This was truly a Game Three, in that the Spurs broke the all-time Finals record for made three-pointers. Records like this are made to be broken when teams play with four legitimate three-point shooters around one big man, as the Spurs are doing.
And very quietly, completely unreported by the mainstream media, the face of the NBA game is changing.
This is the third straight all-Nellieball Finals. The top four teams in the league this season — the Spurs, Heat, Thunder and Nuggets — were all Nellieball teams. The Nuggets lost the ability to play Nellieball when their spectacular stretch-four Gallinari got injured. The Warriors were “forced” into playing Nellieball when their conventional power forward Lee got injured. And the Warriors managed to beat the Nuggets because their Nellieball offense proved absolutely unguardable.
If you still don’t believe that there is a better, easier and cheaper way to win in the playoffs than by constructing the biggest front line, slowing the pace, and engaging in an ugly defensive struggle, then your name must be Joe Lacob.
The best basketball minds in the league are working from Don Nelson’s model.
Game Three: As for this game, I don’t take a whole lot away from it, just as I felt that Game 2 was essentially meaningless. The Heat need to win exactly one game in San Antonio, and until their backs are against the wall, any game that isn’t going their way could cause them to simply shrug their shoulders and give up, as they did last night.
On the other hand, this series is beginning to look a lot the one the Heat lost to the Mavericks, isn’t it? Wade hobbled, the Heat facing a complete and confident Nellieball team, with a genius coach.
I read yesterday that the team that lost Game Three in the Finals lost the series over 92% of the time in the 2-3-2 format. I find that pretty hard to believe — surely a lot of good teams have jumped out 2-0, and given up Game Three on the road? But there it is.
Dwayne Wade: I’ve come to the conclusion that the Heat can’t win this series with Dwayne Wade on the floor. Right now, Wade cannot defend, cannot run the floor, cannot drive and finish, and cannot spread the floor and shoot threes. He is not only the worst player in this series, but the worst two-guard in the entire league.
So why is he playing?
What makes it worse is that the Heat are still catering to him on the floor, trying to “get him going” with mid-range post ups and the like. These plays are not only incredibly inefficient, they are completely ball-stopping and impossible to offensive rebound — they are completely ruinous to the Heat’s offense. (And they happen to be nearly identical to how the Warriors tried to use Harrison Barnes at the three during the season.)
Mario Chalmers: Pop adjusted immediately to the Lebron/Chalmers pick and roll, hedging on Chalmers and stopping his dribble. That’s Pop.
There is one big problem with this pick and roll: the player that switches onto Chalmers is Kawhi Leonard. Another problem is that Chalmers is not a gifted passer.
The Heat need to move this pick and roll to the top of the floor, as opposed to the sideline where they have been running it, to give Chalmers more room to get around Leonard.
Lebron: The Heat need to do two things if they want to get Lebron going. The first is to get Wade off the floor, so that they can spread the floor.
The second is that he’s going to have to be allowed to take what the defense is giving him, which is the outside shot. It’s the best shot the Heat are getting, and he needs to take 30 of them a game. Spoelstra needs to take the leash off and tell Lebron: “Get me 50.”
Tony Parker: I have serious doubts that the Spurs can win this series with Parker hobbled, even if the wretched Wade continues to play. So let’s hope he’s ready to play in Game 4.
Parker’s legs, as well as Duncan and Ginobilis’, are the chief reason I thought Memphis was likely to beat the Spurs in the second round. They’ve had a lot of rest since then, but still this happens. I guess I wasn’t a complete idiot.
I noticed that the Heat were attacking Parker with whomever he was guarding, just as Mark Jackson did. (And just as Lionel Hollins didn’t.)
Gary Neal: I identified Neal as an X-factor in the Spurs series against the Warriors.
Oops, got the series wrong.
Kawhi Leonard: An essential part of Nellieball — and in fact of championship basketball using any model — is having long and dominant defensive wing stoppers, who can also shoot the three. That’s why Don Nelson never drafted a wing player who wasn’t an all-pro defender in the first round. Moncrief, Richmond, Sprewell, Howard. That’s why he pulled Raja Bell, Mario Elie, Kelenna Azubuike and Matt Barnes from the D-Leagues. And that’s why he traded for Stephen Jackson.
Gregg Popovich, who as Jerry West would put it, is from the Don Nelson tree, has followed Don Nelson religiously in this regard. Bruce Bowen, Stephen Jackson (twice), Manu Ginobili, Ime Udoka, Richard Jefferson (oops, traded to Joe Lacob), Danny Green.
And now Kawhi Leonard — who may prove to be the best of the bunch — drafted with the 15th pick in the year Lacob drafted Klay Thompson. Leonard is proving himself to be a championship caliber player. 2-3 from three, 12 rbs, 4 stls, taking primary responsibility to guard the best player on earth, and holding him to 15 pts. on 7-21.
Joe Lacob has now drafted wing players out of the lottery in consecutive years. Neither of whom is a defensive stopper in any way, shape or form — nor ever will be — at the positions they are now playing (Thompson, shooting guard; Barnes, small forward).
Sadly, as much as I love Klay Thompson, I don’t have a lot of faith in this pairing. Nor in Lacob’s model in general. One permanently crippled, non-scoring big man, surrounded by four mediocre defenders. In a non-Nellieball lineup.
That’s not a model for contending.
Vegas Baby!: I’m off to Vegas for some World Series of Poker action the next few days so will not be recapping the next couple of games at least.