Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals is in the books. It will be remembered for so many reasons. From malfunctioning air conditioning to superstar cramps there were plenty of talking points. What adjustments must each team make to be successful in game two?
Cut Out The Turnovers
As he walked off the court following a historic 21 points on 9-10 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, Tim Duncan was asked what was the key to the Spurs’ fourth quarter 31-9 run which lead them to victory.
His answer was simple; ‘We stopped turning the ball over’ he told Doris Burke.
The Spurs were guilty of turning the ball over 23 times in an unusual evening’s basketball. During the third quarter alone San Antonio turned the ball over 9 times. Following two Ray Allen scores off turnovers in the third quarter it was beginning to look as though the Spurs may be on the verge of handing home court advantage to the Heat. The Spurs managed to improve their ball security in the fourth quarter and win the game, but Coach Popovich must be concerned by all those turnovers. The way San Antonio move the ball it is inevitable that they will have some turnovers. In general San Antonio are quite good at limiting Miami’s production off turnovers, well, as good as any team at slowing down Miami’s juggernaut transition offence. To have success in this series San Antonio need to replicate their fourth quarter play from game one, and leave the turnover ridden first three quarters behind.
CREATE A CRAMP COPING STRATEGY:
It may have been unintentional, but San Antonio have just figured out a way to slow down LeBron James. LeBron was a non-factor in the crucial final five minutes of game one, he was sitting on the bench. LeBron was not in foul trouble, he was in cramp trouble. The malfunctioning air conditioning lead to an arena which was 90+ degrees Fahrenheit courtside. While some players had no problem with the heat of the arena, LeBron’s body was found wanting. Following a lay-up in which he beat Boris Diaw off the dribble with 4 minutes left in the game LeBron asked to come out of the game for the third time. He would not go back in. This is not the first time in his career, or even during this postseason that LeBron has had cramping issues. LeBron is a one of the best conditioned players in the league, so how can he suffer from cramps on the biggest stage? That’s what Eric Spoelstra needs to figure out.
Since joining Miami in 2010 LeBron has averaged 38 minutes per game, and that number rises to 41.8 minutes per game during the playoffs. These numbers are down from his days in Cleveland. To his credit LeBron never takes a night off, and he never seems to ask for a play off. He always seems to be in the game. LeBron has been to 4 straight NBA finals with the Heat. He has played a lot of basketball over the past 4 years. Maybe he just needs some extra rest. It is Coach Spoelstra’s responsibility to look at LeBron and decide whether he should sit for one or two extra minutes each night, for the good of the team. With Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and even Rashard Lewis producing offensively Miami have enough talent to cover the few extra minutes James sits on the bench. If it means having a strong, healthy, energetic LeBron on the floor for the final 7 minutes of the game then it’s something Spo needs to think about.
Keep A Body On Danny Green
For 40 minutes the Miami Heat kept the streaky Green quiet excellently. They ran him off the three point line succesfully, and never let him step into his shot and get in rhythm. Much of this work was done by LeBron (which could explain his cramps) and Dwyane Wade.
Maybe a combination of the heat and pressure of the finals but for the final 7 minutes Miami completely lost track of Green. This allowed Green to hit back-to-back three point shots which swung the momentum in San Antonio’s favour for good. Green stole a Miami pass, went the length of the court and finished with an emphatic dunk to put an exclamation mark on this little spell. Before these eight points in quick succession Green had been held scoreless by the Heat.
If Green is on form hitting three pointers San Antonio are a very difficult team to defeat. He is a player who Miami cannot afford to help off on defence and leave open. Miami did this with great success for much of the game. If they make the suitable adjustments on Danny Green they have an excellent chance of stealing game two on the road.
Get Bosh Going Early And Often
Chris Bosh is often the barometer of Miami’s success. When Bosh plays well, Miami usually win. When Bosh plays poorly Miami find the going much more difficult. In game one, Bosh hit his first two shots (5 points) and it looked as if Miami were on the right track. Bosh is a matchup nightmare when he is hitting his shot. He is a big, who can stretch the floor and make perimeter shots. This matchup difficulty was clear when Tim Duncan tried to close out a Bosh three but fouled him, leading to a four point play. Miami need this Bosh, the Bosh who caught the ball and drove to the hoop and finished with a big dunk in the third quarter, to have any chance of success against San Antonio.
The other Chris Bosh is the player who caught the ball in the corner with an open look at a three pointer. The only problem is he caught the ball out of bounds. A few moments before this Bosh caught a ball in the same corner with an open look and Boris Diaw closing out slowly. Instead of confidently taking the shot, Bosh put the ball on the floor and dribbled into Diaw and eventually out of bounds. If Bosh continues this type of play Miami will face an uphill task in this series. Coach Spoelstra and the Miami staff need to figure out how to get Bosh in rhythm early in every game.
Stay Out Of Foul Trouble
This is a good piece of advice for every match, regular season or postseason. Both teams had some foul trouble in game one. Kawhi Leonard got into foul trouble early guarding LeBron, but it did not hinder him in the second half. Leonard is key to San Antonio’s ability to guard LeBron. Leonard is one of the few players in the league who can slow down LeBron one on one. San Antonio still need to show help, but they do not need to straight up double LeBron when Leonard is on the court. Having him in foul trouble greatly hinders San Antonio’s game plan.
For Miami, starting guard Mario Chalmers had five fouls in a very disruptive night for him. In games 6 and 7 last year, Chalmers played excellent basketball and caused the Spurs great trouble. If he can stay on the court he can influence this series in a similar fashion. Norris Cole is a capable backup, but Chalmers is a player who Miami need to compete in this series.
Both teams need to stay out of foul trouble for the rest of this series. In a series which promises to be this close the adjustments each team makes from game to game could be a key factor. Hopefully Game 2 provides as much excitement as Game 1.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena.