- There was plenty of intrigue in this first game of the 2013 NBA Finals, and both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs gave us a game for the ages. Kawhi Leonard, in his first Finals appearance, battled LeBron James and foul trouble and more than held his own. While LeBron got a triple double, it wasn’t the kind of dominating performance the Heat needed to win this game. As expected, LeBron guarded Tony Parker the last 3 minutes and the results were a bit mixed. Of the six offensive possessions LeBron started on Parker, the Spurs scored 7 points. However, the Spurs were able to get a switch on almost every possession and on one of them, Dwyane Wade picked up Parker to start. On the crucial drive by Duncan that got the Spurs two free throws, Popovich buried Parker deep in the right corner, pulling LeBron away from the play. Ironically, it was LeBron who came over to help on Duncan that committed the foul.
This series is dependent on adjustments, and that means looking to the coaching match up. Erik Spoelstra has shown an unwillingness to adjust on defense, trusting that his foundation of gambling and hyper aggression will wear his opponent out. There has been evidence that they will change their play calling, but that tends to be in tiny increments, as evidenced by continued reliance on running 5 Out.
Looking at the tables below, you’ll see the Heat ran their LeBron flash to the Free Throw line only once the entire game, and this borders on Coaching Criminality. This play involves their three best players, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the Spurs defense. It is hard to fathom why the Heat ran this set only once, and I expect to see it more often in Game 2.
- Gregg Popovich, on the other hand, has built a flexible offense designed to take advantage of that very pressure the Heat bring, exploiting the roll man option out of their pick and rolls. Defensively, he has to be ecstatic with the job Kawhi Leonard did on LeBron, containing him and forcing two bad mistakes by him down the stretch.
Losing the first game of the NBA Finals is nothing new to the Heat, as the Thunder came out and beat them last season. However, these Spurs are a whole different team compared to the inexperienced Thunder. They are tested veterans who have gone through the pain and humiliation of early exits from the playoffs. They’re on their last run, and won’t give up this opportunity lightly. The Heat were only a few plays from winning this game, so Game 2 becomes pivotal for them. There is no way to measure the pressure on their shoulders, as the Spurs can play care free having already achieved their goal of stealing one of the first two games.