shooting, or punished on the boards, or lose due to weak offense or turnovers, but the opponent would not just be able to run lay up lines and drain open jumpers. And at some point in the game, the Heat would go into lockdown mode and look like no team on the planet on defense.

Tonight, for just about every minute of the game that wasn't the third quarter, that didn't happen. Dear God in Heaven, did that not happen.

Tonight in Miami, in the first half, the Spurs were so hot from the floor, that they were at 90% from the floor halfway through the second quarter. No, seriously; a percentage you would not see in a high school game happened in the Finals. They wound up setting a Finals record for shooting percentage in the first half. They shot 70% from the arc, 75.8% from the floor, and 82.4% from the line. They only turned it over 5 times, and despite Miami doing good things themselves on offense, they put together the biggest road lead at the half in the Finals in 18 years.

How did it happen? Relentless ball movement. Kawhi Leonard playing the best game of his life. Danny Green not missing a damn thing. Tim Duncan with old-school bankery, and Tony Parker subverting his own offense to keep everything moving. No Spur shot less than 50% from the floor, and they had 15 assists on 25 makes. All against a team that is routinely spectacular at defense, and at home, on a court where they've been unbeaten in the playoffs this year.

Ten more telling points from a game that defied the diary, because while the game was fun as hell to watch, it wasn't close enough to justify every moment memorized...

> When Duncan is effective early, it's such a win for the Spurs, especially in road games. It settles the offense, opens up the arc, and just feels inevitable. And honestly, I think he could play like this for three to five more years. It's not like there's any wasted motion there.

> Since every playoff game with the Heat turns on James, I really wonder why teams don't just do everything possible to get him in foul trouble or fatigued before the close... and I'm not putting it past Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich to have thought of this. Watching James pass out of a triple team in the first half seemed less like a defensive strategy, and more like a stress test. Note also how often the Spurs fouled him on breakaways, rather than let him have the crowd-firing dunks. Just smart all over.

> The story coming into this playoff was how the Heat's off-season acquisitions (Michael Beasley and Greg Oden) haven't worked out, and they weren't a better team than last year's champion. But the guy that is better is Rashard Lewis, useful again in this one, and better than Ray Allen for much of the game. No idea if that's going to continue, but he's been giving Miami everything they could ask for.

> Dwyane Wade has some kind of Jedi work going on the refs. Usually when a guy is fined $5K for clowning them, he gets nothing and likes it in the next game, but not in this one. His wrong-foot make in the first half also shows that the body control is still there, too.

> Late in the second, Birdman Andersen spiked a ball into the stands on a Manu Ginobili drive, and the crowd oohed and aahed... for about five seconds, or until the Spurs inbounded to Parker for a mid-range make. And that, kids, is why damn near every blocked shot that Tim Duncan gets stays in play.

> I'm honestly not prepared to live in a world where Boris Diaw is this useful. Where's the Fat Frenchie who couldn't care enough to keep getting playing time for the absolutely terrible Bobcats? Where's the guy who followed up a promising start to his career with indifferent play and conditioning problems? And how do the Spurs always find guys like this and get them to try, rather than just malinger?

> I loved everything about Leonard's game tonight, except for the halftime interview with Doris Burke. How dare you say that the team isn't going to shoot the ball as well in the second half? That betrayed actual intellect and a desire to answer the question truthfully, while conveying information! Send this guy in for Cliche Installation, please.

> Here's how good of a coach Popovich is. A timeout after a 6-0 start that took less than a minute to start the third. Swapping in deep subs during the middle of the Heat run in the third, like a general holding back tanks during a retreat, saving them for the counter-attack. Nearly perfect deployment for Paddy Mills, Tiago Splitter and Marco Belinelli, who all made plays when the team was adrift, with the shock troops keeping the pieces he needed fresh and out of foul trouble. Just masterful, and moves that no other coach in the Association makes.

> Looking for hidden reasons as to why the Heat are down 2-1? Consider Mario Chalmers, the oft-scorned defensive point who has punctuated past playoffs with timely shooting. So far in this series, he's been ineffective while on the floor, and in foul trouble to keep him off it. If Wade can't close with strength in what's definitely going to be a long series, look to the early games when Mediocre Mario gave them 10/6/9 with 3 steals on 3 for 12 shooting, with 8 turnovers in 70 aggregate minutes. He's also 1 for 5 from the arc, and +0 despite spending most of his time on the floor with James. At this point, his upcoming free agent deal might be for the league minimum.

> The only real down side I've seen from three games of medicinal grade hoop: both teams are spending way too much time on the refs. From Wade's flop to James jawing and giving up open threes, to Duncan's offense on every strip, and the soccer plays dives on light contact... both teams are just making me wince far too often. It may be the right move by the percentages, but it just sullies the hoop.

Looking forward to Thursday's Game Four... Miami is, of course, deadly after a loss, and anyone who think the Spurs can shoot it like that for a half again probably has Spurs' gear in their closet. But a road win is a road win, and a 19-point one where you never got all that close opens up the possibility that the Spurs have an "A" game that's better than the Heat. We've seen what happens they get on a roll, and while it's unlikely to keep going for the next two games to end things fast...

Well, no one imagines them shooting 75% from the floor for a half either, right?

4 comments:

Snd_dsgnr said...

Was wondering if you'd mention Chalmers. If he doesn't show he has it early in game 4, doesn't Spoelstra kind of have to consider going with more PG-free lineups and/or Norris Cole.

Chalmers was terrible. That last offensive foul was particularly bad, as he had LeBron in the post with Ginobili trying to guard him.

DMtShooter said...

He probably can't go PG-free for the entire game, because they don't really have good defensive matchups for Tony Parker, and TP is probably the most important Spur in terms of getting everyone comfortable on offense. Sure, you can put Wade or James on him and cross-match, but Leonard went off in Game 3, which means James is needed elsewhere, and Wade will get compromised on offense with PG loads.

All things considered, Miami needs OK Mario back, in a big way.

Snd_dsgnr said...

So there was a story today about the Heat going after Carmelo in free agency. Am I just crazy or would they be better off going after Kyle Lowry? I don't see how Carmelo fits, but Lowry would be a huge upgrade at PG.

DMtShooter said...

I've never been that big of a 'Melo fan, and a fourth wheel behind James, Wade and Bosh makes no sense at all. The fact that he's only ever been out of the first round once is, to my eyes, a huge red flag. I suspect he goes to Houston to be a secretly worse Chandler Parsons.

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