True Hoops

True Hoops

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On The Verge exactly did we get here?
Wasn't this supposed to be an evenly matched rematch between the two best teams in basketball...bound for another 7 games???

Instead, we have a 3-1 advantage for the Spurs and amazingly for the first time in 4 years, since Miami's big 3 inception, the Heat look completely overmatched. Can you believe that the Spurs have won by an average of ~18 points a game? And the only game they lost, was by 2 points. That seems like domination to me.

I guess a question you have to ask at some point is:
Are the Spurs really that much better than Miami?
Uh......... Yes.

The Spurs are averaging 106 points a game to ~93 for Miami in the Finals.
With these numbers, offensively the Spurs are 3rd best in points a game for the postseason while Miami is now not even in the top 10 teams for the playoffs (in the same realm as Atlanta and Charlotte).  Furthermore, it means that from a defensive standpoint, the Spurs in the Finals are 3rd best in allowed points per game (better than Chicago and almost as good as Indiana), while the Heat are again out of the top 10. What started out as a Finals between the two best teams in the NBA has turn into something along the lines of a 1 vs 7/8 seed. And Miami is the 7/8 seed!

Holy schnikies!!!

Look at some of the positions and team stats.
At point: 
Chalmers and Cole are averaging 7 points a game.....combined.
Tony parker is leading the Spurs at 18.5 points a game.
That's pretty unbalanced

Shooting guard:
Wade at ~16 a game, Allen at ~11 a game = ~27 a game
Manu at ~13 a game, Green at 11.5 a game = 24.5 a game.
Pretty much even

Power forward:
Duncan at ~16 points, 10.5 rebounds a game.
Bosh at ~14.5 points, ~5 rebounds a game.
Pretty much even for points, but not rebounds

Bench points:
Spurs ~35 points a game
Heat ~28 points a game
Edge to San Antonio

Spurs, ~25 a game
Heat, 15.5 a game
Major edge to San Antonio

So, Miami is getting destroyed at the point position, pretty much even at the shooting and forward spot, but losing the bench and assists game. From the latter two stats, it's clear the Spurs are a better team over all. I guess the hope for Miami was that they have the better individual players. But without Wade and Bosh significantly better than Manu and Duncan (let alone having lower numbers) not only can't Miami compensate for the advantages the Spurs have holistically, but you can imagine how these games can turn into blowouts.

Of course Miami has the trump card - with LeBron James on their team.
So let's look at the numbers for his position:
~27 points, 7 rebounds a game for LeBron
17 points, & 5.5 rebounds a game for Khawi Leonard

Maybe that can make up for Parker dominating the point?


What's interesting....and alarming for Miami.....
In games 3 & 4:
25 points, 6.5 rebounds a game for LeBron
24.5 points, 9 rebounds a game for Leonard


So you're telling me the Spurs are better offensively (both shooting wise and passing), are dominating the point, and are equilibrating LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.......
I guess it's not such a shock the series is 3-1 in favor of the Spurs.

Plus, beyond statistics the Spurs are beating the Heat in terms of the wow factor - as Khawi is doing other things typically reserved for LeBron:

Game changer 
How about with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists in game 4, Diaw was + 15 for the game.
By the way, that's +60 for the series.
Sometimes a guy that does everything other than score is just as valuable as scoring.

Where are the game changers for Miami?
These used to be Shane Battier, Mike Miller, & Mario Chalmers. One is literally no longer on the team, the other two have only played that way in the Finals.

International ball
The Spurs clearly have a better all-around team and better offensive skills in terms of passing and shooting than Miami. For example, in game 4:
The Spurs shot 57% from the floor and had 25 assists.
Miami shot 45% from the floor and had 13 assists.

It's interesting to note that passing and shooting, considered finesse skills, are traits favored by international brand of basketball.
FYI: the Spurs have 6 international players on their team playing significant minutes in the Finals.

I can't help but wonder aloud if there is some sort of correlation.

