The NBA Finals seem to be drawing to a close a few games before most people expected it to. When the Spurs took care of the Thunder and the Heat took down the Pacers, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the rematch of last season’s NBA Finals would come down to a deciding game seven, just as it did in 2013. In reality, however, if not for a good few minutes down the stretch from Miami in game 2, the NBA Finals would already be over. The Heat, a team that came into this series 7-0 at home in the playoffs lost two in Miami, and to top it off, both were by double digits. Miami fans, (or is bandwagoners a better word?) booed their own team and left the game early. This is a result straight out of a San Antonio super-fan’s dreams.
So how did this difference between expectations of a nail-biter series and the current runaway romp by the Spurs happen? How did Miami lose by a total of 40 points in two home games? First off, I think the general population went into this series underestimating the Spurs. I know, it seems dumb. The Spurs were the one seed and coasted through most of the playoffs. But in reality, we all know that the big story in basketball is always the Heat, and their constant news attention, whether it be praise or ridicule (and there is a fair amount of both) always seems to take precedence over anything else going on. They are a very polarizing team. 99% of people either love the Heat or hate them. So of course they will get more attention then the Spurs, giving off a false perception that they are a better team when in reality it is a very good matchup.
The Spurs also came into this series mad. They should’ve won the NBA Finals last year, and they know that. This team has had a year to taken in that loss and the pain felt during this long time since last years finals has made them understand their mistakes, grow as a team, and be ready to come back harder than ever. Coach Popovich has made them ready for this moment. The Spurs were just angry, and the Heat weren’t ready for it.
So from this we can understand that the finals weren’t the Heat trying to get past one more roadblock so they could hoist their third trophy in as many years. The Spurs are as good of a team as the Spurs, and most analysts won’t tell you otherwise. Tim Duncan is a future hall-of-famer. The Spurs have been playing some of their best basketball of the year, and their teamwork and cooperation has been incredible. This and their consistency and strong defense have led to a domination of the defending champions. But the series isn’t over yet. Here is specifically what Miami needs to do to make this a series again.
1) Close out on San Antonio’s Shooters – A main reason for the Spurs’ two wins in Miami has been that the Spurs are moving the ball incredibly well. What this is doing is leaving the Spurs open for many uncontested threes and mid range jumpers, which the Spurs are doing an excellent job of converting. This was seen most clearly in game three where the Spurs put up an astounding 41 first quarter points en route to shooting over 59% from the field for the game. It is extremely difficult to beat a team shooting that good.
2) Win the Battle of the Benches – The Spurs are a much deeper team than the Heat and are comfortable playing everyone on their team in any game. The Spurs have players like Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobilli, and Marco Belinelli that can come off the bench and really make a difference. These players are outperformed their bench counterparts on the Heat such as Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Norris Cole. The Heat need to get these players more involved in their offense so they can throw the Spurs off with multiple threats to score every time down the court.
3) Pass the Ball More! – I love the assists stat because in my opinion it does a great job of evaluating teamwork and how well players are helping each other. Over the four games in this series, the Spurs have 102 assists to the Heat’s 62. That’s an average of ten assists more per game. This means the Heat have to do more on each possession by themselves to get open looks, making it harder for them to score. In game 4 alone, the Heat had 13 assists while Boris Diaw, a big man on the Spurs had 9 by himself. I just find that kind of sad.
4) Do What You Do Best – The Heat can be an amazing basketball team, and even if you hate the Heat you know it’s in part because they’re so good. I think the Heat are most dangerous when they are in an attacking mindset, driving the lane, and then either taking easy layups or kicking it back out to open perimeter jump shooters. When they do this effectively, they are nearly unstoppable. It is absolutely demoralizing for a team to play good defense for 20 seconds of a 24 second shot clock for Lebron to then drive and kick it out to Chris Bosh or Ray Allen for a three. And the Heat are so good at this. Right now the Spurs are beating them at their own game, and the Heat need to change that or they’ll be goners.
It’s always interesting when a series gets close, and from a neutral point of view seeing these two great teams get to play seven games of ball is a wonderful thing. However, this won’t happen if the Heat don’t make some serious adjustments fast. Oh, and it would also help if LeBron didn’t cramp, and San Antonio could make sure their AC was functioning.
Thanks for reading,