NBA Finals, Game 2: The Blink of an Eye
San Antonio 84, Miami 103 Series tied 1-1 I could kind of see this loss coming, and I’m mostly OK with it. a simple adage in sports is that “whatever team needs the win more will often get it”. Particularly when the teams are pretty even and playing for the ultimate prize, you can see how this would apply. The Heat could ill-afford to lose this game; it would essentially end their season. The Spurs, having taken Game 1, were perhaps just the slightest bit complacent. As such, the Spurs seemed a half-step slower, the Heat a half-step quicker, and that aggregate whole step translated to a 20-point loss. But all 20-point losses are not created equally. The Spurs were right in this game until late in the 3rd, and seemed to even grab the tiniest bit of control despite being mostly outplayed all game. Then over the course of a few minutes spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Heat went on something like a 30-5 run, and the game was over. My very initial assessment of these two teams went something like this: the Heat can reach levels that no other team can, but can’t always get there; the Spurs can not reach the same levels, but they can sustain a higher level for longer than any other team. So if Miami’s peak is a 9, no other team can get there. But San Antonio can get to 8, and they can play in the 7-8 range for a lot longer than any other team. And Miami can very easily slip down to 7 or lower for long stretches. So the question is: can Miami reach that highest level often enough and long enough to beat the Spurs? And the more immediate question: what can we learn from this game? Honestly, I don’t know. It was such an odd game in so many ways. For starters, the Spurs again shot very poorly (save for Danny Green from 3, again). Take away Green, and the Spurs are just plain bad at the rim and behind the 3-point line, the two places their offense lives. So, on the bad side, bad shooting is often a death knell; on the positive side, the offense is working in that it is getting the shots we want, the players just need to start making them. Also on the positive side, you have to think the shooting can only improve at home. And we were able to win one game and stay very close in another for a very long time with poor shooting. LeBron James had the most bizarre game I’ve ever seen. Until the huge run, he just seemed very passive, almost invisible. Kawhi was doing a tremendous job on him, but LeBron was mostly making it easy for him. At the same time, he was playing within the framework of the offense, finding open teammates, and the Heat as a team were really humming along. On the plus side, we were able to contain LeBron. On the negative side, we were able to mostly contain LeBron, but they kept it close…and then we were no longer able to contain him and they completely blew us off the floor. Wade has looked really good to start games, but completely seems to disappear in the second halves. Bosh seemed more effective, but also still seems pretty invisible. The Heat seem really tired as a team, but still played the most aggressive and swarming defense we’ve ever faced. Kawhi is playing tremendous defense on LeBron, rebounding like an animal, and even outplaying LeBron’s defense on the offensive end. But he can’t buy a bucket from anywhere. Parker had a poor game, but is can often reliably figure out new defensive schemes pretty quickly. Gary Neal is helping our offense…and killing our offense. Duncan is playing great, the best big man on the floor, but his shot has completely disappeared. Nobody besides LeBron is even the least bit frightening on that Heat team right now, and yet tonight they played a complete and completely balanced game. Basically, pick your narrative and write your story. After 2 games, all that has been shown is that both teams are really good and really even. One thing we should not worry about is the margin of defeat. In many ways, I’m sure Pop would prefer a defeat like this, so he has the player’s attention and can really get their focus back. Every game is its own story with a unique narrative; the margin of defeat will tell us nothing about Game 3. One thing we should worry about is Manu. Oh man, did he play like crap. Tonight he tripped over that line between “Good Manu” and “Bad Manu”, fell down, lost his dribble, fouled the Heat player that picked it up and also somehow managed to trip and injure Gary Neal in the ensuing scrum. Yeesh. He was trying so hard to do things his body just couldn’t do. Several times, that task was simply “dribbling”. It’s really scary. With Joseph seemingly losing his spot in the rotation, it’s eye-closing time when Parker is not on the floor. I don’t know what Pop does, but Neal and Ginobili together can turn out very bad. Joseph looked a little more ready in his playing time tonight, so perhaps he gets another shot in Game 3. Each team’s opening salvo has been fired and received. Game 3 is crucial, and we’ve got home court and the best coach in the business on our side. What a game it shall be. 5 for 21. Go Spurs Go.
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