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Heat seek to take unprecedented lead over Spurs in Finals

Jun 15, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Spurs head coach Popovich directs his team against the Grizzlies during the fourth quarter in Game 3 of their NBA Western Conference final playoff basketball series in Memphis

The San Antonio Spurs have never trailed in an NBA Finals series.

With the Finals tied, the Spurs are 10-0 and have won by an average of 11.1 points per game. Not the New York Knicks in 1999, New Jersey Nets in 2003, Detroit Pistons in 2005, Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 or Miami Heat this year have cracked that code (though the Pistons came close).

To a degree, this is probably coincidence. San Antonio is 9-7 in Finals games when leading the series, but that hardly seems telling of anything, so this can only mean so much.

But it also seems this could be the Gregg Popovich advantage at play in the area between luck and results.

The Spurs have faced Jeff Van Gundy, Byron Scott, Larry Brown, Mike Brown and now Erik Spoelstra. Those coaches are good enough to make adjustments.

Popovich sets the agenda.

After San Antonio took a 2-1 series lead against Miami, Spoelstra adjusted by going small, starting Mike Miller for Udonis Haslem in Game 4. Popovich wasted just 48 seconds before inserting Gary Neal for Tiago Splitter, and the Spurs led by 10 points before the next substitution. Popovich started Boris Diaw in the second half, and both teams played evenly before substitutions began again.

The Spurs, it seems, weathered the storm of Spoelstra’s biggest adjustment, even if they lost the game for other reasons.

Now, it’s Popovich’s turn to set the agenda once again.

The Heat, like all San Antonio’s Finals opponents before them, have been playing catch up. Tied 2-2, they’ll have a chance to finally put the Spurs behind in the Finals, but history suggest that challenge is mighty difficult.

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