Game On: Spurs 92 Heat 88 — NBA Finals Game One

If, as the saying goes, a series doesn’t start until the home team loses, I guess this series just started. And what a fascinating game this was. My recapping engine is currently recuperating from hip flexor surgery and another ankle debridement, but here are some quick thoughts:           

1) The Spurs played Splitter and Duncan together for 13 minutes, at -2. And glorious Nellieball — with Diaw, Bonner or Leonard at the four — for 35 minutes, at +6.

2) The Spurs were outrebounded by 9, and shot a worse percentage than the Heat.

In other words, Joe Lacob has no idea how the hell they won.

3) After a two week layoff, the Spurs turned the ball over only 4 times. In a road game, in the Finals.

It was a direct result of Spoelstra’s flawed defensive game plan.

Or the genius of Gregg Popovich. Take your pick.

Either way, it won’t last. This is one of the strangest box scores I’ve ever had the exquisite pleasure of perusing over my morning Sumatra.

4) As predicted, the Spurs have all but abandoned the offensive boards in favor of getting back on defense. 6 offensive boards in this game.

The Spurs are nothing like the Pacers, and this series won’t resemble the Pacers-Heat series in the slightest.

5) 48 threes were shot in this game. “You live by the three, you die by the three!” Isn’t that what the ignorati were so fond of saying about Don Nelson’s teams?

Don Nelson was right. And before his time.

6) LeBron James was quoted after the game saying “We need a new game plan for Game 2.” My first thought was “Uh Oh.” Poor Erik Spoelstra, will he ever get to coach his own team?

If the Heat lose this series, he may get the chance sooner than we think.

My second thought was: “LeBron’s absolutely right.”

7) I stated before the series that the key to beating the Spurs was getting the ball out of Tony Parker’s hands. The Heat did just that for the first three quarters, but then left him free to operate single covered in the fourth quarter, when he hit for 10 of his 21 points. Why?

The move to get LeBron on Parker? TOO LATE.

8) The Heat didn’t actually blitz Parker, so much as hedge with their mobile big men. They did this because they need their bigs to recover as soon as possible to their own man in the lane. Why? Because the Spurs big men CAN SHOOT if left uncovered. They are two-way players. They are a threat.

Could someone please explain this concept to Joe Lacob and his ex-wife’s trustee? Don’t leave out the part about what it would mean to Stephen Curry to play with a center who can score.

9) Perhaps the biggest way in which the Dwayne Wade injury hurts the Heat is his inability to guard Tony Parker. The blueprint to beating the Spurs is to bottle up Parker with length. But the Heat may have no other option but to keep Chalmers and Cole on him for most of the game. Ray Allen’s not an option, is he? He’s not healthy either.

10) Nevertheless, if they want to win this series, the Heat have to commit to shutting down Parker. Really commit.

They need to pick their poison, and blitz. All four quarters.

And get LeBron on him earlier. Like at the start of the fourth quarter.

11) And if they want to win this series, the Heat need to start attacking the rim. That’s their edge. LeBron going straight at old man Duncan.

Bosh should put the ball on the floor more and attack too. His quickness is his edge. Particularly when he’s gagging on his open shots. Which is just about always.

If the Warriors can make Tim Duncan look old and slow, why can’t the Heat? There’s simply no excuse for the Heat shooting fewer free throws than the Spurs on their home floor.

12) Shane Battier, 6 minutes, 0-3 from three. This guy was a mainstay for the Heat during the regular season, and this should have been the perfect series for him. What happened?

13) Any more thoughts, and this will turn into a recap.

26 Responses to Game On: Spurs 92 Heat 88 — NBA Finals Game One

  1. True, very unusual box score – defensive stats and turnovers – stood out to me.

    Poor Spoelstra? The Big 3 and Pops had won championships while Spoelstra was spooling game film. Lol! Spoelstra had better do a better job game planning the 4th quarter like when Pops’ Spurs/W’s Game 1 – busted up the W’s (or the W’s choked – take your pick). Perhaps the W’s are closer to a championship than I thought… The W’s were a healthier Bogut and Curry – and a 4-minute collapse from taking the Spurs to 7-games.

