Skip to content

Celtics-Heat Game 7: Erik Spoelstra’s redemption

Jun 10, 2012, 12:22 PM EDT

Erik Spoelstra AP

I’ll say it, I buried him.

I absolutely buried Erik Spoelstra after Game 5. He had failed to make any meaningful adjustments, had allowed the Celtics to dominate the structure of the series, and had squandered opportunities to put this series away. I buried him.

And hey, shocker, I was wrong. He’s not buried. He’s the coach for the Eastern Conference champs, again. And when he had to, he made adjustments. Again. He’ll get zero percent of the effort for the Game 7 win, instead as always, his victories are considered the product of talent and talent alone. But if you really want the truth, if you care about what actually won Game 7 and sent the Heat to the Finals, you’ll recognize that Erik Spoelstra, in the biggest game of the year, outcoached Doc Rivers.

He trusted Chris Bosh, finally, coming off his injury. This is significant. Playing a good player may seem obvious, but there are a lot of coaches who would have held back on Bosh, not wanting to ruin his endurance for the end. Spoesltra managed him perfectly, and gave him the timeouts necessary to keep him winded. That adjustment changes the game. Kevin Garnett‘s lobs no longer appeared unscathed, Bosh snatched them away, and the Celtics’ chances alongside.

He kept Battier off of Bass. This is huge. It’s not about Bass, who scored anyway, muscling in and doing work. He transitioned Battier onto Pierce and Rondo and Pietrus and let him make the little plays while others helped out on Bass. That was huge. He stemmed the bleeding.

He drew up the plays that worked, trusted Bosh in the corner, which was a major gamble, and didn’t get in LeBron’s way. He’ll get no credit for that. Which is ridiculous. Want to know why? It’s the most tried and tested way for a coach to win and make his starts happy.

From Bill Russell to Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, stars say the same thing. “My coach trusted me to make the right play.” Spoelstra did that with James, not pulling him, letting him play it out, take them home. That seems obvious. It isn’t, and that line of thought is a big differential.

Spoelstra didn’t coach a great series. He didn’t coach a good series. He was outworked, but much of that came when he lost his starting power forward, a fact I overlooked when I buried him.

Whoops.

So now Spoelstra’s back in the Finals, matched up against another young coach with championship aspirations coaching three stars. He’ll have to have the defense he constructed control three terrific scorers, have his offense beat a shot-blocking menace. He has to manage minutes and rotations and do it for a team coming off a draining, exhausting seven-game series.

But for now, Erik Spoelstra has redeemed himself. He’s not dead.

Not even close.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Cavaliers signing A.J. Price

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers

    Price will provide point guard depth – at least through training camp

  2. Celtics GM Danny Ainge remains noncommittal on trading Rajon Rondo

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    “The truthful answer is I really don’t know.” —Danny Ainge on potentially trading Rajon Rondo

  3. Bucks’ Larry Sanders to play with goggles next season

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT

    Larry Sanders

    Remember Sanders suffered a serious eye injury last season.

  4. Golden State Warriors top 10 plays of 2014 season (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Way more Andre Iguodala than you might expect.

  5. Report: Celtics will complete Evan Turner signing before training camp begins

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    Turner’s stock has dropped significantly since being traded from the Sixers to the Pacers in the middle of last season.

  6. NBA’s rookie transition program tries to educate, but some of the information is presented in poor taste

    Sep 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    You can see what they’re trying to do, but some of the things presented went a bit too far.

  7. Behind the scenes look at internal media day for Charlotte Hornets (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    courtesy Bobcats.com

    Our first real look at the new uniforms and new court design.

  8. Tony Parker hits a back over-the-head halfcourt shot (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Tony Parker Tony Parker

    I’m pretty sure Popovich doesn’t want him taking one of these in a game.

  9. Hornets’ Jeff Taylor says he’s recovered from ruptured Achilles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats

    He’s going to fight for minutes at a crowded wing spot in Charlotte.

  10. Andrew Wiggins says he doesn’t feel much pressure heading to Minnesota

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    Nobody expects much from the Timberwolves or Wiggins this season, outside of a few highlight dunks.

  11. Report: Zoran Dragic “in advanced discussions” to leave Europe for Suns next season

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURO-2013-SRB-SVN Getty Images

    A team is going to have to pay him at least $2 million a year to make it worth his while.

  12. Jeanie Buss ‘not worried’ about Kobe coming back and contributing for Lakers

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lakers president believes Bryant is ready after he missed all but six games last season due to injury.

  13. Timberwolves ‘not necessarily in a rush’ to agree to contract extension with Ricky Rubio

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Ricky Rubio AP

    Rubio may not like it, but Minnesota can retain his rights in restricted free agency next summer.

  14. Report: Gustavo Ayon’s deal with Real Madrid worth $6.6 million over three years

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Australia v Mexico - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Getty Images

    Big man from Mexico preferred to remain in the NBA, but took the payday to return overseas.

  15. Kobe Bryant may join ownership group attempting to purchase Italian soccer team

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

    With two years left in the NBA, Bryant has an eye on life after basketball.

  16. Taj Gibson says he’s fine coming off the bench for Bulls: ‘Please miss me with the drama’

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Taj Gibson Taj Gibson

    A previous report said Gibson was less than thrilled with remaining a reserve.

  17. Andray Blatche signs deal to play in China next season

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Blatche can play, but the NBA offers simply weren’t there.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2684)
  2. E. Bledsoe (2596)
  3. K. Bryant (2232)
  4. L. James (2120)
  5. D. Rose (1875)
  1. R. Allen (1720)
  2. N. Young (1645)
  3. K. Irving (1548)
  4. J. Hickson (1511)
  5. B. Jennings (1457)