Three In The Key #3: Mission Heatpossible?
Every other living, breathing basketball fan out there had their bets on the Miami Heat evening the series out to a 2-2 outcome. We certainly didn’t count on Dwyane Wade fading out and contemplating his existence on the bench.
Mario Chalmers continued his dismal performance while Twitterverse had a field day running wild with candidates who were #PGsBetterThanChalmers.
— byron chamberlain (@bc_chamberlain) June 13, 2014
— CHRISTIAN BELFORT (@bourjos6) June 11, 2014
— Bird Teeth (@_ShawnAlexander) June 11, 2014
Even Jason Terry thinks the chances aren’t good for a Heat victory this series.
Faced with a seemingly insurmountable task at hand, #TeamPnR specialists Mika Honkasalo, Lachlan Young and Matt McLean dive into the question and speculate on what lies ahead for Game 5.
No team has come back from being down 1-3 in the NBA Finals. What does Miami have to do to have a chance of being the first?
Simply put, there’s nothing that the Heat can do to have a chance in this series. Wade is struggling with heavy legs, Bosh and Allen aren’t getting the touches and the rest of the team just don’t have the tools to make up for it. The scariest thing about these Spurs, is that every player from top to bottom has a defined role and are so unselfish. You don’t see early long range Hail Marys from this team. The fact that Marco Bellineli didn’t quite get off the bench (he played 3:38) speaks volumes about the control San Antonio had throughout game 4.
I saw someone tweet that the Heat Big 3 was no match for the Spurs’ Big 10, which was my Twitter highlight of the night.
Miami Heat's Big 3 no match against San Antonio Spurs' Big 10.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) June 13, 2014
Two monster games in Miami, and in game four they played both sides of the ball perfect. You know you’re good when LeBron has 19 in a quarter and no one even notices. The odds of Miami taking this seem relatively small, to say the least.
The Spurs are awesome. They just drive the ball every time, and when everyone does it’s amazing. In game 3, Danny Green got to the hole over and over. Boris Diaw drives and kicks every time. It’s amazing and I’ve never seen anything like it. The ball doesn’t stick for a second, the Spurs look like they have basically figured out basketball. I always thought Miami’s hectic trapping on the pick and roll and scramble-a-lot defense was great, but they just can’t execute those rotations anymore. Splitter, Diaw and Duncan just pick apart the defense when the pass is made to the foul line from the the trap. It looks like the Heat have run out of athleticism to execute their gameplan. I have no idea what they’re supposed to do anymore. I’d have to look at it again but they did some weird switching stuff in the fourth quarter, and maybe they’ll hang back on the pick and roll to contain penetration in game 5. That’s a massive change from what they do normally, and you can’t just change up your entire identity like that.
Someone asked in the post-game conference about playing Beasley, basically demanding that he should play and that’s what “people want”. I think if Beasley is the answer, you’ve already waved the white flag. The Spurs have not rotated out to Lewis and Wade at long range, and that’s worked perfectly even though Lewis made some shots in games one through three before getting benched. Kawhi has been the best player on the floor two games in a row, and there are seven future Hall of Famers on the floor with him. There are just so many things that have to turn around for the Heat. The Spurs have two games at home, up 3-1 (no one has ever come back from that in the NBA finals) and they are destroying Miami’s defense. Destroying doesn’t even describe what’s happening; they get whatever they want on every single possession. I liked the Spurs from the beginning and wish I had the onions to pick them to win this quicker and with more ferocity. In our first preview I said something about the Spurs and the Heat being able to score on each other and whoever could stop the other would win the series. Tonight the Spurs stifled the Heat. The defense was, in a word, incredible.
The defense was outstanding, and I agree totally on the passing. Tony Parker didn’t even have an assist through the first half. Diaw nearly tallying a triple double was another huge factor. He didn’t look to score that often, so why would Miami double him on the low block? It made things much much easier for him to dish to the Spurs’ open shooters, and let’s not forget about that tasty highlight behind the back pass to Splitter for the Jam.
By halftime at game 5, we could very well be speculating who the Finals MVP will be.
Matt & Mika have made a lot of great points. It’s going to be extremely difficult for Miami to win the next game, let alone the whole series. I’ll add that it’s undisputed that Pop will go down as one of the best coaches of all time, and I really can’t see such a great coach becoming the first to lose a series in the Finals after being up 3-1.
From an optimist’s standpoint, LeBron has been huge in elimination games and has always gone to the next level to get the win when they need it. This will be essential if the Heat are to have any chance of winning game 5. If this somehow does happen, the Heat then have a glimmer of hope going back home for game 6, down 2-3. I really don’t see it happening but LeBron is their only hope now.
LeBron is already shooting 60% from the field, 61.1% from 3 while averaging 27.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. I generally agree with the fact that LeBron raises his game in elimination games, but what’s the guy supposed to do? EVERYONE else laid an egg in game four. They have to get more production out of the supporting cast, but the real problem to be is the defense. The Heat can get a game if everyone shoots well, but they won’t get three if the defense doesn’t improve. The problem there is, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to get better. They can’t do the stuff they used to do and fly around contesting shooters with their athleticism, a-la OKC with Ibaka. Every single pick and roll is a nightmare for the Heat, and Wade/Allen/Cole/Chalmers can’t stop the secondary ball handler when the ball gets swung. The Spurs don’t guard Lewis or Bosh. The Heat notoriously hate adjusting to their opponents, but now it’s time to throw stuff at the wall and pray something sticks.
