San Antonio turnovers lead to Miami explosion
MIAMI — When a team shoots poorly but commits only four turnovers, as the Spurs did in Game 1, it’s survivable. But when San Antonio committed 17 turnovers against Miami in Game 2, another poor shooting performance meant death by the Heat transition machine.
The ball did not go in the basket for San Antonio on Sunday, and Miami rolled to a 103-84 win to tie the NBA Finals at one game apiece.
Up until the point Gregg Popovich found the nearest white towel and gave it a wave, the Spurs were having a strangely terrible night shooting the ball. They were 9-for-16 from beyond the arc, but a 15-for-45 performance from 2-point range through the first 40 minutes of the game absolutely killed any chance San Antonio had to recover from the 17 turnovers. Especially when Miami had just six of them.
Giving the ball away to the Heat, a team that struggled to score when the Spurs’ defense was set, is typically the end of the line. When one of the most electrifying transition teams in the NBA gets opportunities to get out in the open court, momentum swings can be devastating. This team plays with an ignition switch no one else has, so the last thing San Antonio can afford to do is give it extra opportunities. It’s like the Heat turned on a water faucet and broke off the handle, and the shots never stopped pouring down.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined to shoot 30.3 percent from the floor and committed nine of the team’s turnovers. As Pop said, that’s never good.
“Defense has something to do with it. Just missing shots has something to do with it. No matter how you slice it, it’s 10-for-33 (shooting by the Big 3),” he said. “Missing shots and not shooting well and turning it over is a bad combination.”
But San Antonio was very much in this game, despite the poor performance. Danny Green — who hit all six of his shot attempts, including five 3-pointers — drove baseline for a layup that put the Spurs up 62-61 with 3:50 to play in the third quarter. Then the floodgates opened. The Heat went on a 33-5 run over the next 7:58, fueled by six Spurs turnovers during that span.
In the blink of an eye, it was over, and that isn’t a new phenomenon for Miami’s opponents. It’s happened regularly over the past three years.
It all started at the point of attack. Where Parker was brilliant on Thursday night, he struggled to initiate the offense Sunday. He had 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting and had as many turnovers (5) as assists. That’s one more than the entire team committed in Game 1. To a man, San Antonio players in the locker room explained that it all started with the Heat defense against the pick and roll. It was ultra-aggressive in attacking Parker when he tried to turn the corner, and the Spurs’ point guard couldn’t break it.
“They played very aggressive in the pick and roll. It was hard to take the ball out,” Tiago Splitter said after the game. “They double-teamed (Parker). They are a very active team with their hands, and we couldn’t make that first pass quick enough. We are going to work on that. Our spacing — we’re going to see what’s better for us.”
This is what Miami’s defense is known for: being the best in the league at defending the pick and roll. The Spurs will make their adjustments, but nothing will come easy. San Antonio knows what the Heat do well, now they just have to react accordingly.
“We are who we are and they are who they are. They’re not going to start changing completely who they are, because they are so successful,” Ginobili said. “They’re good. They just didn’t play a great game in Game 1, and we did.
“So I think they just did better. Maybe some little adjustments, but they did it with more aggressiveness, better hands … more active,” he continued. “They forced us to turn the ball over. They did much better.”
On top of the turnover problem, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined for only 39 of the 103 points. The Spurs’ defense must improve as well, because if Miami’s sub-stars are dropping in 64 points and bailing out the Big 3, that’s a whole different issue altogether. Still, much of that stems from the extra chances San Antonio so generously gave away.
With a quick turnaround before Game 3, changes will have to be made on the fly. And man, is Tuesday’s game important. Since the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 11 of the 12 times it’s been tied 1-1. What’s even more daunting is the fact that the home team’s record is 3-9 in Game 3 of those series. San Antonio has a tall task waiting for it at home, and it needs its floor general to once again be brilliant.
“Defensively, obviously we can make some adjustments and do some stuff better. Their role players definitely hurt us tonight,” Parker said. “And turnovers. That was the biggest thing.
“And it starts with me.”
If Parker isn’t right on Tuesday, the Heat will smell blood. And the last thing they need is the confidence they got back on Sunday.