Spurs, Heat continue to focus on turnovers and execution

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The talk the day after the Spurs’ Game 1 win over the Miami Heat centered on two things, much like it did in the minutes immediately following the final buzzer: turnovers and Tony Parker’s wild shot. Walking around the American Airlines Floor on Friday during the Spurs media availability, which felt much more like a trade show than  media session, most of the questions leveled at San Antonio players honed in on those two things.

(Although, the quote of the day clearly goes to Tracy McGrady for his response when asked if he would be ready if he were called upon in this series.)

Otherwise, the story at Friday’s practice was the turnovers.

“We were focused on not turning the ball over, but I didn’t expect we would get four,” Manu Ginobili said. “It’s really hard to do, so we’re very happy with that part of it.”

Considering that the Spurs didn’t shoot as well as they’d liked in Game 1, the lack of giveaways was a clear positive for the Spurs, especially when the man handling the ball for them the most doesn’t commit a single one.

“To do what Tony did,” Ginobili said, “handle the ball the whole game, 48… 40 minutes and not turn the ball over, it was remarkable.”

Manu said that while the four turnovers were great and they would like to replicate it, it’s really not likely. Which is pretty obvious. Four turnovers in an NBA Finals game is the exception and not the rule. Instead, Ginobili said that their goals is to keep the number of turnovers in Game 2 in single digits.

And it’s a good goal to have. As Heat forward Shane Battier said, turnovers are a key area for the Heat. They feast on the scoring opportunities in the open floor that causing turnovers creates. And when a team is so careful with the ball like the Spurs were in Game 1, it severely limits those opportunities for Miami.

“We’ve been able to force a high number of turnovers, get out and get some easy baskets [this season],” Battier said on Friday. “That’s been a much better indicator on our wins and losses.”

And in order to win Game 2, Battier made it clear that that’s the area of improvement the Heat need to target. With as close as these two teams are in both talent and execution, any little bit matters. The closer Miami can get to creating more turnovers, the less effective San Antonio’s offense will be and the more opportunities for easy baskets the Heat will have.

“The Spurs are a ball movement team,” Battier said. “When they get 25, 26 assists, that’s when they’re dangerous because that means they’re whipping the ball around the perimeter and making 3s.

“We need to get more contests and more deflections on the ball.”

Otherwise, Thursday night’s Game 1 was one of the better basketball games you’ll ever see in terms of execution. First off, both teams are top-notch, seemingly all 10 players on the floor making the right reads and moves. Which is what you want in an NBA Finals game, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. It seems like every other year one of the conference finals matchups serves as the de facto NBA Finals.

Not this year.

“Both these teams pride themselves on being very advanced schematically and it’s going to come down to possessions,” Battier said, continuing to make me wish the Spurs would find a way to deal for him simply based on his quotability alone. “For a thinking man, thinking woman, this is going to be a good series.”

But also the officiating in Game 1 was incredible. With the exception of one or two calls, which is totally forgivable in such a difficult game to referee, the officials in Game 1 were amazing. There were only 24 personal fouls in Game 1 and the vast majority of them were legit.

And on Parker’s wild shot clock-beating banker, the refs made the exact right call in letting the call on the floor stand. Had the call on the floor been a shot clock violation, maybe Spurs fans would feel differently, but I think most observers would prefer the officials to skew in favor of putting points on the board as opposed to taking them off.

Regardless, Game 1 was played at such a high level all around, by players, coaches and officials, that we’re in for a treat no matter how long this series goes.

  • kalone

    Completely agree about the officiating. I have a little different perspective than most people — I think bad calls are part of what make the game compelling — but it’s great to see the players make plays.

  • Tim in Surrey

    OK, that answer by Tracy may be my favorite NBA comeback of all time. Absolutely priceless.

  • STIJL

    If the Spurs can keep turn overs low…it doesn’t matter if all the games are low scoring because the Heat thrive so much on fast break opportunities. It’s like taking away one of their best scoring options while taking care of business at the same time.

    Spurs don’t (and probably won’t) want to get into a transition game against the Heat. Even if it means they turn back into the “boring” Spurs of old. What ever it takes to win the series. And that’s what’s so amazing about the Spurs…they can beat you in multiple ways depending on what is given to them to beat you. The Heat…not so dependable in being multidimensional though they have great players.

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