San Antonio Spurs 125, Miami Heat 95: The Spurs have been around longer than the Heat, and it showed
AT&T Center–In the Miami Heat locker room before the game, on the white board coaches like to put together with pre-game notes for players, Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra asked his team a question: Where do we stand?
Among the list of keys to the game, along with strategic things like denying three-point shooters open looks and swarming Tim Duncan, was a call to show resolve when things were not going well, trust under pressure, and play with enthusiasm.
The Miami Heat literally did none of those things, letting Manu Ginobili score on the opening tip on their way to a 36-12 first quarter deficit and a 30-point loss.
Where do the Heat stand? The same place as where they started when the Decision trio first united, as an undeniably dominating collection of talent hastily thrown together with scraps, that is still learning how to deal with adversity.
“We need this adversity. I’ve learned that the quickest way to bring change in this league is through adversity,” Spoelstra said before the game. “Those events, as long as they don’t break you, can fast track you towards what you want to do.”
These San Antonio Spurs have seen those battles and fought those fights, having long ago proven themselves a hundred times over. In a question of talent versus chemistry, chalk tonight up to the team that wasn’t practically Â just assembled yesterday.
As LeBron James pointed out before the game, the players on the Heat have played plenty of close games, but this is the first go around that they have played them as a team. The difference in experience is noticeable.
“They know exactly what you’re going to do defensively. Whatever you do or whatever you try and take away, they have a counter for,” James said. “You take away the roll on the pick-and-rolls and they’ll hit the guy in the corner for the three. Take away the threes and they hit the guy going to the rim.
“They’ve seen every situation and they’ve seen every defense, and right now they’re just clicking on all cylinders,” he added. “Everyone on their team has confidence. They all believe that when they get the ball they can make a play to help their team.”
You can accuse LeBron James of many things, but you cannot question his basketball intelligence–his assessment is spot on. Of the eight rotation players that played (Antonio McDyess was given the night off), every single one of them reached double digits in scoring.
Manu Ginobili was the catalyst once again, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter, and seven assists. He and Parker (15 points and eight assists in a surprise start) might not be the top five players that LeBron James and Dywane Wade are, but they do enough to open up the games of the rest of their teammates.
And while Tony Parker was passing to Richard Jefferson who was driving and kicking to Matt Bonner for an open three-pointer, or Neal was passing up an open three-pointer of his own to find Bonner for a better look, or Bonner was catching a pass out of a Ginobili pick and roll (Bonner was open a lot), the Heat were a mess.
When adversity struck, it was LeBron James and Dywane Wade going one against the world, each picking up two fouls apiece in the first quarter, each of them on offensive fouls.
At times they’re talented enough individually to put together successful runs in stretches, as they did in getting the lead back within 10 in the first half behind LeBron James’ 15-point second quarter outburst.
But the singular approach eventually gave the Spurs something to focus their defense on, while the Heat defensive rotations were three, sometimes four steps behind where the Spurs were moving the ball.
“We were really focused, Â starting the game strong defensively and offensively,” Ginobili said. “That gave us a lead pretty quick and that really got us going. We were feeling great, shots were falling, and of course when that happens, everything becomes easier.
“We know they jump out on pick-and-rolls hard and were were trying to move the ball, find the open teammate, and we did that great.”
Spoken like a man who has been there before.