While most Spurs fans will take a split of the first two games in Miami, I’m sure Tim Duncan and Tony Parker aren’t happy with having to waive a white flag well before the final buzzer. Realizing the game was lost with 8 minutes remaining, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went to the end of his bench to finish out the game, giving Tracy McGrady his first taste of Finals basketball.Through the first 33 minutes, the Spurs were following the same script to steal yet another road victory and perhaps seal their fate as the next NBA champions. Having been plagued by turnover problems all game – some forced by the pressure of Heat defense, many others unforced – the Spurs self destructed in a 33-5 shellacking bridging the end of the third and start of the fourth. Nothing went right for the Spurs offense, even when able to hit the roll man. On one play, Tiago Splitter was a split second from passing to 1 of 2 wide open weakside teammates before getting jumped and losing the ball. And on the other, he went strong to the rim only to be denied by what will surely be a LeBron James NBA Finals moment.
The Heat unveiled some other offensive sets they hadn’t shown as far back as the Conference Finals vs the Indiana Pacers. While simple, they were very effective. The first was having LeBron or Wade dribble to the corner and then get a screen while the other 3 Heat players spaced on the weakside. The other play was a screen and roll, notable because LeBron James was setting the ball screen at the elbow of the foul line. The Spurs had no answer for this simple set, and it was the primary fuel during their game ending run.
Now that these two teams are heading back to San Antonio for three straight games, this next round of adjustments will be crucial. Popovich has to be thinking that Manu Ginobili could not possibly play worse than he did, mishandling the ball on no fewer than 12 possessions. And Tim Duncan was also surprisingly ineffective down low on the block. The Heat’s defense was particularly aggressive with Tony Parker, and he got no benefit of the doubt on any of that physicality.
The Heat will surely need more production from Dwyane Wade, who still looks a step slow on half his shots, and most of his defensive possessions. There is more cause to rejoice in South Beach because Chris Bosh awoke from his rebounding doldrums to snare 10 of them. Since 1985, 11 of the 12 series that were tied 1-1 were decided by the winner of Game 3. There’s no reason to think this series won’t follow that pattern, so it is crucial that adjustments be made. If I had to put money, knowing that this as much Spoelstra vs Popovich as it is Parker vs LeBron, I’ll have to choose the Spurs.