Skip to content

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

Jun 12, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

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. John Calipari hired someone to send NBA advanced stats of Kentucky’s players

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    John Calipari John Calipari

    I don’t know whether this helps Kentucky’s players. It opens Calipari’s options, though.

  2. Former NBA player, current TNT analyst Kenny Smith gets reality show with family

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

    Kenny Smith Getty Images

    Now we know what show promos TNT is going to beat us over the head with during the next playoffs.

  3. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Chris Bosh Chris Bosh

    Expectations are reduced, but Miami still has the chance to be pretty a pretty good team — even without LeBron James.

  4. Dion Waiters on claim Wizards have NBA’s best backcourt: ‘That’s nonsense’

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    John Wall fires back: ‘They haven’t seen a playoff game yet. When they make one they can start talking.’

  5. Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7 Getty Images

    Mike Miller being amnestied may have been the first domino to fall in LeBron bolting.

  6. LeBron James dealing with back pain

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Getty Images

    LeBron could miss Cavaliers’ practice tonight

  7. Brian Shaw wants Ty Lawson to watch Peyton Manning practice, lead team

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Manning leads by detailed preparation and then an ability to read a defense, a good example for any point guard.

  8. Ricky Rubio with half-court alley-oop to Andrew Wiggins (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    We could see a lot more of this during the season.

  9. Byron Scott expects Kobe Bryant to score 23-24 points per game

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:15 AM EDT

    Kobe Bryant, Tony Allen Kobe Bryant, Tony Allen

    Lakers might need Kobe’s scoring, but they shouldn’t count on that much from aging star

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (3944)
  2. R. Rondo (3864)
  3. K. Bryant (3507)
  4. E. Bledsoe (2650)
  5. R. Allen (2585)
  1. D. Wade (2476)
  2. D. Williams (2327)
  3. D. Rose (2128)
  4. K. Leonard (2104)
  5. M. Smart (1931)