Jun 19, 2013 7:40 PM EDT
The Miami Heat came out strong early in Game 6, especially LeBron James, who was being observed very closely by critics as this was a legacy-defining game for him. He looked to get his teammates involved early, finishing the first 12 minutes of play with five assists. Four of those assists led to three-point makes.
Both teams started out hot. The score was tied at 14-14 before Gregg Popovich called San Antonio’s first timeout with 7:16 left in the quarter. The two teams combined to shoot 12-for-17 at that point, the Heat shooting 6-for-8 and the Spurs shooting 6-for-9. A minute and 17 seconds later, Miami called their first timeout and used it to sub in Ray Allen for Mario Chalmers, the latter finishing the first quarter with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including two three-pointers. It was a very early non-point-guard lineup for the Heat, and Popovich brought in Boris Diaw at the same time to guard James.
Tim Duncan was a huge factor in the first half, finishing the first 24 minutes with 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. In the first quarter, he posted 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting. He would not miss the next two shots, going 8-for-8, before missing his first shot coming out of an official’s timeout. In the second half however, he was largely a non-factor, partly because of the Miami running a few double-teams at him and Bosh playing him much more physically and aggressively. In the final 24 minutes as well as the overtime period, Duncan had 5 points on 2-for-8 shooting, but had nine rebounds, finishing with a grand total of 30 points and 17 rebounds on 61.9 percent shooting from the field.
Kawhi Leonard was the only other bright spot for the Spurs, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 9-for-14 from the field. He also had three big steals.
Manu Ginobili went back to being his usual sloppy self in this game, finishing with eight turnovers, one turnover shy of equaling his point total.
The new record-holder for made threes in an NBA Finals in Danny Green was nowhere to be found in this game. The Heat made a point of closing out on three-point shooters better then they’ve done all series, and it paid off. Green shot 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, his only make coming a minute into the second quarter.
Parker was very inefficient from the floor. He finished with 19 points, but it took him 23 shot attempts to get there, of which he made six. Fortunately for San Antonio, he didn’t have a single turnover, but James saw quite a bit of time defending him compared to the previous games in the series, and Parker had a hard time getting his offense going. One of his makes was a last-second step-back bail-out three near the end of the fourth quarter to tie the game 89-89.
Miami did not defend well in the first half, allowing to Spurs to convert on 58.3 percent of their shots and dominate the paint. The Spurs were winning that battle 32-16 in the first half. However, the Heat defended them much better in the second half, limiting them to just 35 percent shooting, including 2-for-9 from long-range.
The Heat on the other hand shot poorly in the first three quarters at 41.8 percent, mostly because of their shot selection. We’ve seen that the winner of each game in the series has had more shots in the paint then the opponent. Let’s take a look at their shot selection by quarter:
In the first quarter, 45.4 percent of their offense came from mid-range, where they shot 40 percent from the field. Shots in the paint only counted for 27.2 percent of their shots in the quarter, from where they shot 50 percent.
In the second quarter, they did a little better. The mid-range game accounted for 36.8 percent of their offense whereas 42.1 percent of their offense came from the paint. However, they only shot 37.5 percent from inside and 28.6 percent of their mid-range shots.
Story of the half? Tim Duncan and shots in the paint: 32-16 in the Spurs’ favor.
At the end of the third quarter, the Heat shot they continued to improve their shot selection from inside, 50 percent of their offense coming from the paint. Once again, they were inefficient from there, making only 25 percent of their attempts. 31.6 percent of their offense came from mid-range, pretty consistent with their second-quarter numbers.
The fourth quarter proved to be all the difference. While Miami’s mid-range game accounted for a mere 11.8 percent of their offense, 53 percent of their shots came from inside the paint, and they converted on 77.8 percent of their attempts.
Down 10 and in desperate need of a run, Erik Spoelstra went with the lineup that initiated the 33-5 run for the Heat in Game 2: Chalmers, Allen, Mike Miller, James and Chris Andersen. They scored on their first four possessions: a Chalmers three, a layup by James, Miller’s “one-shoed” three and a dunk by James. The early triples for the Heat opened up the floor for Miami and gave allowed James to attack the rim. We saw a lot of elbow pick-and-rolls to get the Spurs to switch their man on James, giving him an easier path in the lane.
From there on, the game became a roller-coaster ride. The Heat went up two on an Allen drive along the baseline and held on to the lead until Parker hit a ridiculous step-back jumper over James as the shot-clock was winding down to tie the game, followed by a shot from 12 feet to go up two.
And when it seemed the Spurs had the game wrapped up and were removing the crown off of Miami’s head, James hits a three with 20.1 remaining and with 5.2 left in the game, Ray Allen adds to his legacy by hitting one of the greatest shots of all-time.
