Miami accomplished exactly what it needed to – split the two games in San Antonio. Now returning to home turf what do the Heat need to do to ensure they defend their home court? What can San Antonio do to steal one of the upcoming games in South Beach?
1. Feed Tim Duncan
In the first quarter of Game 2 it was hard to know if Tim Duncan was 38 or 28. The ‘Big Fundamental’ was throwing down venomous dunks, putting back athletic rebound jams and throwing 60 foot outlet passes to teammates. For 10 minutes it felt as though we were back in 2005 the way Duncan was playing.
He had 11 points in the first quarter and the Miami players were struggling to deal with him. Duncan only had seven points during the rest of the contest. The Spurs seemed to go away from him in the second half.
Admittedly Duncan did miss some shots he would normally make, but when a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is in the groove keep feeding him the ball. He managed to pull down 15 boards to go with his 18 points.
Is it too simple to suggest that had San Antonio continued to operate through Duncan (and Splitter) that they may be travelling to Miami up 2 – 0 in the series?
2. Keep LeBron or D-Wade on Parker
Tony Parker is still the key man for the San Antonio offense. Manu Ginobili provides a nice alternative ball handler, Duncan and Splitter can dominate inside with both scoring and passing. There is a long list of Spurs who can knock down three pointers. However, all of these things only work when Parker is leading the attack.
With Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole guarding Parker the Spurs have had success. Neither player is big enough to stop Parker getting into the paint, or to disrupt his passing. Twice in the first quarter of game two Chalmers got caught ball watching after Parker played the initial pass. On both occasions the San Antonio guard snuck to the corner where he received the ball to shoot the open 3 (he made one, missed one).
When Miami switched LeBron James or Dwyane Wade onto Parker he was not as successful. He still managed to operate at a reasonable level, but he was far less effective in this scenario. James is probably the only player who can chase Parker around the floor on defence and still have enough energy to operate on offense. Somebody tell Parker he is going to have to get a lot more familiar with James over the next few games.
3. Keep Kawhi Leonard On The Court
For the Spurs to win this series Kawhi Leonard needs to become Bruce Bowens 2.0. Bowens successfully nullified James in the 2007 finals, although James is a far more complete player now.
Maybe Leonard needs to become 2013 NBA Finals Kawhi Leonard. If Leonard can guard James to the level he did last season the Spurs have a great opportunity to win Game Three. For this to happen Leonard must stay out of foul trouble.
James has figured out Boris Diaw’s defence. The Diaw-James match up is trouble waiting to happen for San Antonio. Leonard needs to play tight, smart defence on James and avoid the foul trouble that hampered him in Game Two. Guarding the best player in basketball, one on one, when he is in attack mode is no enviable task, but Leonard is better equipped than most to do it.
4. Get Dwyane Wade Involved On Offence
Dwyane Wade was good in Game Two; 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. For Miami to win Game Three chances are Wade needs to be great.
Chris Bosh had 18 points in Game Two, Rashard Lewis had 14, Ray Allen had 9. Oh, and LeBron had 35, and the Heat still only won by 2. It’s not unreasonable to think that two, maybe three of these players’ points totals will drop from Game Two to Game Three.
The Miami Heat will look to Dwyane Wade to pick up his teammates’ slack.
Wade had zero points in the first quarter of Game Two, and as the match progressed he settled for jump shots more and more. Miami need the Dwyane Wade who beats his man off the dribble and attacks the paint. In Game Two Wade could not beat Danny Green or Manu Ginobili. If Miami are to win Game Three Wade will have to have success against these two players.
5. Bench Play
It feels crazy to say that San Antonio needs more from its bench after they combined for 37 points in Game Two. Take away Manu Ginobili (who plays starter minutes) and his 19 points and you only have 18 points from the second unit.
San Antonio is a team that relies on production from its second unit. Nobody will blame San Antonio’s bench if they continue to play at a Game Two level and the Spurs lose the series. If San Antonio wants to win a game in Miami, they need more from the bench players.
Miami on the other hand only got 12 points from their second unit in Game Two. On this occasion LeBron James carried the team to victory, but LeBron isn’t going to play at such a high level every night.
This is the NBA Finals. The margins here are so small. If Miami can get 20+ points from its bench on Tuesday night, expect them to walk away with the W.
Every playoff series comes down to which team makes the best adjustments. It’s over to you Erik Spoelstra and Gregg Popovich.
Here are the highlights from Game Two for anyone that missed it:
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena.