The Heat take away Parker, Spurs offense goes missing
AT&T CENTER — While stars make the NBA world go ’round, there’s sometimes no substitute for a good defensive gameplan. In sitting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, the Miami Heat were fortunate to have just that in a 88-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat trapped Tony Parker every pick-and-roll on Sunday night, doing their damnedest to force Parker to give the ball up. The Spurs point guard was never able to get in much of a rhythm with the constant defenders coming at him and finished with 12 points on just 4-of-14 shooting. Parker still notched eight assists, meaning he was still able to have some effect offensively, but most of those assists were limited to long skip passes to open shooters on the weak side of the floor.
“They did a great job of pick-and-rolls all night long,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said post game. “Without Manu, Tony is a guy who has to generate things for us and they pretty much took him out with all of their double teams and hard hedges.”
San Antonio did a decent job in the first half finding the open man on the perimeter. With two players occupied with Parker and another helping on the Spurs big man rolling to the basket, there was usually an open Spur somewhere on the perimeter. The ball often made its way to that player, but San Antonio’s inability to knock down 3-pointers didn’t do them any favors. The Spurs finished the night hitting 7-of-24 (29 percent) from 3, while Miami knocked down 12-of-28 (42.9 percent).
In the second half, the Spurs found fewer opportunities for open 3s. Although, had they found them, who’s to say they would’ve taken advantage?
“They do such a great job of moving the ball, spacing, and they’re unselfish,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said afterwards. “You really have to not only be aggressive, but you have to be focused on the next play before it actually happens and cover a lot of ground.”
The Heat covered much of that ground in beating the Spurs. Danny Green was the only member of the silver and black to knock down more than one 3, but he still shot just 3-of-9. The rest of the team was a combined 4-of-15.
The one player able to take advantage of the weak side of Miami’s defense was Kawhi Leonard. Often ending up in the opposite corner of the floor, Leonard abused the usually slower-footed defender closing out on him when he received the ball. Getting the pass in the corner, Leonard put the ball on the floor and drove baseline for three big dunks in the second half, including one monster over Udonis Haslem.
“[Leonard] just keeps blossoming and getting more and more confident reading situations out on the court,” Pop said.
The Spurs will need Leonard’s game to continue to grow as the playoffs near. With Coach Pop’s pregame admission that Manu Ginobili’s hamstring injury is “more than days, it’s more like weeks,” San Antonio will need someone to step up and fill the offensive void. If more teams commit multiple defenders to taking Tony Parker out of the game, the Spurs will rely heavily on Leonard’s ability to step up.
How much Leonard can take on this spring will go a long way in determining how deep into the summer the Spurs are still playing basketball.