The NBA Finals are unpredictably entertaining. The now-famous air conditioning fault in Game 1 at San Antonio resulted in a Spurs victory and a ton of gags, which included LeBron being carried off court from cramps . . .
. . . and spurred (pun intended) a wave of #Lebroning memes all over Twitterverse.
Why, even good ol’ Lance had a cameo role in the debacle!
Game 2 however, saw a brilliant comeback performance from the Miami Heat. LeBron went into beast mode and dominated at will – look at this sea of green:
Outside of LeBron’s huge night, Miami made good on their executions offensively, outplaying a struggling San Antonio who had issues getting into their rhythm late-game. Just like that, it’s a 1-1 series and we’re back to square one.
Over here at The Pick and Roll, veterans Mika Honkasalo and Josh Lloyd along with fellow #TeamPnR writer Josh Planos, chime in with their thoughts on the coming Game 3.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
After splitting the first 2 games in San Antonio, what adjustments do both of these teams need to make heading into game 3 in Miami?
San Antonio needs to tighten their perimeter defense because when it is sieve-like (as was the case last night), Miami is able to dice them up inside the paint and exploit them at the rim. Splitter/Duncan is a nice frontcourt, but Wade/James/Bosh/Andersen are vastly superior when they get under the cylinder. Duncan is put into an odd matchup with Bosh, who crossed him last night 15 feet from the basket, then driving and dishing, creating a backbreaking play late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Duncan has to remember his limits: his offensive showcase in the first half was nice, but he was a liability late. Free throws are a fundamental component of the game, so make them. Kawhi Leonard absolutely needs to stay out of foul trouble, though I honestly didn’t think his defense was that terrible last night. Clearly LeBron is the best player on the planet, and can bury pull-up jumpers if he wants. They can live with that as long as Leonard/Green/Diaw have proper spacing when they matchup against the King. San Antonio needs to help whoever is guarding James on-ball by switching off the pick-and-roll or jumping into his lanes when he cuts, and they have been butchered the last two games by not doing so.
The Heat cannot afford to have LeBron James get into foul trouble, which he most likely won’t. His on-court/off-court net ratings through the first two games are 6.4 and -37.7 – they’re being outscored by 37 POINTS per 100 possessions when he’s off the floor! Wade needs to step up offensively and shoulder some of the offensive burden, because Bosh and James cannot win this series by themselves. Miami had one player shoot above 50 percent from the field in Game 1 (Chris Bosh.) They had six in Game 2. We know that Miami does not lose consecutive playoff games; they have played 47 straight playoff games without consecutive losses. Chris Andersen needs to be an intimidator; he looked almost shy last night on defense. Duncan and Splitter will pick Miami apart if he doesn’t start blocking or, at least, contesting shots.
The Spurs actually did switch some stuff on the pick and roll last night. On the whole, I thought they played really well. The game was tied with just a couple of minutes to go and the Heat just made a few more plays. These teams already know each other extremely well and they don’t really have many adjustments to make. Good teams in the playoffs usually hit this point around game 5, but these guys know each other so well already that there won’t be any major changes coming; it all comes down to execution. Miami rotated better on pick and rolls (especially on the roll men) in game 2 but what really changed the game was the pace. The Spurs just couldn’t score as well as they normally would when the game slowed down. Overall, it was a very slow but efficient game; both teams had 88 possessions and Miami finished with a 111 offensive rating and San Antonio with 109 (62% true shooting MIA, 53% SAS.) Popovich always talks about pace when you hear him in those little sideline clips, and it’s true – the Spurs have to get up and down the floor enough to beat this Heat team.
Foul trouble is always a factor, and Kawhi should and will stay on the floor better than he has so far. There’s only so many minutes you want Diaw on James. I don’t really need to stress this too much, but obviously Miami is the team you would like your top perimeter defefnders to stay out of foul trouble. On the whole Wade thing, I would like to add that Danny Green has been fantastic in avoiding his pump fakes! I can’t believe most players still go for those but Green has jumped and contested without landing on Wade (minus one time.)
We’re looking at two fantastic teams go at each other, blow for blow, and I don’t think we should overreact to what has transpired so far. Both games went down the stretch; a couple of made free throws or one less cramp and these games could have had opposite results. Both teams found some stuff that worked and didn’t work for them. Just roll the ball out, and let’s get ready for a great game 3.
The major thing that needs to happen from a San Antonio perspective is what they do defensively against LeBron. I know, it’s basically Mission: Impossible, but things weren’t working going one-on-one with just Kawhi Leonard. When he got into foul trouble, they were left with Boris Diaw to pick up the sorry pieces. Danny Green should have a go if Kawhi is struggling, and the double team needs to come from whoever is guarding Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis or Mario Chalmers. I don’t see the point in collapsing three guys onto LeBron when he’s five feet from the rim, like on the Chris Bosh three-point play.
They need to try doubling him earlier, but in saying that, I’m sure Pop knows basketball defense better than I do. As far as the Heat go, they did pretty much everything right in the first two games and as Mika said, things could’ve gone either way in both games. All we can really hope for is that both teams stay healthy and we get an epic battle to the end.
Let’s be honest though, these are the two best teams, playing an incredibly high level basketball and to quote Mika, “a couple of made free throws or one less cramp and these games could have had opposite results.”
Don’t forget to check out the #TeamPnR writers who contributed to this discussion:
Mika Honkasalo, author archives and on Twitter: @mhonkasalo
Josh Planos, author archives and on Twitter: @jplanos
Josh Lloyd, author archives and on Twitter: @redrock_bball