Broad side of barn unscathed in Spurs Game 2 loss
AMERICAN AIRLINES ARENA — Tim Duncan drove to the rim, fired up a shot and watched the ball ricochet off the rim. He muttered an expletive and walked back out to the elbow where he would receive another pass from Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka and try again.
There were still a couple of hours until the Spurs tipped-off in their 103-84 Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat and pregame shootaround was not going well. Or at least, not well enough for Duncan.
Little changed as the night progress and Game 2 was full of expletives for Duncan and the core of the Spurs rotation. He combined with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard to shoot 14-for-45 (31 percent) from the floor to the tune of 36 points in the loss to the Heat.
“Defense has something to do with it. Just missing shots has something to do with it,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “Missing shots and not shooting well and turning it over is a bad combination.”
That it is, and that’s exactly what happened to San Antonio.
The Spurs got a standout performance from Danny Green, who hit all five of this 3-point attempts en route to a team-high 17 points. But if you’re not going to get a good shooting performance from any of your four best players, well, you’re probably going to lose an NBA Finals game.
That the Spurs hung around so long in Game 2 despite the Big 3+1 firing so many blanks is slightly uplifting, rig– no, no it’s not. The Heat defense worked to near perfection as San Antonio’s options offensively were limited so severely that the only good shot was usually a contested one.
The Heat pressured Tony Parker coming off of pick-and-rolls and took away the passing lanes to his rolling big men. There were far more deflections from the Heat, something Shane Battier mentioned on Friday as a key in Game 2, and that fueled Miami’s transition offense.
But more than anything, it stifled the Spurs’ attack. Everywhere Tony Parker turned, he ran into at least one tall guy wearing white, a lot of times two or three. You knew it was going to happen, it’s what the Heat have been doing all season. But the swiftness with which Miami blitzed the Spurs offense in Game 2 was striking.
“Their pressure really got us on our heels,” Manu Ginobili said. “I don’t think their system changed or their general ideas.
“Maybe some little adjustments, but they did it with aggressiveness, better hands, more active.”
Tim Duncan felt like he missed some makable shots, but the Heat still did a good job pressuring the big man down low. A tweet from friend of 48MoH Matt Moore shows that Duncan has struggled in this series when Udonis Haslem is on the floor for Miami.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t shoot well. I know I played awfully,” Duncan said.
Leonard can be forgiven for his poor shooting performance considering the mentally and physically energy he has to expend on the other end of the floor with regards to his defense on LeBron James. Through two-and-a-half quarters Kawhi had checked James better than anyone I’d seen this season, but LeBron kicked it into high gear in the second half.
Leonard also continued to attack the boards with aggression, pulling down a game-high 14 boards, eight of them offensive. He’s averaging 8.5 rebounds per game in this postseason. It’s incredible how effective he is in that area and what it’s done to the Spurs defense. But this is about the offense and unfortunately Leonard hasn’t been hitting his corner 3s so far the Finals. Leonard is just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc in the last two games.
And Ginobili? I don’t know what was going on with Manu Ginobili. Manu lost his dribble more times than I can remember him ever doing so. Never has a player so skilled look so clumsy. If he can’t keep his dribble under control, how can you expect him to knock down shots also? Well, he didn’t. Manu scored just five points on 2-for-6 from the floor.
The Spurs got a great performance from Danny Green and a decent contribution from Gary Neal. But this is the NBA Finals. San Antonio will need stronger shooting performances from its key players moving forward, not only to win the series, but to just take another game. The Heat are really damn good.