Overtime is forced, and as the final buzzer sounded, Chris Bosh heaved the ball in relief: they had survived what had seemed like a failure of a season with 28 seconds left in the game.
Miami wins unorthodoxly by losing the battle in the paint by a huge margin: 60-32.
“I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized,” said Ginobili. “I’m devastated.”
It’s sudden death, Manu. Figure it out, or this season becomes a huge missed opportunity for another ring.
Jun 19, 2013 1:33 PM EDT
There are a hundred fascinating storylines coming out of Game 6 of the NBA Finals, one of the greatest games in NBA history. The final sequence of regulation, when the Miami Heat came back from a five-point deficit in the final 22 seconds, will be remembered forever. Just as important, however, was the three-minute stretch at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Heat went on a 12-5 run that set up the the nail-biting finale. In a series this competitive, the game can swing that quickly.
Before that run, things looked pretty bleak for Miami. After getting out to an early lead in the first half, they were pretty convincingly outplayed by the San Antonio Spurs over the next 16 minutes. They were down 75-65 at the end of the third, as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were completely flustered by the Spurs collapsing defense. With their season on the line, Erik Spoelstra played the last card in his deck, a lineup he had kept in mothballs since Game 2.
He moved Wade and Chris Bosh to the bench, leaving four role players around LeBron. It was the Platonic ideal of a 4-out offense: what the Heat lacked in starpower, they made up in shooting. Their best shooters -- Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers -- were spread out along the three-point line. Chris “Birdman” Andersen, after not playing in Games 4 or 5, was back to his normal role as the backup center, adding more length, athleticism and finishing ability next to LeBron.
Gregg Popovich, meanwhile, was trying to buy a few minutes with his second unit. In the five minutes Tim Duncan sat in the first half, San Antonio was -6. He was having a throwback game on both sides of the ball, but at the age of 37, there was no way he could go the entire second half without a rest. Joining him on the bench was Tony Parker, who had played the entire third quarter. Without his two best players, Pop was hoping to play Miami to a draw for as long as possible.
The value of spacing for the Heat offense was apparent immediately. On the first play, LeBron drew the switch on Tiago Splitter, drawing the Spurs defense and kicking the ball to Mario Chalmers in the corner. The extreme confidence Chalmers plays with often gets him in trouble, but there’s few players you would rather have taking 3’s in a close game. As he’s done his whole career, he answered the bell when he got an open shot in the fourth quarter.
Without Parker or Duncan on the floor, San Antonio wound up with Boris Diaw isolated on Mike Miller in the high post. Diaw, who didn’t play in Game 4, has been a revelation in the last two games, frustrating LeBron defensively and serving as a secondary playmaker on offense. At 6’8 235, his size and feel for the game allows him to create passing lanes most can’t even see. Isolation offense has never been his strong point, however, as he threw up an awkward hook that didn’t have much of a chance.
On the other end of the floor, Diaw gave LeBron as much a cushion as possible. LeBron backed the ball all the way out to the halfcourt line, giving himself a running start to attack Diaw and Tiago Splitter on the pick-and-roll. Splitter is a solid two-way 7’0 who could start for a lot of NBA teams, but he doesn’t have the footspeed or anticipation to contain LeBron coming off screens. LeBron needed two steps to blow by him and get an easy shot off the glass.
As the only big man on the floor, Splitter began the Spurs' offense by screening for Manu Ginobili. Rather than giving up dribble penetration, Miami has been trapping the pick-and-roll all series, leaving the Spurs big men to make plays behind them. Splitter, who started most of the season, has seen his playing time cut in the Finals, precisely because he struggles to finish over the aggressive Heat defense. He was ready this time, rolling to the rim, corralling a wild Ginobili pass and beating Chalmers with a lefty hook.
The next time down, in another sequence that will be remembered for a long time, Miller found himself open after losing his shoe. At 26, he averaged 18 points, five rebounds and four assists a game. Injuries turned him into a bit player as his career progressed, but the Big Three made him their first big free agent target in 2011. For the second straight year, he’s been resurrected in the Finals, where he’s shot 79 percent from three. Shoeless or not, there was little doubt when LeBron found him for an open look from deep.
The Spurs responded as they always do, running a pick-and-roll at the top of the key. This time it was Danny Green, their unlikely hero through the first five games, with Splitter. Once again, the Heat sold out on the dribbler, leaving Splitter open behind them. Three years ago, he was the MVP of the ACB, the second-best league in the world. In his eight minutes in Game 6, the Spurs were -13. At the highest level of the game, every weakness is exposed. Neither coach went more than eight-deep on Tuesday.
