The resurrection of two opposing shooting guards in two successive games?
The return of Dwyane Wade in game 4 followed by Manu Ginobili's come back in pivotal game 5? Like the former event, Ginobili's revival propelled his team to victory. The difference is that it also pushed his team one win away from an NBA championship
After averaging 7.5 points through the first 4 games, Manu got the start and was instant offense, scoring or assisting on 13 out of San Antonio's first 15 points in the game. Ginobili ultimately finishing with 24 points and 10 assists.
No, he didn't take the ball over anyone's head and dunk it. But htis was a pretty impressive step-back on one of the league's best defenders:
Well, so much for all the talk about not making adjustments or the fact that this isn't a chess game between coach Popovich and coach Spoelstra. You may recall down 2-1 in the series, Spoelstra inserted Mike Miller into the starting line-up (he was 9-10 from three in the first three games of the Finals, but oddly is 0-2 since starting) to enable Miami's bread and butter small line-up with LeBron at the 4. Not only did it space the floor out, but it created several mismatches, most notably starting Tiago Splitter on Dywane Wade. While that match-up didn't last long - it was enough to get Wade going.
So, to counter Pop put Ginobili in the starting lineup and thereby not only took away Miami's advantage on the perimeter but also enabled Ginobili to play off Parker and Duncan - being more effective as the team's third option.
And after Miami's big three went off for 85 points in game 4 (only 66 in game 5), the Spurs were able to counter with their big three going for 74 points in game 5. Oh, and Tim Duncan wasn't that bad either, contributing 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Trajectory of a player
Of course I'm referring to Danny Green replacing Tim Duncan as a member of the Spurs big 3. And why not? If the Finals ended today, would he not be Finals MVP? Yes, say it out loud to hear how crazy that sounds.
But after scoring 24 points in game 5 he is now averaging 18 for the Finals - tops on the Spurs. It gets better: Green is shooting 57% from the field and 66% from three.
But wait, it gets even better than that: He just set the NBA record for most three pointers in an NBA Finals - with 25 made through 5 games.
What does Ray Allen, former record holder, think about this?
It's okay Ray, I'm sure you're teammates (other than Juan Howard) are equally as distraught.
Green's first two years in college (at North Carolina) he shot 33% from three (it was l9'9").
His last two years in college Green shot 39.5% (after it was moved to 21'9").
His last two years with the Spurs, the first time he received consistent playing time in the NBA, he shot ~43% (23'9"). In this year's conference Finals, 47% from three.
Seems like a steady climb (longer is better?).
Keep in mind, Green was drafted in the second round (46th overall) and had stints in the D-league. But perhaps as LeBron, a former teammate of Green's, said "all he needed was an opportunity."
And that's what great players and great franchises can do for someone looking for a home in the league - they can provide you with an opportunity to become a role player and develop a speciality that enables you to become successful. The Spurs have a history of doing this.
How does Green compare to another one of the Spurs former speciality players, Bruce Bowen? Coach Popovich: "I guess they both are similar in the fact that neither one of the has any moves; they just shoot it. They don'y really dribble or do anything else. They just shoot it ."
So if all he does is shoot it, and is shooting 66% from three, how the heck is he so wide open?!?
Tony Parker destroyed Memphis in the conference finals by averaging ~25 points and ~10 assists. He hasn't been spectacular in the Finals but last game he scored 26 points and had 5 assists. Combine that with Ginobili's 24 and 10. Now you have two perimeter guys on the floor at the same time that can break you down off the dribble and get to the basket. Doesn't this sound like LeBron and Wade?
As per this NBA.com piece, Parker was 10-10 in the paint in game 5 and seven of those buckets came off isolations. So, sometimes you just give your best player(s) the ball and get out of the way. They will create the offense. As per coach Spoelstra: "at times they were just picking one guy out at a time and going mano y mano."
Much like LeBron and Wade, having Parker and Ginobili on the floor at the same time presents the defense with a a pick your poison situation. Do you guard Parker and Ginobili straight up and let them penetrate/score? Or, do you help and leave three point shooters open?
And this is the real beauty of putting Ginobili into the starting lineup: It enables the Spurs to present Miami with some of the same problems they usually dish out. Playing small ball they have two penetrators that get to the basket at will, a big, and either two shooters or a shooter & slasher (Leonard). And because San Antonio's penetrators were more efficient in game 5 and they got more production out of the shooters/slasher, the Spurs were able to beat Miami at their own game.
In game 5, Miami: Wade & James were 18-44 with 18 assists, Allen had 21 points (4 threes)
In game 5, San Antonio: Parker and Ginobili were 18-28 with 15 assists, Green had 24 points (6 threes)
Bosh and Duncan canceled each other out.
Leonard had 16, no one else on Miami had double figures.
The good news
Might be tough for the Spurs to shoot 60% on the road in a closeout game.
Perhaps they themselves can shoot better than 43% in elimination games at home.
For the Spurs:
Apparently their strategy of "hope they don't shoot as well" worked.
Either that or they decided who cares how they shoot, we'll score more.
How about this:
LeBron guards Parker
Wade guards Ginobili
Bosh guards Duncan
Allen guards Green
Miller/Battier guards Leonard/Neal
Perhaps Chalmers can guard Parker or Neal in stretches - or Battier can guard Parker as well.
Those are the match-ups.
Both teams are playing small.
Forget the plays and adjustments.
Why don't we just have every one play straight up one on one. If need be, switch on screens.
DON'T LEAVE SHOOTERS - no matter what!
So with that, I pose to you:
1) Which team has better one on one players that can break down the defense?
2) Which team has shooters that can shoot better off the dribble or coming off screens?
3) Which team has more versatile defenders that can guard on switches off screens?
4) Which team can score more in transition?
5) Can Bosh or Duncan outplay one another substantially?
6) Which team has better on the ball defenders?
How to eliminate the pressure of the big game(s)
Yes, that's Tim Duncan playing with his kids during half-time of game 5.
Forget the NBA, that's amazing.
Since the 2-3-2 Finals format, there have been 7 instances prior to this series where a team down 3-2 has gone home for the last two games. 3/7 of those times has the home team come back to win.
The last time the home team did it: 2010 when the Lakers beat the Celtics in 7.
The last time a home time didn't do it? Why, that would be the 2011 Miami Heat when they lost to Dallas in 6.
The Heat have faced many challenges during their big three era. They have overcome most.
So how fitting is it that to accomplish the rare feat of going back to back they re-face one of challenges they have actually failed at before. Kind of ironic?
Maybe Dwyane Wade said it best: "We challenge ourselves to see if we're a better team than we was. We're in the same position......so we're going to see if we're a better ball club and if we're better prepared for this moment."
Don't think he and the Heat are the only ones waiting to find that out.