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.
Apr 21, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Williams will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT
Full voting results enclosed.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT
Butler wasn’t wrong — he torched the Bucks for 31 points.
Bucks’ Zaza Pachulia ejected after two incidents with Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic, who left the game due to injury (VIDEO)
Apr 21, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Mirotic suffered a quad strain, a swollen knee and possibly a concussion.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Klay Thompson was the catalyst for both big Golden State runs.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
It’s more around than over Pachulia, but it’s still impressive.
Apr 21, 2015, 1:37 AM EDT
Golden State wins Game 2, 97-87
Apr 21, 2015, 12:14 AM EDT
Pierce’s comments made him unpopular north of the border, but his play should bother the Raptors more.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT
Jimmy Butler’s 31 points led the way.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT
He was simply the most dominant player in Game 1 of the Mavericks vs. Rockets series.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:56 PM EDT
They did exactly that in Game 1.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
John Henson, O.J. Mayo, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah all got techs.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
I could try to use logic and suggest that discussing the complete legacy of Jordan with the incomplete legacy of James is a fool’s errand. But this is the Internet, logic is not always welcome.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT
What you want to see as a Boston fan is Smart embrace the challenge.
Apr 20, 2015, 6:13 PM EDT
The Bulls should be in no rush to bring Hinrich back for this series.
Apr 20, 2015, 5:32 PM EDT
Also, Tyreke Evans is a game-time decision after his injury in the playoff opener.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Rose was getting into the paint and making plays.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:06 PM EDT
The Clippers need a rebranding, but the leaked images are not winning over new fans.
Apr 20, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT
One of Ollie’s biggest fans? Kevin Durant
Monty Williams on Warriors home games: ‘I’m not so sure that the decibel level is legal there, and I’m serious’
Apr 20, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT
Is Pelicans coach actually serious?
- Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer named 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year 4
- With Anthony Davis and Pelicans drained, Warriors deliver down the stretch 7
- PBT Extra matchup to watch: Can Toronto keep Paul Pierce quiet on the court? 3
- Bulls overcome ugly start to take 2-0 series lead over Bucks 11
- PBT Extra matchup to watch: Dallas has to find a way to deal with Dwight Howard 4
- Man arrested after fight over who is better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James 37
- PBT Extra matchup to watch: Marcus Smart needs to take on Kyrie Irving challenge 2
- PBT Extra matchup to watch: Pelican guards need to stay with Curry, Thompson 1