NBA Finals, Game 4: Mr. Wade, I Presume
Miami 109, San Antonio 93
Series tied 2-2
When that Dwyane Wade plays, nobody is beating this Miami Heat team. Period. End of discussion. End of series.
Isn’t this the whole reason these 3 combined forces in the first place three years ago? With this Wade, LeBron only has to be really really good, not awesome. And Bosh can have a secretly devastating game on both ends of the floor, picking up the table scraps and still finishing with 20 pts, 13 rebs, and 2 blks.
The Spurs continued to sag off of the two luminaries tonight, and by some cruel twist of fate, both of them found their strokes, but also fit it perfectly within the framework of the offense and being aggressive. They made nary a poor decision.
But the real difference was on defense. Wade was a monster, accounting for what seemed like 43 steals and deflections, all leading to runaway fast breaks. If there is one thing you can not let this team do, it’s get out on the break. Tonight, the Heat were determined to be aggressive turning swarming defense into punishing offense (pushing hard even in not obvious fast break situations), and San Antonio was happy to oblige.
A huge reason why San Antonio was able to control the first half of this series was the poor play of Wade. When Miami has the two best players on the floor, they win. But Wade hadn’t been that player for a long time. And he had been hurting Miami.
So is there a silver lining here? Did we get both “the Wade Game” and “the LeBron Game” out of the way on the same night? Can we take heart in knowing that we were still in this thing early in the 4th even with those three playing so well?
I just don’t know anymore. If there’s anything we know about this series, it’s that each game is an island, entire of itself. But eventually that bell will toll for some team.
More thoughts from tonight’s loss:
–There was an obvious concerted effort from Miami to limit the 3-point shot. And while we still shot it well, they prevented us from bombing away like we did in Game 3.
–That’s all well and good, but they also kind of shut down the rim. By my unofficial tally, they had 42 blocks. I suppose you can play small ball almost full time when you have such devastating rim protectors in Wade and James (Bosh is good, too, but you expect that from a PF/C). Either way, when you’re not getting 3-pointers nor lay-ups, offense is going to be a struggle. Tonight it was again.
–Splitter is going to have nightmares about LeBron and the Heat. Not only is he getting his shot blocked, but he is also getting stripped on passes, dribbles, etc. Tomorrow morning he’ll probably drop his toast in anticipation of LeBron blindsiding him.
–In all seriousness, this version of the Miami D is terrifying. It really mucks up what the Spurs do best on offense. It’s a tough balance, because I really felt like the ball was sticking too much, with too much dribbling and individual playmaking, and getting into our sets too late. However, some of those “beautiful” passes we’re used to making become “dangerous” passes against this team. Manu and Boris in particular like to make those passes, and the margin of error is so tiny against this team. Heading into Game 5, it’s going to be about finding that balance.
–Underneath all the uproar of Miami’s woes these last few days is the fact that the Spurs Big 3 are playing very, very poor. Parker was good tonight in the first half, pedestrian in the second; Duncan has been doing lots of little things well, but not scoring well; Ginobili is kind of a train wreck right now. It’s all well and good when Neal and Green have the games of their lives, but to win this series, we need something from all 3 of those players. Certainly more than we’ve gotten. It’s really quite a miracle, by one line of thinking, that we even have two wins in this series as poor as they’ve played.
Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard can NOT be your two best players in the Finals if you want to win the Champioship.
–Miami’s big adjustment was moving Mike Miller into the starting line-up. Which forced Pop to put Neal in less than 50 seconds into the game for Splitter. Part of the Spurs’ greatness lies in its ability to adjust to any style of play, and going small with Leonard at the 4 certainly is something we excel in. But having two bigs on the floor is also the best way to really slow down Miami’s attack. By putting Miller in the line-up, the Heat were able to dictate the pace and the terms of the fight. The game was played at a tempo that greatly favored the Heat, and it really diminished the Spurs’ ability to attack the offensive glass and control the defensive glass, and to also slow down their offense.
–Without Manu being “Playmaker” Manu, the team is completely lost when Parker sits.
–In so many ways, the most effective manner to limit the Heat offense is to play good offense yourself. Even on missed shots, James and Wade are devastating when they push the ball. Especially when a guard misses at the rim, the floor balance gets completely out of whack, and the Heat have a lay-up at the other end within 4 seconds. Or, the match-ups get all out of whack, and the Heat are able to take advantage.
–Meaning: the Spurs need to play smarter, more precise offense. Trust the system. Trust the shooters. Trust your teammates. On a few drives in the second half, I saw Parker and Duncan both miss wide open shooters on the wings to force it into the teeth of the defense.
–50/50 balls were more like 65/35 balls in favor of Miami. Again, the hungrier team played as such and got the win.
–So the frustration in this series continues. I liked the Spurs energy to start, but it was clear from the start that the Heat had the edge in intensity and hunger. Will the Spurs again win that battle in Game 5, having come off the loss? Will a team be able to string 2 wins together? (Miami will have to in order to win the series.)
Or have we now seen the Miami team that will be here the rest of the series? If so, this thing is over in 6. But before I make that declaration, I want to see Wade in Game 5. I don’t think he’s capable of back-to-back stellar games.
I stand by my initial statement. The Heat have the ability to play at a level that no team can match, but the Spurs have the ability to sustain higher levels for longer stretches than any other team, while never falling as low as most teams.
By that reading, this series is Miami’s to win or lose. The Spurs will always play good enough to win the games in which Miami can’t quite get there, and will never beat themselves. If tonight proves anything, it’s that Miami’s Big 3, clicking on all cylinders, can win this series.
But it also proved that without that, Miami will NOT win this series.
We have 3 games left; first to 2 gets it.
5 for 21.
Go Spurs Go.
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