Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 7:00 PM
For the first 40 minutes of last Thursdays series opener in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat had trouble shaking each other. Both teams were moving the ball well on offense. Both teams were getting open looks. Neither team was turning the ball over (in fact, it was one of the cleanest games ever played in NBA playoff history!). Both offenses decided against crashing the boards, preferring instead to race back when a shot went up to get ready on defense.
Then, in the last eight minutes:
*San Antonio kept right on scoring
*Miami fell apart!
The Heat suddenly started turning the ball over. The Heat started missing shots, largely because the “open looks” were going to guys that the Spurs were purposely leaving open because they’d rather make Chris Bosh beat them than LeBron James. And, it looked to many that Miami got tired. The lingering effects of a very physical Indiana series took its toll when fatigue became an issue. The Spurs were extremely fresh…and they didn’t lose a step. Miami lost several steps…and ultimately the game in a 92-88 decision.
A few key stats from the opener:
*San Antonio only turned the ball over FOUR times. That should be impossible at a stage of the postseason when “defense wins championships.” Miami must be much more disruptive from this point forward. Sure Tony Parker is good…but he’s not THAT good!
*San Antonio was better at the free throw line. Both teams were fouled about as often. But, San Antonio shot the better percentage (on 15 of 18 compared to 12 of 17). You probably heard the TV announcers talking about how well the Spurs have shot free throws all season…with a few players having career highs. That’s could loom very large later in the series when every scoring opportunity carries so much weight. From the Miami point of view…the Heat need to be more aggressive on BOTH sides of the ball. They need more defensive steals, they need more offensive free throws.
*Miami did win rebounding 46-37…which may be an important factor because it was such a headache for them in the last round. Indiana hurt them bad on the glass. San Antonio doesn’t seem capable of hurting them in nearly the same way.
*This isn’t really a stat. But, San Antonio played 48 solid minutes in Game One while Miami only played 40. Miami needs to go the distance in Game Two if they want to even up the series, knowing that their strong road history will give them a chance to break serve in San Antonio and retake home court advantage in the series.
*LeBron James took 16 shots, Chris Bosh took 16 shots, Dwyane Wade took 15 shots. You don’t really want that much “balance” when the greatest scoring force of the modern era is on your team! Plus, those three were a horrible 3 of 15 on three-pointers. How can that trip take a third of their overall shots from behind the arc?
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get a read on the adjustments Miami might make. That single factor is arguably the key to everything. If Miami DOESN’T figure out how to score in crunch time vs. a defense that’s trying to force the ball to certain places…then we could have a replay of a Texas team over Miami from 2011 and the Mavs. If Miami DOES make the right chess move…then it’s a replay of San Antonio/Oklahoma City from last year…where the Spurs started well but fell apart quickly once the Thunder had a workable plan that couldn’t be stopped.
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We’ll be back with you Monday to preview the Boston Red Sox/Tampa Bay Rays series in the very competitive AL East. Tuesday’s set for Game Three of the NBA Finals as the series moves to Texas. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s really going on in the world of sports. And…don’t you ever forget during the Spurs/Heat series…that…WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!