Splitter’s second basket was a minor miracle in itself, a spinning hook shot off the glass. Pop, recognizing found money when he saw it, sent Duncan to the scorer’s table. That left Splitter protecting the rim for one more possession, where he stayed with Birdman while Chalmers and LeBron ran a pick-and-roll. He was two steps late on his rotation, giving LeBron a free run at the rim. That sent the Miami crowd into a frenzy, with a monstrous dunk cutting the lead to four.
Ginobili drew a shooting foul the next time down, allowing Duncan to check back in. He made an immediate impact, choking off a drive from LeBron and forcing Chalmers to take an impossible fadeaway. Unfortunately for San Antonio, no one got a body on LeBron on the airball. He soared for a putback slam, losing his headband in the process. The legend of the headband may grow with time, but the real story was the spacing LeBron had in those 3 minutes, when the Heat whittled a 10-point lead down to one possession.
While there was a lifetime’s worth of dramatic plays from there, that sequence was the turning point that saved the season and possibly the entire grand experiment on South Beach. It was Peak LeBron, as a spread floor and ineffective rim protector allowed him to dominate the action. He got into the lane at will, with the other four players serving as hyper-efficient release valves. In a similar stretch in Game 2, the same lineup blew San Antonio off the floor, going on a 19-2 run in four minutes.
Headed into Game 7, Pop will have to figure out an adjustment for it. Spoelstra, meanwhile, will have to think long and hard about getting LeBron more minutes without Wade on the floor, which creates the space he needs to take over. It may have unimaginably high historical stakes, but Game 7 is still just a basketball game that will be decided one possession at a time. On Thursday, every minute will be precious and every player who steps on the floor will help decide the outcome.
Jun 17, 2013 12:11 PM EDT
Five games in, this has been one heck of a series.
Even though every game since the opener has been one-sided by the final minutes for one of the two teams, it has still been a fantastic showing by both sides in how they have made adjustments after losses, showing great prowess defensively and offensively throughout stretches.
Tied 2-2, Game 5 was up for grabs. Playing their last home game of the season, the San Antonio Spurs put on a show in front of their home crowd and are just one game shy of defeating the defending champion Miami Heat to win the crown.
Trampled by Miami’s Big Three and Erik Spoelstra’s small-ball adjustment in Game 4 (Mike Miller spacing the floor, Chris Andersen not playing...), Gregg Popovich made his own small-ball adjustment in Game 5 by starting the struggling Manu Ginobili for Tiago Splitter, and it payed off immensely, as Ginobili finally came up big with 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting and 10 assists. The Spurs’ Big Three combined for 67 points on 66 percent shooting, helping San Antonio finish the game shooting 60 percent against a Heat team known to defend well.
So how did they do it?
The Spurs isolated on 19 percent of their offense in Game 5 and it proved extremely effective. Tony Parker abused the Heat’s point guards in Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, getting his way with them and blowing by them for easy points in the paint. He finished with 36 percent of the Spurs’ 50 points in the paint, 18 of his 26 points. Parker made every single one of his nine attempts in the paint for those 18 points, capitalizing on every opportunity he got. He finished the game with an excellent 1.27 PPP on the isolation.
As for Ginobili, eight of his 24 points were in the paint, where he was 4-for-7, and he finished the game with a crazy 1.83 PPP running the iso. Of course, this is not to mention the eight free-throw attempts he and Parker were rewarded for their efforts getting in the lane, combining for 13-for-16 from the charity stripe.
San Antonio rode a 15-2 run to end the first quarter. The key to the run? Isolation. Parker abused Cole during this run, and it either resulted in Parker getting in the lane and scoring, or driving and kicking to an open shooter.
The Spurs were simply able to take advantage of Miami’s lack of size on the inside, winning the points in the paint battle 50-40. It is worth noting that the team that wins that battle in each game in these Finals has won the game.
Prior to Game 5, Miami was averaging 58.7 percent on shots in the paint in the series, going 81-for-138 as a team. In Game 5, the Spurs did an excellent job of defending the paint, allowing the Heat to convert on just 46.5 percent.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, “the Heat shot a series-low 39.2 percent on drives in Game 5, including 4-for-12 on drives from Wade & James.” In Game 4 they were a combined 11-for-15 on drives, totaling 26 points.
LeBron James came into the game making 56.7 percents of his shots in the paint, but was limited to just 35.7 percent on Sunday night. Part of this was “botched” fastbreak opportunities for the Heat, of which we must give some of the credit to the Spurs being able to get back and bother Miami just enough to force some misses. However, James just couldn’t get his rhythm going and finished 8-for-22 from the field, only 2-for-10 on jump shots.
