SAN ANTONIO — There isn’t much you can take away from Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The air conditioning going out, the AT&T Center becoming a sauna, and the effect that had on LeBron James (cramping up and missing almost the entire second half of the fourth quarter) and the rest of the players (both teams had their rotations slow, Miami’s just much more) made this a game a one-off. An outlier.
Whatever happens Sunday night in Game 2 — with the air conditioning working in the building — it will not look like Game 1.
What both teams talked about over the couple of days off, besides the recovery from Game 1, was tightening things up — sharper defensive rotations and cutting down the turnovers.
“My guess is you won’t see that tomorrow night, turnover-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday, talking about how the teams combined for 40 turnovers in Game 1. “I don’t think either one of us will turn it over as much as we did. In that regard we were both pretty sloppy.”
“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said about the Miami defense. “They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their rolls and spreading you out with three-point shooters. So we need to do that better, there is no question about it.”
That means being disruptive and forcing those turnovers for the Heat. The ones that Popovich has drilled into his guys to limit.
The Heat also want to make Miami’s ball movement more difficult.
“We’re going to try to get our hands in the passing lanes a little more, make those extra passes tougher, so it’s not on a straight line,” Miami’s Chris Bosh said.
That kind of pressure, the gambling that makes the Miami’s defense hard to deal with when they are focused, also requires tight rotations. Ones that failed them at points in Game 1, particularly the final five minutes.
“I think just communication,” Bosh said of improving those rotations. “They get you moving on the weak side, they make it very difficult. But we’ve always said you’ve got to be ahead of the play with this team, and there were a couple times where we weren’t ahead of the play and our weakside help wasn’t there on time — which is early — and we’re just going to have to trust each other that we’re going to make the proper rotations. Sometimes we’re thinking ‘I’ve got a three-point shooter,’ they do that for a reason, make you hesitate one split second and they get a lay-up. We’ll fix it. We’ll make sure we’re on the same page.”
Sounds logical, but if the Heat do exactly what Bosh suggests and pre-rotate more, that can be its own problem.
“They caught us pre-rotating a few times in the last game, and that makes it difficult sometimes because one guy is off and one guy pre-rotates, they make those reads fairly quickly,” Bosh said. “That’s what makes them who they are.”
The Spurs just need to not do too much — keep it simple, Tony Parker said.
“I think the key for us is do the first easy pass. Don’t try to invent something, just play our game,” Parker said. “We need to have the pace and we know Miami is a great defensive team and they have a great rotation, they’re fast but if we do the first easy pass and move the ball at the end, you know, I think we will get good shots.”
The last 12 times the Heat lost a playoff game, they won the next one. That streak includes last year’s Finals, when the Spurs took Game 1 but lost Game 2 and eventually the series. San Antonio played the season on a mission to get back to this very series and force a different outcome.
Winning Game 2 would be a big step in that direction.
But however they do it, it will not look anything like Game 1.