The NBA Finals will shift to South Florida for Game 3 (Tuesday, 9 PM EST, TV: ABC) and the San Antonio Spurs will look to steal a game in Miami after dropping Game 2 to the Heat on Sunday night. The Spurs played very well at points in Game 2, especially early, but Miami made some adjustments defensively and ended up with a road victory to even the series at one game each.
The Heat were led to the victory by a huge performance from LeBron James, who drove the ball to the rim relentlessly, and made some pivotal passes for assists down the stretch to seal the win. I was surprised how poorly the Heat played defensively early in Game 2, and Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra thought so as well, by calling an early timeout to get his team refocused on their defensive responsibilities. The Heat were not rotating on defense, which left open San Antonio shooters along the perimeter to knock down uncontested shot attempts.
San Antonio was also able to get passes and dribble penetration into the painted area for high percentage scoring opportunities in the first 3 quarters of Game 2. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili were able to cause havoc on the Heat defensive alignments. They were able to drive to the rim for points, they were also able to obtain easy pull up jump shots as well.
I thought the Spurs were smart in getting Danny Green involved early in the game to knock down some shots so he could regain his confidence. Green struggled for most of Game 1 but came alive in the 4th quarter to hit some big baskets for the Spurs, in Game 2 they got him shooting the ball early and that was a big help to the San Antonio offense.
The other key area for the Spurs going into Game 2 was the elimination of turnovers, and they had some issues in the first half, but their first turnover in the second half came almost midway through the 4th quarter. The Heat did not have the fast break or run-out opportunities because the Spurs cut back on the turnovers. However, the Heat won this game through their defense.
4th Quarter Story
The Heat came out in the 4th quarter and were a totally different team, they did not allow the Spurs any shot attempts in the paint. In fact, the majority of the Spurs shot attempts came from 3 point range in the 4th quarter. The defensive rotation by the Heat was excellent. Overall, it was a fantastic basketball game by both teams, for a fan like myself, it was great to watch.
Miami made a change defensively in the 4th quarter by putting either Dwayne Wade or LeBron James defensively on Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Parker had trouble with either of those Heat defenders and could not gain any space to drive to the painted area. This had a major impact on the Spurs offensive flow, and it also effected their floor spacing because Parker was forced to get help and get rid of the ball higher up in the offensive end.
The net result of that change was fewer quality shot attempts, and low percentage outside shot attempts which the Spurs could not convert. San Antonio has to make some adjustments going into Game 3, and dealing with how to clear out space for Parker to move the basketball is going to a pivotal issue for them to address.
The Spurs could use a bigger player like Tiago Splitter or a physical player like Boris Diaw to set a pick on Wade or James which would allow Parker to use his speed and dribble into some open space. That strategy could backfire if the Heat have a player who can switch quickly onto Parker such as Rashard Lewis or Mario Chalmers who could take away that opening. The high pick or high screen to create some kind of screen and roll play can also backfire on the Spurs because it clogs up several bodies in one area of the floor and creates a scenario where turnovers can more readily occur.
San Antonio also needs to find a way to get the ball inside the low post to Duncan or Splitter, I know that Splitter is not a threat to take the ball to rim that often, but they hurt the Heat on Sunday night when Splitter was able to catch the ball down low and then hit a cutting player with a pass going to the basket. That is a very difficult situation for Miami to stop without either conceding a basket or fouling a Spurs player in the act of shooting.
Turn Up the Heat
The Heat have to also make some changes to their strategy going into Game 3 and Game 4 both on their home floor. Miami cannot play defensively like they did in the first seventeen to eighteen minutes of Game 2 and expect to beat the Spurs. They have to improve their rotations, and Chris Bosh and Rashard Lewis have to close down on their defensive assignments off of a switch. Bosh was caught in “no-man’s land” a few times last night which created some successful scoring plays for San Antonio.
Conversely, Bosh played very well in stretches of Game 2 on the offensive side, hitting a big three point shot and driving to the basket when James was on the sideline getting some rest. The Heat need Bosh to play with that type of intensity in order to get a victory in Game 3 and take the lead in this championship series.
The Heat also need LeBron in the attack mode he played within on Sunday night. He is a very difficult player to handle when he is going to the basket with that type of aggressiveness. The Heat were successful in their strategy of having James drive to the basket early and often in order to get Kawhi Leonard in foul trouble. James has had some difficulties when Leonard is playing against him defensively, and the Spurs were forced to make a switch and put Boris Diaw on James because they needed Leonard’s offensive contributions to keep pace with Miami.
In Game 3, look for the Spurs to respond by rotating several players defensively on LeBron James and the other component to their strategy will be to use Leonard, Parker, and even Ginobili to drive the ball at LeBron to force him into foul trouble early to get him off the floor. The Spurs need to do whatever possible to keep Leonard on the floor, especially in the fourth quarter, they need him to win this series.
In fact, the Spurs lost Game 2 because they moved away from running their offense through Ginobili in the later stages of the game. San Antonio was very successful in Game 1 when Ginobili was the primary offensive guy. He can facilitate plays, he can drive to the hoop, and he can hit perimeter shots. The Heat will have a hard time matching up against him if he gets the ball in the right situations.
Will the Heat make the right adjustments defensively to carry over a victory in Game 3? Can the Spurs steal a victory in Miami? We will find out tonight in what has been an excellent NBA Finals so far.