Last time the end of the game had all the suspense of a North Korean election. It was over before it started. Back on March 4, the Spurs walked out of the locker room draining threes while the Heat had just 12 first quarter points. Miami was down more than 20 less than 12 minutes in and never seriously changed after that.
Ten days later, the Heat seek redemption. After beating the Lakers last week by out executing the defending champions at the end of the game, the Heat get another shot at this season’s end-of-game execution champions in the Spurs.
But the Heat need to be in at the end for that to matter.
And that’s why you need to tune in early Monday — the teams that have beaten the Spurs or had a shot to at the end usually grab big leads early. The Spurs, in the regular season, will fold up the tents pretty early and rest guys if they think there is no point in mounting a comeback.
Getting out to a fast start means the Heat have to do a better job defending the three-point line. Which is easier said than done — the Spurs run a lot of high pick-and-rolls with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili slashing into the defense, forcing rotations, then they make you pay with good spot up shooters. The Lakers defended this by having Andrew Bynum lay back and protect the paint from slashing guards. While the Heat do not have a guy who can defend the rim like Bynum look for them to take something out of playbook.
The Heat also need to get some points in transition — they are beasts when they steal the ball or get out and run off long rebounds. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are otherworldly forces of nature in the open court. Last meeting it was the Spurs — and Parker in particular — that was controlling the open court and getting the transition points (a lot on secondary break stuff). The Heat need to get back better in transition defense while getting out more and running themselves.
The Heat also need to get another big game from Chris Bosh, making Tim Duncan really work on the defensive end of the floor. The Heat need to get inside the Spurs defense.
Do all that… and the Heat still better hope they are up comfortably at the end of the game. Because if it comes down to end-of-game execution it is the Spurs that have to be the favorites.
But if the Heat come out and play with the desperation they showed against the Lakers, maybe once again it will not come down to the end of the game. And the Heat will get the win this time.