  2. A boneheaded thought, but I’m not clear where I’m wrong. I don’t understand why Miami is trying to turn this into a defensive battle when supposedly they have a superior offense, specifically 4th. quarter, when the older Spurs should have been worn down. Only 4 shots and two FTs for Leron 4th. quarter? Isn’t this where he’s supposed to take over? They managed the game fine up until then.

    • rgg, I think you identified what happened to Miami, though I don’t know what they can do about it. Really great teams like the Spurs have the ability to shift to some mysterious overdrive gear in crunch time. It’s either a more intense application of what they’ve been doing all game, or it’s a sudden strategy switch. I’ve seen it done to the Ws for years.

      Corner 3s have hurt for 3 quarters? Suddenly start mugging corner 3 shooters. LeBron has used his physicality to drive the lane all game? As soon as he switches to cover Parker on D (something everyone and his grandma expected), double and trap LeBron on O and his job difficulty gets quadrupled.

      It will be interesting to see what Spoelstra comes up with. It will be even more interesting to see what Popovich comes up with, especially in the later games of this series. By then there can’t be many surprises left, right?

      • Lebron is supposed to be the best basketball player on the planet. You give the ball to Lebron and let him take over 4th. Q. It shouldn’t matter what the defense throws at him. He’s supposed to be able to break it. If nothing else, he keeps driving and gets to the free throw line, which is what he did in game 7 against Indiana. But if he keeps driving, it should free up other options. Miami did get good contributions from the other players and shot well first half. The stage was set for LBJ.

        I don’t like teams built on franchise players, btw, but this is what Miami has.

    • Mia does not have a superior offense to SA’s offense and defense. if Ind had just a little more offense, Mia’s offense wouldn’t have sufficed to beat Ind either. Mia got its record mostly from a stifling defense. younger versions of wade and allen would make things much different of course, but so would younger versions of duncan and ginobili, to make things fair.

      as long as SA can keep james from going nuclear with leonard heavily supplemented by double teams and help almost anywhere and none of james’ ‘mates makes them pay, Popovich has the relative luxury of focusing the d on a single opponent. james probably will score higher in the coming games, but SA didn’t shoot particularly well, so that won’t necessarily mean Mia wins.

      • I did say supposedly superior offense, but that really depends on LBJ going ballistic. I wonder how well this team is built and coordinated, whether they are as good as everyone thinks they should be. Not only do they face weaker teams in the east, they don’t face good offensive teams there. Of the top 10 scoring teams, all 100 ppg and up, all but two are in the west. The two eastern teams are Miami and the Knicks, at #10, who win whenever their volume shooters Smith and Anthony hit enough buckets.

        And in general I don’t like teams built on the three player/franchise player model. I’m hoping to see the model put to the test this series.

        You know a team has holes when it has to bring the Birdman up for rebounds.

  3. Management (Denver) to the rescue:

    “Management blamed George Karl for losing Golden State series. Believed he panicked by matching up small rather than by playing Nuggets game . . . Management wanted George Karl to play JaVale McGee more after they paid him all this money. Wanted him to start over Koufos but Karl said no . . . Management believed George Karl played Andre Miller too much. Wanted to see Evan Fournier get more development during regular season . . . Management wouldn’t have minded George Karl develop younger players in general more even if would have meant winning few less games than 57.”

    from Sheridan Hoops

    • there’s some truth here. fournier didn’t see much court time until the last two months of the season with lawson’s injury, and came up with some remarkable games, given his youth (younger than barnes) and not-very-gradual initiation. he’s a far better perimeter defender than miller, but experience is a critical ingredient. we can be sure that Den noticed how much the woeyr rookie draftees had benefitted from extended regular season exposure.

  4. FB

    1. Miami sez there is no 4, or 3, or whatever. It’s just hand-to-hand basketball, may the best men win – and they’re running 3-4 of the best players in history. SA responded by playing their best players. It’s OK to call all of that Nellieball, but I’m pretty sure Nellie didn’t invent the idea of playing your best against their best. And I’m sure Popovich would refuse to label the concept as anything but smart ball.