In '92, America sent in the big guns to the Olympics.
We were overwhelmingly bigger, stronger, more athletic......pretty much dominant in every capacity.
In a little over 10 years, America lost in the olympics (to an Argentina team that won gold, lead by Ginobili by the way). In the past two olympics, America was forced to resend the best of the best to win back the gold. And even still, had fairly stiff competition in two consecutive gold medal games by Spain.

It's obvious that the Dream Team inoculated the international basketball scene with concepts, visions, and aspirations that rapidly evolved their playing ability. Kind of crazy that in ~20 years, not only has the international community caught up but it's now actually reshaping and evolving the NBA as well.

Consider the fact that there are not really any big men in the game today.
That everyone wants a stretch 4.
Even USA basketball has switched up their format to enable more continuity and team concepts for international competition.

But now, the Spurs on the verge on winning an NBA championships by using passing and shooting to take down the best player in the world? With their leading scorer, Parker, averaging less than 20 points a game? That's pretty significant.

Even more to consider, players like LeBron James and Tim Duncan come along very rarely.
Have to wonder if the Spurs win the title, how that will affect the way teams play basketball and try to win a championship. Very rarely, does a team win without 2 stars leading the way. Even more rare, with only one. Can the Spurs, and an international style of play, change that?

When the best isn't good enough 
LeBron's  is averaging 27.5 points a game, on 60% shooting (61% from three), to go along with 7 rebounds, ~4 assists.
By far, he has been the best player in the Finals and has had the most dominant performance.....
And it doesn't even matter!!!

This is perhaps the greatest achievement for the Spurs these Finals.
We're so used to individual players dominating and determining championships.
But San Antonio has managed to make it about strength of team - in which they have a decided advantage.

It's crazy, for the first time in recent memory the NBA Finals isn't about LeBron.
Critics are usually ready to pounce and point out that he hasn't done enough or hasn't come up big enough. I don't get that sense this time around. If Miami losses, I think there won't be much vitriol sent in LeBron's direction. I think people will feel as if he did everything he could have, but against these Spurs, it's irrelevant.

Ask yourself,  can LeBron do more?
If so, what more could he do......other than average maybe 40 points and 10 rebounds a game?

What does LeBron think?
Before game 5 this is what LeBron said:
"I've been telling myself that I need to do more. Is that too much to ask of myself? I don't know....I need to do more because what I'm doing isn't enough......(maybe) I need to get 32 and 65 and 65 from the field and three. It's just the pressure I put on myself."
Some food for thought.
In elimination games, LeBron's numbers are:
32 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.

Would that be enough to win tonight?

Something in the air  
There appears to be something off with Miami right now.
I can't put my finger on it, but I'm not entirely sure what to make of LeBron's comments before game 5:

"It's just basketball."
"I'm a good place in my life right now."

He is absolutely right by the way. And probably more impressive than his actual play in the Finals has been the way LeBron has matured as a man and the ultimate professional he has become. It's great to see that he doesn't give a ish about the media and that clearly he has aspirations bigger and beyond basketball.
Of course, as he said:

"Two championships help that."

But, still. there is a bit of a different feel to this than let's say going into game 6 in Boston 2 years ago.
I wonder if all the mental (not to mention physical) fatigue of the past 4 years has finally caught up with this team.
Taking out the champs 
There might be a notion that there is no way the two-time defending champs can go down without a fight. But, if you look at how recent multi-championship winners relinquished the crown, that tends to be how things go down.

After the Pistons three trips to the Finals & repeat - they were swept in conference finals in '91.
After the Rockets repeat - they were swept in second round in '96.
After Lakers three trips to Finals & repeat - they were swept in second round in '11.

Not sure if you can count the Bulls 2 three-peats - since Jordan retired the following year both times.
The other three-peat team? The Shaq/Kobe Lakers  lost in 6 games in the '03 second round.
By the way, they lost to the Spurs.....who had Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili......

More than a parenthesis
Think about it.
The Spurs and Duncan won after Jordan retired.
They then survived and helped bring about the demise of Shaq/Kobe.
They were supposed to serve as a bridge to LeBron, especially with last year's Finals loss.

