Skip to content

NBA Finals Game 5 preview, Heat at Spurs: Miami tries to put River Walk party on hold

Jun 15, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

LeBron Hames, Dwyane Wade LeBron Hames, Dwyane Wade

SAN ANTONIO — The Miami Heat were relaxed.

The day after a Game 4 loss that left them bewildered Ray Allen spent the day on a bike ride, going 14 miles or so from his Coral Gables home, picking up some lunch along the way, just getting outside and clearing his head. The rest of the Heat did something similar, whatever it was it was not basketball. Friday they took a day off.

Miami is down 3-1, on the brink of elimination at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs heading into Sunday night’s Game 5, but when they showed up in San Antonio Saturday afternoon they were surprisingly relaxed and confident.

Last year they faced two elimination games in the Finals against the Spurs, yet won them both. This year it will take three in a series that feels different after San Antonio won the last two games convincingly. But the Heat acted like a team that has been through plenty of adversity and been to four straight Finals. They acted like they have been there before.

That means either they have found their groove, their energy that they can bring for 48 minutes this time, that they are ready to fight for this series.

Or they are resigned to their fate.

“Why not us?” LeBron James asked. “History is broken all the time. And obviously we know we’re against the greatest of odds. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, but there was a point where no team came back from a 2-0… There was a point where no team came back from a 31 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, and then Phoenix did it. One of our teammates was on that team, James Jones….

“So history is made to be broken, and why not me be a part of it? That would be great.”

“What we talked about is we’re not so entitled or jaded that we’re above having to fight for it, and that’s what it is right now,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said.

As it has been throughout this series, the questions for Miami in Game 5 at the defensive end — their pressure and rotations have not been able to keep up with the Spurs ball movement.

“Regardless (of how we played the pick-and-roll) it felt like we were a step slow on all our rotations, closing out to the three point, the low man getting to the big on the rolls,” Rashard Lewis said. “We was just always late, they were a step faster.”

Even when Miami did make the right rotations it didn’t matter — San Antonio shot 64.7 percent on contested shots in Game 4, 61.5 percent in Game 3 (stats via the NBA’s player tracking SportsVU cameras). San Antonio just is not missing.

One thing Miami is counting on to come back is a regression to the mean — San Antonio can’t keep shooting like this, can they? No, not over a long stretch of games they couldn’t, but that’s also not what the Spurs need. They just need one more.

Miami’s problem is after 13 games between these teams since the start of last year’s Finals the Spurs have grown accustomed to and comfortable with the Heat defense — Miami tries to use their athleticism to overwhelm, force turnovers and rushed shots. The Spurs have seen it — and they saw the same tactics from Dallas and Oklahoma City these playoffs — and it doesn’t faze them anymore. Plus, an older, banged-up Miami team doesn’t dial up the same pressure it did the past couple playoffs.

In the face of that pressure the Spurs no longer lose their offensive balance and unpredictability — all five guys are live, all five guys are a threat on every play.

“Everybody’s dangerous on our team,” Boris Diaw explained. “Everybody can score at any time. It’s not like a pattern, like some times you do scouting on a team and you say ‘Who’s the head of the snake, who’s the guy who’s going to score?’ You keep them from scoring and you’re going to win the game. With us it’s a little bit different, anybody can score on any given night. You saw that during the whole regular season. One night Patty Mills is the leading scorer on our team, some times it’s Danny (Green), sometimes it’s Tony (Parker), sometimes it’s Manu (Ginobili), sometime’s it’s Tim (Duncan). It can be anyone.”

Tony Parker leads the Spurs in scoring in the Finals averaging 18.5 points a game on 50.9 percent shooting — those are not gaudy numbers. The Spurs have talent — Tim Duncan is arguably the greatest power forward ever to play the game, Kawhi Leonard is a Finals MVP favorite exploding on the scene, Manu Ginobili just keeps making plays — but they all put their ego aside for the team.

When you asked Miami players what they need to do differently you got variations of their standard answer — we just need to do what we do better. We likely will see some rotation changes — Ray Allen started the second half of Game 4 and expect he starts Game 5, we also could see some Shane Battier — but the fact is Miami’s depth is limited. Plus guys they count on to step up, Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen in particular, have not. That’s not even mentioning Dwyane Wade aging before our eyes and Chris Bosh needing to be more aggressive when he gets his chances. It’s pretty much been LeBron James against the world, and no team ever won the Larry O’Brien trophy that way. Just like no team has ever come from 3-1 down in the Finals to win.

“But you can’t start thinking about two games ahead, three games ahead, all of that,” Spoelstra said on Saturday. “It’s just about tomorrow.”

If the Heat don’t there will be a parade down the River Walk just a few tomorrows after that.

Latest Posts
  1. Tim Duncan says he’s not retiring

    Jul 2, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven Getty Images

    Now, can the Spurs get LaMarcus Aldridge to complement him?

  2. Report: Pistons signing Aron Baynes away from Spurs for up to $20 million over three years

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes AP

    Baynes will reportedly get three-year deal with player option

  3. Report: Pacers agree to four-year, $44 million contract with Monta Ellis

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT

    Donald Sloan, Monta Ellis AP

    Indiana shouldn’t feel good about this, even if it was their best option at this point

  4. Report: David West interested in Warriors and Spurs

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Draymond Green, David West AP

    Former Pacers forward said he opted out to win a title

  5. Kings set sights on at least one of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Wes Matthews

    Jul 2, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Rajon Rondo AP

    The Kings are going to have to overpay to get players to come to the Kings right now.

  6. Lakers, Knicks struggle on hectic first day of free agency

    Jul 2, 2015, 9:44 AM EDT

    150702 philjackson Getty Images

    Free agents want more than off-the-court opportunities, they want to see a path to winning. Fast.

  7. Who is left on the board after wild first day of NBA free agency?

    Jul 2, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Getty Images

    There are still some very good players on the board

  8. Report: J.J. Barea leaning toward signing with Heat

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:11 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat Getty Images

    If he does, will Miami trade Mario Chalmers and/or Shabazz Napier?

  9. Report: Warriors, Draymond Green agree to five-year, $85 million deal

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game One Getty Images

    The Warriors are keeping the band together — and they will be at the top of the West for a while.

  10. 76ers get Nik Stauskas, first-rounder in salary-dump trade with Kings

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Philadelphia takes Jason Thompson, Carl Landry from Sacramento

  11. Report: Pelicans finalizing deal with Omer Asik

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Asik will take some pressure off Anthony Davis

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4967)
  2. D. Wade (4551)
  3. L. James (3656)
  4. J. Embiid (3610)
  5. K. Bryant (3125)
  1. G. Monroe (3056)
  2. K. Love (3034)
  3. T. Harris (3027)
  4. J. Butler (2847)
  5. D. Cousins (2456)