Sidenote: that’s why smart teams with good coaching can give them trouble. Case in point, the 2011 Mavs. Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban talk all the time about how they were sure after game 3 that they could win, because the Heat weren’t adjusting to what they were doing. That momentary 4 on 3 when the ball makes it to the foul line after the trap is the one great weakness of this Miami defense. Good passing big men exploit that, and the Spurs have three who can do that. To me, big men who can pass and make the next play are one of the most undderrated commodities in the NBA.
All the talk of how stingy this Miami defense is has been blown out of the water in these last 2 games. Lebron said it during his post game interview that Miami use their defense to run shooters off the 3 but with Parker, Ginobili, Diaw and Mills out there, the Spurs have too many guys that can penetrate, dish and find the open man.
I must agree wholeheartedly with Lebron that the addition of Diaw in the starting lineup has thrown Miami into chaos.
Totally agree and a sort of expected move by the Spurs in this series. Diaw is just so cool, love everything the guy does. Can’t believe his career was almost over in Charlotte in 2010. It’s all about the player fits the team. In game 4, they got every board. Leonard had 14 and they won the rebounding battle 44-27 overall.
Driving everything is clearly paying off. Some would argue that the 57% field goal percentage that the Spurs shot at today isn’t sustainable, but San Antonio seem to be making a habit of this, against even the best teams.
The first half of 78% wasn’t sustainable, but what they did last night is. The Spurs are 54.3% from the field and 46.7% from three this series. More importantly, what is sustainable doesn’t actually matter anymore – they just have to make that happen one more time out of three. The Spurs machine keeps on humming.
Back to what Miami needs to make a win happen in game 5: D needs to be a highlight. The Heat won game 2 on the back of forcing the Spurs to shoot just 43.8% from the field. San Antonio scored over 105 in all three of their wins this series. If the Heat want to win, they obviously can’t let the Spurs score this many points. It sounds incredibly simple, but Miami needs to make sure they close out on shooters and stick to the defensive schemes that have been winning them games all year. As pointed out previously, the Spurs move the ball better than any team in the NBA, so limiting the Spurs is easier said than done but is manageable as shown by their performance in game 2.
Miami does have some tricks up their sleeves. LeBron is a big trump card. Just go small ball, all-guard with him at center when Bosh sits and unleash Beasley, Battier, Jones or whoever you think will make a three off the bench. Switch everything or play an extremely conservative style of defense to eliminate dribble penetration. You have to go weird and change things up. The Spurs have been surprised and have struggled twice in these playoffs; remember when Dallas switched everything and the Thunder got Ibaka back? These were adjustments that changed the game radically. Remember even in game 7 in the first round when the Spurs were destroying the Mavs, Dallas started Dirk at center and went all-offense? It actually worked for about ten minutes! Create “shock value”, go off the script because you can’t win three in a row by just playing it the same and hoping to do it better.
The way for Miami to win this series is by being proactive and making the Spurs react to whatever they are doing. And hope something works. You are still an awesome team with the best player in the world. It’s not just executing better anymore. Your system can’t handle the Spurs if they play close to this level. Game 2 was actually a really efficient game for both teams on offense. Even though the Spurs hoisted 43.8% from the field, they made 12/26 threes with only 11 turnovers. That’s really good. The pace was just really slow in parts of that game (which drags the score down), and the Spurs need pace to score. Popovich talks about this all the time. Actually, maybe that’s what you’d do, just try and slow down the game. Whatever they decide to go with, the most important thing is forcing the Spurs to react, be uncomfortable, to think what in the world is going on.
As Mika mentioned, the key to a Miami revival is the bench. Chalmers just isn’t working. When Pops bought Diaw into the starting 5, it was X Factor time for San Antonio. Miami have options they haven’t gone to yet. Haslem provides excellent energy off the bench and brings his team mates’ intensity up a level. James Jones came out yesterday in garbage time and stroked it from downtown, Miami might need to have him on the court instead of Rashard Lewis. Shane Battier is a champion and a defensive specialist; if Miami use him on Diaw he will disrupt the passing lanes enough to throw the drive and dish game out that the Spurs are executing so well. Why did Miami retain all of these veterans, and persisted with extended minutes of Lewis and Chalmers?
Miami needs to roll out Wade at PG, Jones at SG, Battier at SF, James at the 4 and Bosh at 5. Jones’ length can disrupt Danny Green, Battier and James could potentially swap between Leonard and Diaw, and Spolestra tries his hand at a little zone defense! Miami haven’t used a zone against the Spurs yet and really need to clog up these passing lanes.
On offence, James needs the ball in the post. Miami is dangerous when their best player is in the post, being a killer and dishing out to the open man once he is doubled. Enter James Jones! All jones needs to do is roll off his man to get open and hit his shots. Same with Battier. There are some weapons still not utilised by Coach Spo, and it’s high time he tried them out.
When you have the best player in the league, anything is possible. The legacy of Lebron James will be forever enshrined alongside the greatest ever to play the game if Miami can be the first to come back from the 1-3 deficit.
We will soon find out.
Don’t forget to check out the #TeamPnR writers who contributed to this discussion:
- Mika Honkasalo, author archives and on Twitter: @mhonkasalo
- Matt McLean, author archives and on Twitter: @WWFantasyTeam
- Lachlan Young, author archives and on Twitter: @TheLTRAIN7
Thank you for loving Aussie hoops! From Kein, Damian and #TeamPnR