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
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
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.
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.