San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champions

Larry O’Brian Trophy

SPURS, 2014, NBA CHAMPS. Title says it all. First off, I’d like to congratulate the San Antonio Spurs, they are one of the most deserving team to win the title because of their selflessness and the way the play the game. There is no “I” in their game, it is entirely “Team”. They are the epitome of team basketball if you ask me.

First off, I would like to say that I was rooting for the Heat. It’s not so much that I like the Heat but rather I like to see LeBron succeed and prove all his doubters wrong. But against the Spurs, I knew there would only be one word for this”, “TOUGH”. Last year Final’s went to 7 games and I would say the Heat was pretty lucky to win it and Ginobili wasn’t even playing well. Well, we all saw what happened this year.

Talking about last year, well… You gotta give it to the Spurs. It was tough & heartbreaking to lose last year, but they used it as motivation to help them instead. They stayed focus throughout the regular season, clinching the number one seed in the west and advanced to the playoffs beating Dallas, Portland, OKC and finally Miami. It would have been easy for the to beat themselves up, not play well and keep feeling that it was taken from them. Yet, the focus, resolve and determination from them brought them back to the Finals. You could see them fighting for every loose ball, every possession, not taking anything for granted. This was a team looking for redemption and they got it.

They say that this is their sweetest championship yet and you can see why. All the hard work, all the belief, all that effort paid off and it just might make what happen last year “ok”. The San Antonio Spurs, your 2014 NBA Champions.

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Heat vs Spurs. The series so far.

4 games in, one pretty dominating team. How did it happen? What were the factors? Are the Heat still capable of coming back? I’ll answer the last question later in this article. Right now, let’s take a look at 3 factors that have developed over this series so far.

 

  • Heat’s trapping defense

The Miami Heat have always looked to double and trap the ball handler forcing turnovers which can contribute to fast break opportunities. I believe it’s a defensive scheme that requires all five player to be defending together as a whole. One mistake and someone will be open.

This season, the Heat has gotten poorer defensively. While they were in the top 7 in defensive efficiency in the past 3 season, they are only 11th this season and only 3 teams in the past 36 years have managed to win while being outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Against an offensive juggernaut like the Spurs, you can’t really slip up too much or they will make you pay dearly as we’ve seen.

 

  • Where are Miami point guards

Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have each shot under 35.5% and less than 17% from beyond the arc. They are both averaging 3.5ppg. These are stats that have really hurt the Heat and because the Spurs are playing so well, it’s not much of a contest.

 

  • Coach Pop changes, Coach Spo?

In Game 3, Coach Pop inserted Diaw into the starting lineup for Splitter. It turn out to be a great move as Diaw’s passing and versatility allowed the Spurs’ offense to move the ball better and take advantage of the Heat’s defense. Pop has never been afraid to make changes to his starting lineup or giving someone more minutes, but Coach Spo has always trusted his same group of guys. Sure Miami has a bench that is always ready to step up and from series to series Miami’s starting lineups would change, but his doesn’t really shake his lineup up during a series.

I feel that maybe he has to look at making a change because the offense or defense has work to be done. I am not saying I know where, but maybe he needs to look at the guys he has and decide if someone could come in and provide something extra.

 

Can the Heat comeback?

No team has come back from 3-1 down to win in the Finals before, so history is against them. But I remember reading in an article that Game 5 is a must win for the home team. Let’s say Heat win Game 5, brings it back to 3-2. They will feel confident and home advantage just might show in Game 6, if it does and the Heat take advantage of it and win, it will bring this series to 3-3. Then it’s just one game to decide the champions.

Sure it’s a long shot, but Game 5 is important for both teams. The Spurs will want to close it out on their home floor and not wait till Game 7, the Heat are fighting to stay alive. I feel that the Heat will take Game 5, but the series is still going to the Spurs. Unless the Heat suddenly find a major adjustment in Game 5, if not it’s still going to the Silver & Black.

Heat vs Spurs Game 1. How the Heat helped the Spurs win.

HOT. That was the feeling around the arena. In the 2nd half of the game, it was at times even hotter than outside of the arena. That is one hot place to play in and naturally players will feel weak, exhausted and drain physical and mentally easier. But, that is not the reason why the Heat lost, because both teams were playing in the same conditions. Here are some of the reasons that I believe contributed to the Spurs victory and how the Heat lost it late.

 

 

How the Heat helped the Spurs win

  • Mario’s foul trouble

Super Mario was limited to just 17 minutes in Game 1. He had 3 fouls in the first half and committed his fifth in the start of the fourth, with a charge on Ginobili. The foul trouble hurt his rhythm and his team, forcing Ray Allen and Norris Cole to play bigger minutes and he was unable to attack Tony Parker who did look pretty good in the game. Mario also seem pretty frustrated with himself throughout the game, further compounding the Heat’s problem.

 

  • LeBron’s cramps/Hero ball

Okay, this was not a foreseen problem for the Heat. At least, I believed they took all the precautions before the game to keep LeBron hydrated. I don’t need to say how not having LeBron made it easier for the Spurs to attack and harder for the Heat to run their offense because he’s such a great player. But the moment LeBron left the court after he made the layup on Boris Diaw, it felt to me that the Heat were forcing things. I thought they were just running a simple pick and roll and tried to attack the Spur’s defense.

Definitely I am giving credit to the Spurs, their rotations were on point and forcing the Heat to go where they wanted them to go. But I felt there could have been more ball movement from the Heat, swinging the ball to their shooters and being more patient. Perhaps it’s a combination of being away from home, Chalmers’ frustration and Wade trying to take over a bit too late. Their turnovers also cost them dearly in the fourth quarter when the Spurs were on fire.

 

 

How the Spurs won with their execution

  • Tim Duncan in the Paint

The Big Fundamental was excellent in recognizing mismatches and converting on easy baskets in the paint. He was aware when there was a guard defending him and did an excellent job of using his size and height to convert easy buckets. Sure it’s great to have teammates who are always willingly to pass, but Tiago Splitter also managed to shoot 5-6 in the paint. The Heat has to deny the entry passes better but it’s hard to stop the greatest Power Forward in the game when he’s rolling.

 

  • Manu and Diaw

We all know that the Spur’s bench is one of their greatest weapons. Players have all played in big games because Pop hasn’t been afraid to use them. So with rotations and subs being shorter due to the temperature, it didn’t affect the Spurs. But a big reason is Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw. They were both a combined +52 in the game. Ginobili contributed a double double with 16 points and 11 assists while Diaw collected 10 rebounds and dished out 6 assists for the Spurs. Ginobili was huge in the fourth, dishing out 6 assist that led to 16 of the 37 points the Spurs scored in the fourth. It’s great to see Manu shake off last year Finals performance and play like he did in Game 1.

 

Who will win Game 2?

I think the Spurs will come out wanting to continue where they left off and force the Heat into a 2-0 hole for the first time in the Big Three era, but I believe that LeBron will have something to prove. I expected the Heat to win this & probably by only a slim margin unless of course, Danny Green starts raining 3s. Then the Heat will need to find another gear if they want to steal home court advantage.