By: Shawn Davis
So life got in the way and I never got a real chance to give a review of the NBA Finals that the San Antonio Spurs snatched away in five games from the Miami Heat. Is it surprising? Not at all, however the way in which it unfolded was either beautiful or awful to watch (depending on your rooting interest).
I wrote that for the Heat to have any shot in the series they would need to keep scoring “in the high-80’s to low-90’s” and we all saw how great they were in trying to make that a reality. That didn’t happen and the Spurs margin of victory was 18 points in their four victories. Their offensive pacing and passing would always keep the Heat fearful of the scoreboard hitting triple digits because LeBron James would have to carry his team just to reach the 90’s. Mind you, the Heat topped out at 98 points – in their Game 2 victory – and scored 86 and 87 in Games 4 and 5, respectively.
For all the “fans” who say James didn’t “score enough,” well, he could have put up some 40-point outings but that would have played right into the Spurs’ defense. You see outside of him – and Michael Beasley who should have been given ample minutes as this series was going to come down to offense for Miami – the Heat are lacking shot creators. I understand that Beasley had his issues grasping the defensive sets and terminology but his ability to shoot, put the ball on the floor and score in the post would have been a heavy load for Boris Diaw while also pulling Tim Duncan away from the rim.
Like Gregg Popovich in last year’s Game 6, Erik Spoelstra tried to be too clever. His biggest mistake was refusing to tailor his Finals lineup towards offense. His rotations weren’t consistent from game-to-game; guys would collect DNP’s and then find their way into the starting lineup. I openly admit that I was wrong in picking the Heat to win the series in seven games but my rationale was that it would be a tight series and the best player in the world would tip the scales. Was that crazy of me to think? No.
All that considered the Spurs were not going to let the trophy out of their grasp a second year in a row. Watching Game 5, I paid close attention when they clawed back after taking the Heat’s initial, emotional, punch. They looked focused and invigorated while the Heat looked like Ivan Drago once it became clear that Rocky Balboa would have to be killed in the ring for him to stop fighting.
The Spurs (seemingly) endless offensive attack of passing, 3-pointers and unselfishness was a joy to watch. Seeing Manu Ginobili erase the filth he played under last year was inspiring and the driving lefty slam was a vintage play that, maybe, broke the Heat. Tony Parker closing strong after missing all his shot attempts in the first half was clutch and seeing Tim Duncan, my favorite, active, player, get his fifth championship made for a great viewing experience.
Kawhi Leonard playing James as close to even as just about anyone in the league has while having to defend him every play is worth of mention – and that’s why I’m mentioning it. See what I did there?
There is not a single player on the planet that can guard James (Paul George can be effective in spurts, while Kevin Durant isn’t a good on-ball defender and is too thin to prevent being overpowered) but Leonard did about the best job I’ve seen. I do hope that the masses jumping on the Leonard bandwagon realize that he isn’t going to average 25 points next year, the Spurs DO NOT play that way. Their offense isn’t tailored to one player; it is focused on a concept: passing. Passing for a better shot that the good shot that you have. The offense will continue to run through Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili with Leonard taking on a bigger role. Remember what Popovich said after they clinched the title at the press conference: “I don’t call plays for him (Leonard), I don’t call his number. He gets his (offensive numbers) in the flow of the game.”
Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs for continuing their run of excellence.