    2. The Spurs abandoned the offensive end of the floor immediately upon taking just one shot. They prioritized transition D instead. Given their advantages in size and rebounding ability, that’s a little surprising but it is consistent with the way they’ve played all season. Can’t say it was a bad idea. Let’s hope Lacob is taking notes. It’s a plan designed to help a slow-footed C actively participate during a larger percentage of his time on the floor.

    3. Freakin’ amazing. Credit Tony Parker and ding the Heat’s PGs, who can’t single-cover him. There’s no surprise in that, few PGs can cover Parker, but expect Spoelstra to come up with different looks for Parker to cope with in Game 2.

    4. There’s probably a way to assess the one-shot-and-out tactic with a spreadsheet. I’m thinking Expected Value Analysis.

    5. At first glamce it’s hard to argue against the Expected Value of a 3-pt shot. .400 x 3 points = .600 x 2 points. Few bigs score 60%, so it would seem to make sense to design your offense to try first to shoot 3s. On the other hand, a 3 attempt rarely leads to a foul call, which is where “effective FG%” comes in. Carl Landry, a limited-range FG shooter, has a better eFG% (.541) than Thompson (.509), a great shooter. But Landry isn’t quite as great as Curry (.549). This implies that 3s aren’t themselves a plus or minus, it simply depends on what your players are good at, and what kind of open shots your offense can generate. That’s going to vary with different opponents, and different opposing defenses. A team like Indiana, with lousy 3-pt shooting, will get beaten by anyone who can shut down their inside game. The Ws this season were beaten by every team who shut down their outside game, especially when Lee was sidelined. San Antonio can beat you either inside or outside. They got a lot of open 3 looks in Game 1, so they took them. But they don’t have to score 3s to win. Unlike the Ws.

    6. LeBron was half right. The Heat led through 3.5 quarters, which implies a good initial game plan. Popovich mousetrapped them in crunch time. Miami needs either a bigger lead going into the 4th, or it needs Spoelstra to counter Pop’s crunch-time adjustments. Somehow I think one or both of those conditions will prevail, periodically, throughout this series. Spoelstra is a great coach. LeBron should keep his big fat mouth shut. But I’ll give LeBron this: getting all bent out of shape over losing a single game says something excellent about his winner’s mindset.

    7. As mentioned above, Popovich countered LeBron-on-Parker by making things more difficult for LBJ on the other end of the floor. A subtle and clever move, and it worked. Obviously. So if James started guarding Parker earlier, maybe SA would win by even more. A tough call. As mentioned above, I suspect Spoelstra will game-plan against Parker differently in Game 2. If his new scheme works, maybe they won’t need LBJ on Parker. And that would probably be for the best. Miami needs LeBron to drive its offense.

    8. The Ws do have bigs who can score, and while neither of their two big scorers alter many shots on D, they’re both excellent position players. Maybe the Ws need to simply better acknowledge that Bogut isn’t at all an offensive threat and quit wasting possessions trying to feed him. Ditto Ezeli.

    9. Yeah, Wade has looked old and/or busted up during the entire playoffs this year. I still expect to see him on Parker in the next game. Wade is still a great shot blocker, and he’s so wide he’s hard to get past even if he can’t move his feet.

    10. Ditto #9.

    11. I too was surprised to see LeBron & Co. fail to attack the rim consistently, especially during crunch time. Expect the inside attack to re-surface in game 2.

    12. Battier isn’t right. Maybe David West pounded him to a pulp.

    13. Gosh, don’t want that…

    • battier has shot 2 for his last 19, and overall for the post season has made .22. at his age and place in the rotation, he isn’t going to mention any wear and tear kinds of physical ailments that hamper his timing or stroke.

    • are you being facetious ? if he took the Mil offer ellis would make considerably more than curry in each of the next three seasons. do you think the teams with cap space want to expend a portion of that size for ellis ? they could get jack for around half of that.

    • warriorsablaze

      I don’t think he got the short end of anything… not yet, anyway. He’s very likely to have a rude awakening as to his value around the league as a free agent. There are still plenty of clueless GM’s around, but I’ll be shocked if he gets anywhere near that kind of money somewhere else. The league is starting to wake up to the idea that the “how” is just as important as the “how much” when it comes to scoring.

      I kinda feel bad for Milwaukee… they’re most likely going to lose their two best players for nothing in return except cap space…. which is pretty useless for a team that no free agents want to go to. Their best shot is to tank hard next season and pick up a game changer in the supposedly stellar 2014 draft class.