James at the power forward spot allowed Popovich to play Boris Diaw big minutes, as Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner were struggling defensively against Miami’s small-ball lineups. Instead of being forced to defend the perimeter, all Diaw had to do was keep his body James down low, and it payed off. He is big enough for James not to be able to bully and is also deceivingly quick. LeBron finished the game 1-for-8 against Diaw.
San Antonio also combined for eight blocks in the game, getting stops at the rim and
Couple Miami’s struggles from the paint along with their atrocious shooting from mid-range, where they shot 6-for-20, and it makes a lot more sense why they only shot 43 percent for the game.
In fact, what saved this game from being a complete blowout was their shooting from long-range. They went 11-for-23, including 4-for-4 from Ray Allen who converted on two four-point plays in the game. Their two hot-spots from the floor were from the two corners from the arc, where they were 4-for-6 from the left corner and 3-for-5 from the right.
Down 3-2 and on the brink of being dethroned, Miami will find themselves in a similar position as the one they were in during the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, when they lost Game 6 on their home floor.
Will history repeat itself, or can the Heat find a way to finally break out of their slump and win two consecutive games?
Jun 16, 2013
Through the first four games of the Finals, Manu Ginobili is averaging 7.5 points on 34 percent shooting. If the Spurs are to win their fifth NBA championship, Ginobili must find a way to break out of his funk and give his team something they can use towards a win.
Jun 14, 2013
It all started in the first quarter, with the Heat playing aggressively on defense and on offense with their modified starting lineup, aiming to play the way they play best: small.
Jun 14, 2013
Finishing the game with 32 points, six rebounds, four assist and a playoff career-high six steals, Dwyane Wade controlled the game and set the tone for the champs. It was his best game of the playoffs and a performance that could serve as a springboard for the remainder of the Finals.
Jun 13, 2013
Win or lose, LeBron James is ready to make a statement in Game 4. He wonít forget about his teammates, understanding he wouldnít be in the Finals without them, but he understands itís time to place his signature on the series for something more than a spectacular block or bad shooting night.
Jun 12, 2013
The Spurs took advantage of Miamiís lack of aggression and energy in Game 3 to get the shots they wanted instead of taking the shots the Heat wanted them to take: great ball movement led to great shot selection.
Jun 11, 2013
The Spurs have shown they can win playing while below their standards and now they have to find a way to make shots and play the type of basketball that led to a 12-2 record to reach the Finals. The first step in that process is playing better in Game 3.
Jun 10, 2013
The two keys to the massive 33-5 run by the Heat were the pick-and-roll with LeBron James as the screener and Mario Chalmers being the primary ball-handler, and the lockdown defense they played in the second half, forcing 17 turnovers and converting them into 19 points.
Jun 08, 2013
The Spurs' ability to find and develop young players is the envy of the NBA, but there arenít any secrets to what they are doing. R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich find diamonds in the rough because they always look through the rough!
Jun 07, 2013
The Spurs have drawn first blood by winning Game 1. The bigger problem for the Heat is it appears the Spurs can play better. Theyíve waited six years to get back to the Finals and itís clear they plan on making the most of the opportunity.
Jun 06, 2013
Who better to defend LeBron then a 225 pound, 6í7Ē defensive specialist with a 7í3Ē wingspan, quick feet, fast reflexes, and a high defensive IQ in Kawhi Leonard? But Gregg Popovich will also need to scheme ways to provide help for Leonard.
Jun 05, 2013
While the Spurs have the size to exploit the greatest weakness of the Heat, they will use their advantage there differently than Indiana because their identity comes as much from Tony Parker as from Tim Duncan. How Parker is guarded by LBJ may decide the series.
May 20, 2013
One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.
May 06, 2013
After a challenging and triumphant series against the Nuggets, what makes the Warriors' series against the Spurs so interesting is that so many of the advantages they exploited in the first round will turn into weaknesses against Gregg Popovich and company.
Feb 21, 2013
The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.
Feb 12, 2013
While some may talk about how point guards cannot be the best player on title teams, that narrow-mindedness could cause them to miss out on some of the most impactful performances the NBA sees on both a game-by-game and season-by-season basis. Those concepts may not see themselves represented any more vividly than by Chris Paul and Tony Parker.
Feb 12, 2013
Tony Parker has played 'beyond an All-Star level' this season in leading the Spurs to one of the best records in the NBA.
Jan 31, 2013
Win-win trades that also make sense financially will become even more rare in the NBA's post-lockout era. Here are trades for the Lakers, Mavericks, Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Nuggets and Spurs that make sense for all parties.
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