Miami Heat 88, San Antonio Spurs 86: Spurs fall to star-less Heat
SAN ANTONIO — We had seen this story before, only with a different ending. Copy, paste … delete.
Chris Bosh took a pass from a double-teamed Ray Allen at the top of the key, lined up a 3-pointer and dropped it in the face of 18,000-plus at the AT&T Center with 1.1 seconds left on the clock, as the Miami Heat won 88-86 in what was billed as an NBA Finals preview.
Except the preview was wrong. Again.
About two hours prior to game time, the Heat announced that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would miss the game with a right hamstring strain and a right ankle sprain, respectively, and once again the game turned out more tightly contested than most thought it would.
Unlike it came to be on that infamous November night in Miami, however, this time the wrong team won. At least not the one that was supposed to.
The Spurs had a last-second chance to tie or win, but Tony Parker curled off a Tim Duncan screen toward the right baseline, took the out-of-bounds pass from Boris Diaw and sent a runner glancing off the top of the backboard as the clock expired.
That was perhaps the appropriate ending, as Parker had struggled all night to get the shots he usually likes.
“They did a great job of pick-and-rolls all night long,” Gregg Popovich said of the Heat defense. “Without Manu (Ginobili), Tony is the guy who has to generate things for us and they pretty much took him out with all their double teams and hard hedges.
“We didn’t generate offense anywhere else except through Timmy.”
Which brings up another point: despite how poorly Ginobili has been shooting from the floor, his mere presence on it makes a world of difference. The Spurs bench managed only 21 points tonight, and without Manu on the floor there was no one left to create offense off the dribble when Parker couldn’t.
Tony went 4-for-14 from the floor for 12 points in nearly 37 minutes. It was his lowest-scoring game since returning from his left ankle sprain.
“They just trapped me. They trapped me every time I did a pick and roll or any kind of play,” Parker said. “They were trapping me the whole game.”
So, what Parker is getting at … the Heat made things difficult on him. But it was a questionable call at the end of the game that made things difficult on the Spurs.
Parker missed a contested lay-up with 38 seconds remaining before Norris Cole took the ball in transition. He pushed the ball in an ill-advised 1-on-3 fast-break attempt, spun toward the lane and stumbled over his own feet before falling to the floor. He brought himself down, but the whistle blew anyway, Kawhi Leonard the apparent culprit.
Cole hit the two free throws to bring the Heat within one, but the Spurs once again had an opportunity to extend the lead.
San Antonio ran another pin-down screen, this time with Tiago Splitter as the screener. But Splitter’s man, Udonis Haslem, never left the elbow and met Duncan as he caught it. Tim never got a clean look, missed a turnaround over his right shoulder, and the ensuing Heat rebound with 10 seconds remaining led to the deciding play.
Miami elected not to take a timeout, instead choosing to let Ray Allen push the ball up the floor in the final moments. Allen ran off a Chris Bosh semi-screen as Splitter and Danny Green gave chase. The result was an open Bosh from the top of the key, and the rest … well, you already know.
Sometimes in the NBA, stuff happens. Bosh entered the game with 16 made 3-pointers the entire year. Allen had 123 of them. You don’t leave Allen — the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter — with a good look from the arc. The Spurs defended it the way they should have.
But none of this is consolation for the fact the Spurs lost to a Heat team sans its two best players, one of which just happens to be the best in the world and a near surefire MVP. The bad call on Cole? Never should have mattered. The Bosh 3? Probably never should’ve been in that position. It was all the result of a letdown, one the Spurs couldn’t overcome like tonight’s counterparts did on Nov. 29.
“We have to put this one behind us. And we’ll do that real quick,” Duncan said. “It’s a game lost, we have another one tomorrow and we’ve got to refocus.”
The thing about the NBA schedule, it allows you to move ahead quickly. A game in Memphis tomorrow night will allow the Spurs to do just that. But that doesn’t mean this game didn’t potentially expose some important issues. What do the Spurs do while Manu is out? If other teams hedge this much, can Parker cope?
Did the Heat really do that without LeBron and Wade?
Again, the NBA schedule is brutal, and even the slightest letdown on any given night can have a ripple effect through an entire game. It’s probably best to take heed to Duncan’s words.
“It’s gone,” he said. “It is what it is.”