      • if ellis takes his option to leave Mil, another team might offer him four years, compared to what amounts to a three year contract from Mil, but getting more than 11 m. per annum seems very unlikely.

    • I’m sticking by my prediction that Monta is a top 5 point guard in the league. He needs to get to a good team.

      • FeltbotsFakeGirlfriend

        If you truly are a Top 5 point guard you make your team good. Sorry but if you need to get to a good team to thrive than you are not an elite player. Monta is not an elite player. This sums it up, his ignorance from when Monta Ellis was being recruited in high school.

        Before his decision was final, Cunningham laid out the facts for Ellis. He jotted down the expected salaries of each first-round pick, one through 30, explaining the difference between what Chris Paul — then a sophomore at Wake Forest and a projected top-five pick — would make versus a player drafted in the late teens. “Monta, think about this,” Cunningham told him. “If you come to Mississippi State for one year, you’re going to be the best player in the SEC. You’ll be MVP of the SEC. You’ll probably be first-team All-American. You think if you come here for one year, you can’t be as good as Chris Paul and be a top pick in the draft next year and make this type of money as opposed to going in right now and [then] you’re locked into this lower spot?”

        Ellis looked at him with cold, blank eyes. Cunningham had seen those eyes before. They were the same unforgiving eyes that made Cunningham want to recruit Ellis in the first place. Ellis flatly and firmly told Cunningham that he was already better than Paul. “That very second, I knew it was over,” Cunningham says.

        Monta Ellis will never be better than Chris Paul or Dwayne Wade. Confidence is good but being delusional can be detrimental to your team.

        • to this day, ellis thinks he can beat any guard, anywhere, in head to head competition. when he has a high scoring game and his team loses, he’ll say words to the effect, it’s frustrating, did everything i could. maybe the schools where he grew up in Mississippi didn’t have the best textbooks, but it has often appeared that there were chapters missing in the hoops primers he studied, as well.

          ellis is the hoops equivalent of the Trojan prince, Paris. by his own choice, he’s been favored by one hoops god but neglected to give the others their due, and was undermined by it. like Paris, plenty of hoops fans look at him as a beautiful player. with the fickleness of those hoops gods, even a savant like our jefe feltbot can’t be right all the time.

          • we shall see ;)

            Up to this point in his career, he has never played point guard. And he’s never been a starter on a winning team — only teams with very few weapons, that completely relied on him to jack it up against triple teams.

          • warriorsablaze

            He had 2 seasons with a healthy Curry… not exactly “lacking in weapons”.

            I do believe that the situation matters, however, and Curry is a prime example of it…he’s been good all along, but it took the right coach and Monta leaving for him to be as great as he was at the end of his rookie year again. Monta certainly has the tools, but I’m highly skeptical he has the mental game to put it all together. There has been absolutely no evidence up to this point that he “gets it”. He would be amazing in the JCrawford, JR Smith, Microwave role. He’s good at the drive and dish but has terrible court vision in general and stagnates offenses like it’s his job, so I can’t see him being great as a PG in a heavy role. Who knows… I guess maybe we’ll see? Maybe at some point he’ll become responsible for his game as opposed to his teammates and coaches.

        • FeltbotsFakeGirlfriend

          My point is if Monta Ellis was truly great it would not not matter who his teammates were. Kobe Bryant took a team with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to the playoffs. Lebron James took Boobie Gibson, Jamario Moon and Sebastian Telfair to the best record in the NBA. If you need to rely on great teammates for success than you are not the great player.

  5. If you like the Heat, Game 2 is a great game to bet -5.5. Must win for them, nothing game for the Spurs.

  6. which team does the stern gang favor for this game ? they probably want the series to get back to Mia, at the minimum, for revenue if nothing else. they’ve assigned joey crawford, the duncan nemesis, for game two. o.t.o.h., his most recent game featured a notable lack of star deference to james, who was limited by his foul problems vs. Ind. maybe james has displaced duncan on crawford’s list of noxious multi millionaires .

    • I forgot to mention that Crawford was assigned. Good catch.

      I predict foul trouble for the Spurs.