Skip to content

NBA Finals Spurs vs. Heat Game 4 preview: Miami better bring serious defensive pressure

Jun 12, 2014, 11:44 AM EST

LeBron James, Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade LeBron James, Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade

MIAMI — Three games into the Finals between the Heat and Spurs, this is what I think we’ve learned:

When Miami brings its peak defensive pressure, it is better than San Antonio. Not a lot, but better.

However that peak Miami defense does not show up consistently while the Spurs’ offensive execution is Terminator relentless. It will not stop, ever. It’s not just the stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, it’s Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and Patty Mills. That’s what we saw in Game 3, a Heat team that entered the game without urgency, giving the Spurs’s shooters a little space and that is all they needed to get hot.

When Heat take their foot off the gas — even a little — the Spurs ball movement going from strong  to weak side and their smart cuts put too much pressure on the Miami defense. This leads to breakdowns and good looks for the Spurs who are shooting the ball at a ridiculously high level. When the Spurs gain confidence because the ball is moving, executing efficiently and their shots are falling there is nothing the Heat can do.

Which brings us to Game 4 — will Miami bring a sense of urgency and the needed defensive pressure? And if the Heat do for how many minutes of the 48 will they keep it up?

The fear of going down 3-1 should motivate the Heat to bring the defensive pressure from the opening tip. Should. You can point to the Heat not losing back-to-back playoff games since roughly the Nixon administration to show how they raise their level of play when challenged, or you can point to the Heat’s effort in Game 2 and you’d be right.

But coming out of the East, Miami never faced a team that would punish it for its lapses like the Spurs can and will. Miami didn’t spend the season building great habits on the defensive end of the floor. They flipped the switch when they needed to and got wins.

San Antonio puts pressure on that Heat defense for a full 48 minutes because of its ball movement — even at the Heat’s peak they’re not going to stop the Spurs entirely. What Miami can do is make it difficult by making sure the extra pass doesn’t happen in a straight line and make the windows for those passes very tight, leading to steals and turnovers that would fuel Miami’s runs.

The Heat are going to need another big game from LeBron James and I expect they get it. He can raise his level to one nobody else in the NBA can match, but he’s going to need some help — Chris Bosh (who has had a good series), Dwyane Wade (who has been fine, but not special) and Ray Allen have to step up.

Plus, getting anything of quality out of Mario Chalmers would be huge — he has been awful but Erik Spoelstra doesn’t have a lot of other options. Norris Cole isn’t built for big minutes, and when the Heat go with their no-point-guard look it presents some real matchup challenges (like Wade trying to guard Tony Parker).

Scoring points has not been Miami’s problem; it is clicking on that end well enough to win.

As John Schuhmann of NBA.com put it well, this series has come down to a race between the Spurs ball movement and the Heat’s rotations. The ball movement has won two of the three.

The pressure is on Miami now to bring its peak defense, for 48 minutes. If not, it will be in a lot of trouble heading back to San Antonio.

Latest Posts
  1. Former All-Star, popular Knick Anthony Mason dies at age 48

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:33 AM EST

    Anthony mason knicks Getty Images

    He had been in the hospital for weeks following multiple heart attacks.

  2. Langston Galloway three forces overtime, Knicks go on to victory (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    The Knicks got the double OT win in Detroit, this shot was key.

  3. Russell Westbrook posts third straight triple-double, Thunder lose anyway

    Feb 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Russell Westbrook AP

    Westbrook is averaging a triple-double over his last five games.

  4. Knicks’ Alexey Shved misses shot about as badly as you can (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 1:02 AM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. New York Knicks TD Garden Getty Images

    To quote Bob Uecker, “juuuuust a bit outside.”

  5. Rumor: Baron Davis planning an NBA comeback. Stop laughing, he’s serious.

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Jordan Brand Melo M9 Shoe Launch Getty Images

    There is about as much chance of me getting a date with Emily Ratajkowski this weekend as there is of this actually happening.

  6. What’s the best way to defend Kings’ cherry-picking idea?

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    NBA teams are considering the question

  7. Daryl Morey believes two bad shots are better than one good shot (always), but data wasn’t significant enough for Jeff Van Gundy to change

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:59 PM EST

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    An interesting anecdote from Morey (speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference) about how the data showed an advantage, but not one big enough for his coach to change.

  8. Re-inventing the Wheel: Mike Zarren presents modified NBA-draft-lottery-reform proposals

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EST

    the modified draft wheel

    Instead of 30-year plan, assistant Celtics general manager unveils five-year and 10-year plans

  9. Shane Battier: ‘I think a 60-game season would be perfect’

    Feb 27, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Shane Battier Shane Battier

    There are financial obstacles in the way of dropping 22 games from the schedule, but Battier makes a somewhat compelling case.

  10. Kyrie Irving has strained left shoulder, out Friday vs. Pacers

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    He’s day to day. (Insert your Keith Olberman joke here.)

  11. NBA to release “Last Two Minutes” officiating reports through end of season, playoffs

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:30 PM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. Brooklyn Nets At TD Garden Getty Images

    It’s not going to change most fans’ minds, but it’s a good first step.

  12. Report: Highest bid for Atlanta Hawks currently $800 million

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six Getty Images

    Don’t be surprised if another bidder comes in over the top.

  13. Report: If Ray Allen return to NBA this season it will not be with Cleveland

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    Ray Allen Getty Images

    Don’t expect him to return, but if he does Cleveland appears off the list.

  14. The time Michael Jordan asked Common to forge his signature (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    87th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet Getty Images

    Turns out Common was a Bulls ball boy back in the early Jordan era in Chicago, so he and Michael Jordan had some laughs together.

  15. Jeff Van Gundy to Daryl Morey when he flinched at using analytics to make a decision: ‘Either you believe in this sh-t or you don’t’

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:14 PM EST

    Game One Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Eastern Conference Finals Game One Getty Images

    The data said that Dikembe Mutombo was better than Yao Ming, but Morey wasn’t ready to make that call.

  16. Shane Battier says peer pressure is more valuable than coaching in the NBA

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:30 PM EST

    Shane Battier Shane Battier

    A team’s best players hold each other accountable, according to the former NBA player.

  17. Report: Phil Jackson to get fined for innocuous comment on Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:48 PM EST

    Celebrities Attend Vancouver Canucks Vs New York Rangers Game - February 19, 2015 Getty Images

    Phil Jackson can’t just quietly sneak into a building and watch a prospect, so a reporter asked him a question. Jackson answered and will pay for that.

  18. Derrick Rose expected to return in 4-6 weeks. In time for playoffs.

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:58 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    This makes the Bulls a lot more dangerous come the playoffs.

Featured video

Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (7903)
  2. D. Rose (7552)
  3. S. Curry (7326)
  4. D. Howard (6946)
  5. P. George (6506)
  1. M. Carter-Williams (6489)
  2. A. Davis (6054)
  3. B. Beal (5851)
  4. R. Westbrook (5674)
  5. C. Bosh (5592)