Jun 12, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
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.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:12 AM EDT
Lopez gets three years, $60 million; Young gets four years, $50 million.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:58 AM EDT
The Hawks, Nuggets and Kings are also interested.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:41 AM EDT
This was expected.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:39 AM EDT
A replacement for Nicolas Batum on the wing.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:15 AM EDT
Davis will be in New Orleans through at least 2020.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:13 AM EDT
Love said he was committed to Cleveland, now he is flirting with other teams.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Kobe being in the room is not guaranteed, but it helps.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
I didn’t know he had that in him.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
The Clippers want him, but they have other, larger concerns.
Jun 30, 2015, 8:16 PM EDT
It’s a deep pool of shooters in free agency.
Jun 30, 2015, 7:34 PM EDT
It’s the Lakers being the Lakers again.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
Mo Williams can still score, he’d be a good pickup for the Cavs.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:03 PM EDT
Monroe finally has the free agency he turned down a lot of cash to get.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
The big men will set the market.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
There is a clear compromise of three years at the max, but will the Bulls and Butler get there
Jun 30, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
Big men like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan will shape the free agency landscape.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Sorry Scottie, LeBron is just the better player.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:03 PM EDT
He’s reportedly seeking a shorter deal, too, which negates L.A.’s inherent advantage.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
Shumpert is a restricted free agent, so Cavaliers can match any offer he might receive.
Jun 30, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
It only takes one team to make Miami nervous.
- Report: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs reach deal for five-year, $90 million contract extension 13
- Anthony Davis and Pelicans agree to five-year, $145 million contract extension 19
- Report: Kevin Love to meet with Lakers later in week 5
- Report: Lakers working to clear out more cap space to land both LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan 38
- PBT Extra: What players will most influence free agency? 1
- PBT Podcast: The top guys to watch as NBA free agency tips off 3
- Scottie Pippen: “I was LeBron James before LeBron James” 30
- Report: Kings probing John Calipari about his interest in coaching and running the team’s front office 22