SAN ANTONIO — Credit San Antonio — they do not back down. All season long Miami would crank up its defense, make its big runs and the opponent would wilt. The Spurs withstood the Heat’s big run in Game 5 — when the lead was down to 1 late in the third San Antonio responded with a 19-1 run of their own. They withstood other runs all night long. It was impressive.
Still, the Heat looked back at Game 5 and said there were a lot of areas they could be just a little bit better, and if they had the game would have been different.
And they know those things have to change for Game 6.
“The most important game is Game 6,” LeBron James said. “We can’t worry about a Game 7. We have to worry about Game 6 and going back home, being confident about our game, being confident about getting a win, which we are. “
Two key areas have to change.
One is defense, particularly defensive rotations. The Spurs shot 60 percent. They had an offensive rating of 119.4 points per 100 possessions, which is 19 points hither than San Antonio’s regular season average. San Antonio got penetration into the paint and wide open threes.
What did Miami do wrong defensively that they got stuck in some bad one-on-one positions?
“Everything. Come on, they just absolutely outplayed us,” Heat coach Erick Spoelstra said after the game. “At times they were just picking one guy out at a time and going mano y mano. That will change.”
The Heat did a good job of forcing guys like Manu Ginobili into tough shots — but he hit them. But there was little protection of the rim when Tony Parker and Ginobili drove the paint.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we didn’t give that same defensive effort that we had in Game 4 and they picked us apart,” Chris Bosh said. All night he was supposed to be the rim protector but he couldn’t do that and keep Tim Duncan off the glass.
The other key for the Heat is just they need to make shots.
It sounds simple, but the Heat shot 15-of-29 in the restricted area to name one problem.
“I think that’s where it starts for us, honestly, LeBron James said. “Getting into the paint. I think between the two of us, we probably missed 12-lay-ups tonight. Transition lay-ups that we usually convert. I missed a lob. I missed two lay-ups.”
A couple of those missed lay-ups came at the end of the third quarter when the Heat had cut the Spurs lead to 1, but then the Spurs responded to those misses with a run that put the game away.
It wasn’t just the bunnies they Heat missed — they were 5-of-14 in the paint outside the restricted area and 6-of-20 from the midrange. The Spurs defense was active and challenged looks, but the Heat missed a lot of looks they normally knock down.
Those shots have to fall in Game 6. The defensive rotations must be sharper (maybe play Chris Andersen over Udonis Haslem). It all has to come together or their season ends.