LeBron James might have had a triple double – but in the end – it was all about Tony Parker.
Miami’s defence, as good as it was in Game 7 against Indiana struggled to contain San Antonio’s slick ball movement and mixture of height and skill inside. Sure the Heat had the better of the first half, but it seemed only a matter of time before the Spurs would make their move.
And they did.
The Spurs had nine days to prepare mentally regardless who the opponent was; coach Gregg Popovich would not have cared who his team faced in the Finals. A man who has been coaching one team since 1996 and led to the Playoffs every year since, Pop would have had complete confidence in his team no matter who it was against.
His confidence was rewarded by Tim Duncan, a man who has been with Pop and the Spurs since 1997, and the big fundamental didn’t disappoint with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. But to make the statline even more impressive, he went 0/5 from the field at the half-time break and looked out of sync, offensively.
In the days leading up to this series, I’ve been saying that Duncan will have fun against Miami, because I can’t think of any Heat player that can match up properly with him. Udonis Haslem is too small, Chris Andersen has the energy but lacks the skill to hang with the 7-footer and Joel Anthony is not expected to play many minutes in the Finals. Despite his slow start, he showed what he is capable of and has given Heat coach Erik Spoelstra a bit of a headache heading to game two of who can he get to face-off with Timmy for a sustainable amount of time.
Then the other Spurs star who, like Duncan was always going to cause problems was Parker. He had 11 points going into quarter number four and was kept relatively quiet.
Then he, along with the Spurs stepped up in the fourth. The French guard scored 10 points in the period, finishing with a game-high 21 added with Kawhi Leonard’s patient defence on LeBron who, regardless of his triple double, was still worked hard and was forced into some tough plays – those main factors gave the Spurs the W.
The game was close, something that on home court favours Miami, but the team in black turned that on its head, forcing the hosts into 5 turnovers in the final 12 minutes while San Antonio committed just 4 turnovers in the entire game and because of that, their offence flowed smoothly. Especially in the final few minutes plus they got a little bit of luck with Parker’s circus bank shot with 5 ticks to go. At first glance, I didn’t think he got that off, but that’s the beauty of the video replay these days.
Heat to bounce back? It always happens.
The Miami Heat have lost another game one, something that while isn’t new to them, means that they have their chance to respond. And everytime they’ve been 0-1 in a playoff game, they’ve gone on to win game two and subsequently win the series.
May I add, that includes last year’s Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder was one of those games.
It was a fourth quarter to forget, after leading the half-time interval and indeed heading into the final 12 minutes, something went wrong for Miami, who are usually a good team when closing out. They just ran into a different team this time, I guess.
Miami might have won the previous regular-season encounters with the Spurs but players were missing, neither team was at full strength so there was nothing to go on from that, but the Heat I have no doubts will bounce back. It’s a long series and unless something major happened, I can’t imagine the Spurs sweeping this Heat side.
The Heat were a completely different team in the fourth, it was really strange. Unable to focus on their sets, they made some uncharacteristic turnovers which led to San Antonio buckets and some of their plays seemed rushed, a stark contrast to the first two quarters where they got the job done, not in the free-flowing way we were used to seeing in the regular-season but they got valuable contributions from Wade and James. Chris Bosh started sluggish but got into his pattern eventually. The Heat contained the Texas outfit for large periods but when it mattered, they had no answer for the high gear the Spurs moved to.
This is going to be an exciting series, I for one hope it goes to a deciding seventh game. This was a great starting point.