With a a championship this year over LeBron....they are actually cutting into his legacy and preventing another dynasty. How many generations of best players in the world can these guys survive and take down?

At least, with another win in the next week, we'll have to reconsider their place in history, right?


For Miami:
Regardless of the situation, there is always something that a team can try to do to survive.
So, what can Miami do to stop the Spurs incredible shooting and regain some offensive fire power of their own?

1) Speed up the game
San Antonio is in an comfortable comfort zone by playing at the pace that they want. They are picking apart Miami in the half court.  So, it would seem to be in Miami's interest to change that by maybe picking up full court on defense and putting pressure on the ball. Maybe it will cause some turnovers that can lead to easy points in transition.
At the very least, it will dictate the pace of the game and force the Spurs to adjust and play at a different tempo - and at this point, let's face it, anything different is good for Miami.

Also, it's interesting to wonder if having a traditional point guard in necessary for the Spurs offense, considering they run their offense through 5 players and in the past two games 9 players have had at least 1 assist.
Maybe pressing the Spurs requires them to have playmakers that can handle the ball under pressure. Seems to me, having more traditional points guards would be beneficial in that sort of situation. And maybe that's something the Spurs don't have.

2) No point guards
What lineup has worked for Miami?
I would say the one they used at the end of game two:
LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Allen, and Lewis.

That's 3 scorers and 2 shooter to space the floor.
Why not give this another go? Especially at the end of the game (if it's close) and have Wade or LeBron bring up the ball.

Another thing that might be an option is playing Shane Battier more. Lewis has made threes, but that's something Battier can do as well. Also he can provide some more perimeter defense to try to stop the Spurs from scoring.

As for match-ups, how about:
LeBron on Parker (full court)
Wade on Leonard
Allen on Ginobili
Battier on Diaw
Bosh on Duncan

The cool thing is in that defensive lineup, that Heat can pretty much switch everything, with maybe the exception of Bosh onto perimeter players. But even if the Spurs put Bosh in a pick and roll defensive position, that's fine. Have him double Parker or Ginobili coming off the screen to force a ball reversal to Duncan on the perimeter. DON'T leave shooters on the weak-side, rather, make Duncan become the play maker.

Additionally, if they run their offense through Diaw on their post (because Battier is guarding him), then that's great! You want a player who excels at facilitating and making others better trying to score more. If anything, it disrupts the Spurs offensive flow in a half court set.

3) The big two
At what point should Bosh become the second option on the team?
Maybe tonight. How about featuring him more in the post and off down screens, and maybe even off the dribble? How about having Wade point run point and get his buckets off pass and cuts and/or screens on the ball?

And maybe, if Bosh posts/attacks more and Wade gets to the rim off cuts more they can open the floor for shooters. And maybe they can get some of the Spurs in foul trouble. That's what slowed Leonard down in the first two games.

Plus, out of everyone on the Heat - Bosh is the only won that guaranteed Miami would win tonight.
This dude wants it.

To consider:
The Spurs offense is their best defense.
Can the Heat improve their defense, to help their offense?

For San Antonio:
How often do you get an opportunity to make a championship adjustment a year after the fact?
So, I would say, this time around the Spurs should:
1) Make free throws down the stretch
2) rebound the ball with less than 10 seconds to go


"Live in the moment, so you can change the future."
"History is meant to be broken."
These were words LeBron said before game 5.  And I dig them.
And they'll have to break history/change the future in the next week, considering no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

At the beginning of the Finalse spoke about execution of plays, adjustments and opportunities.
The Heat, with proper adjustments certainly have an opportunity to make history.

But on the flip side, consider history and changing the future from the Spurs perspective.
They have a chance to change the future as well.

30 seconds away from winning a championship over the Heat a year ago....aren't they in a position with  with an opportunity to change the ending to the Finals? Haven't they been yearning for this for an entire year???

Well, there is certainly an opportunity to make it so tonight.

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