Practice report: The morning after the heat wave
SAN ANTONIO — The questions to the HEAT about the heat in the AT&T Center in Thursday night’s Game 1 never stopped during Friday’s media availability.
Have you ever played in anything like that before? Have you talked with doctors about this? Did you sweat more often than you normally would? What do the analytics say about extra perspiration? Does the fact you have all these sponsors force you to drink the wrong drinks, take the wrong pills or wear the wrong equipment? Did your headband help out at all? Are you human?
Some of these questions may or may not have been real, but you get the point. It was constant, and understandably so. A really, really good game was marred by the fact the series’ pre-eminent superstar could no longer play after his muscles tightened up and wouldn’t let him continue late in the fourth quarter. A game the HEAT had swung in their favor was lost in an instant — the moment LeBron left the court for the first time with 7:31 remaining in the game.
The Spurs basically scorched the earth from there on out, missing just two shots the rest of the way. But it was the shots the HEAT missed during the course of the game that had Gregg Popovich spooked.
“I thought we made a good number of mistakes. I thought they missed some wide, wide open shots that they had, that scare you to death once you watch the film,” Pop said. “That’s not just blowing smoke or an exaggeration. There were about seven or eight wide‑open threes they had that just didn’t go down.”
Miami’s spacing is going to be an issue for San Antonio all series long. The Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis pairing in the front court spreads San Antonio’s bigs out toward the perimeter and exposes the rim area, and it provides LeBron and D-Wade a few outlets when attacking the paint.
But on the other side, it allows the Spurs to make their way inside successfully. In a sense, it’s a different type of spacing the floor.
“It’s where my shots come. We have a lot of shooters and I’m not going to stretch the court in that respect,” Tim Duncan said. “Every once in a while I get a jumpshot from 15-to-18 feet, but mostly my effective range is in there right now.
“I’m going to pick‑and‑roll and try to get to open spots and try to take advantage of the rotation if they’re trapping.”
And that’s how San Antonio was able to be successful, Tony Parker mentioned at one point. With all the aggressive trapping and hedging from the HEAT, Spurs bigs were able to free themselves.
“Our bigs played well all around,” Duncan said. “We did our game plan and made ourselves available in the middle of the floor, and we turned the ball over a little more than we should have but got to the spots we needed to and finished well in the middle of the lane.”
Miami forced the issue with San Antonio, pushing Tiago Splitter off the floor more quickly than usual with Lewis starting at the ‘four’ spot. Perhaps it was a ‘testing the waters’ situation for Popovich, but that Duncan, Splitter duo might be even more useless against the HEAT than it was against the Thunder.
And in fact, when the two took the floor on their own, without the other one around, the Spurs were quite successful. When Duncan was on the floor without Tiago, the San Antonio outscored the Miami by 14 points. When Splitter was the only big man, the Spurs outscored the HEAT by five points.
I’d be shocked to see Pop bring those two back out in the starting lineup together if Miami stays small. Splitter just isn’t a versatile enough offensive player to make up for the floor-spacing issues on the defensive end. There was no Matt Bonner in Game 1, and I’m not sure he’ll be the answer this time around. But Pop is no doubt concerned with taking Diaw away from that second unit with which he fits so well.
This is going to be a fun chess match going forward.