Tag: Gregg Popovich

LeBron James

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in Finals now?


Is there anything Gregg Popovich can scheme, any steps  the Spurs can come up with to slow LeBron James?

That’s the first question Kay Adams throws at me in today’s PBT Extra, one where I am on the phone from San Antonio (right before heading to the airport and Miami). We talk NBA Finals and who has the edge after the first two games.

It has to be Miami, which has yet to lose at home these playoffs. San Antonio has to find a way to steal one on the road.

The problem, as Popovich noted in his press conference, is that you can double LeBron and take the ball out of his hands, but then he finds the open man and someone like Chris Bosh knocks down a key shot. There are no easy, good answers for the Spurs.

LeBron James virtually unstoppable inside, outside, drops 35 (VIDEO)

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs remain the team that better uses their system to extract the most from their players, they are the coach’s dream where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

But the Heat have LeBron James.

That was enough to even the NBA Finals at 1-1. LeBron went off for 35 points on 64 percent shooting and carried the Heat to the Game 2 win.

In the video above you see how LeBron’s game just took what the Spurs gave him. In the first half they were more up in his face, playing him tight, so he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. At halftime the Spurs adjusted, played back on him to take away those drives and he just drained jumper after jumper. What else can the Spurs do?

“Well, you can go double him if you want,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game, when asked why they didn’t. “He’s a pretty good player.  I’m going to guess he’s going to find the open man.”

LeBron did that too, with Chris Bosh in the corner for a three that put Miami ahead for the night.

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in NBA Finals now?

Rashard Lewis becoming key fourth contributor for Miami Heat

2014 NBA Finals - Game One

SAN ANTONIO — Rashard Lewis has been on the big stage before — he dropped 34 points (plus had 11 rebounds and 7 assists) in the NBA Finals as a member of the Orlando Magic.

But that was five years ago. That was a very different Rashard Lewis. The Rashard Lewis of 2014 could barely get off the Heat bench much of the season. He looked to be one of those Heat veteran gambles that didn’t pay off. He didn’t figure in the Heat’s playoff plans…

Until Erik Spoelstra started him at the four to space out the Pacers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It worked.

And it has continued to work in the Finals against the Spurs.

Lewis had 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 3-of-7 from three in the Heat’s Game 2 win. Nobody really saw this coming, but Lewis has taken over the role Mike Miller did for the Heat last year — not in terms of role within in the offense, but in terms of being a trusted fourth scorer and someone who can space the floor with threes.

“Rashard has been huge for us ever since he’s been inserted into our starting lineup, from the Indiana series,” LeBron James said. “He’s been in this position before. He’s been to the Finals with the Orlando Magic. He’s been in huge playoff games, and his experience and ability to knock down shots helps us out a lot. It spreads the floor for us, and every time he catches the ball, we tell him just to shoot it. Don’t think about nothing else besides shooting the ball, and we live with his results.”

Lewis spaces the floor and pulls a potential rim protecting big out of the paint. He’s a pressure release valve, one the Heat have gone to a few times this series.

What’s impressive is that he was ready to go when called upon.

“Rashard at times this year wasn’t playing, but he kept himself ready,” Spoelstra said. “And you can’t just step into an environment if you’re not putting in hours and hours of time behind the scenes.”

Lewis, at age 34, has accepted his role on this Heat team.

And that could be key to the Heat getting a three-peat for Pat Riley.

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in NBA Finals now?

Spurs “beautiful game” offense turned ugly in fourth quarter

2014 NBA Finals - Game Two

SAN ANTONIO — There were points during Game 2 of the NBA Finals where you just had to be in awe of the Spurs ball movement. On one possession they got the ball to Tim Duncan on the right block then he swung it to three point line on the left side, then the ball was whipped the right top, then back to the right block — all in about three seconds.

When the Spurs play like that, it’s the beautiful game.

Then in the fourth quarter they stopped.

“The ball stuck to us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “I think we were trying to do it  we didn’t do it as a group. We tried to do it individually and we’re not good enough to do that.”

San Antonio scored 18 fourth quarter points on 35.3 percent shooting, and they had an offensive rating of just 90 points per 100 possessions in that frame. The Spurs were up one with less than three minutes to go, they got some stops, but they just couldn’t get the ball inside or score.

That cost them Game 2.

Miami made one key defensive switch in the fourth quarter — they put LeBron James on Tony Parker. His size took the focal point of the Spurs offense out of the game, he was 1-of-2 shooting for 3 points with one assist in the final frame. LeBron also didn’t need help on Parker, which allowed the other Heat defenders to stay at home with their men. Also, Miami switched a lot more picks in this game, which threw the Spurs off it seemed.

But that still shouldn’t have negated the Spurs’ ball movement like it did.

“We stopped the ball,” Manu Ginobili said. “Against a team like them, we are not going to score much if we do stop the ball… But, yeah, there are moments where we forget what got us to where we are now. It happened also in Game 1. The only thing that we were perfect for moments in Game 1.”

Take a look at the Spurs possessions in the final 4:30 of the game:

• Danny Green misses driving, twisting, contested lay-up.

• Ginobili missed a deep three he had to race up because the shot clock was about to expire.

• Parker hit a three pointer — Ginobili drove and got into the paint, the defense collapsed and he kicked it out to Parker. Chris Bosh was hesitant and slow on the close out. (That shot put the Spurs up one with 2:25 left).

• After the Spurs first couple actions got nowhere Parker drove the ball in but got stripped by LeBron. The Spurs retained the ball but with just 0.8 seconds left they did not get off a good look.

• Ginobili made a hard pass inside to a cutting Duncan, but it bounced off his hands out of bounds.

• Ginobili missed a step-back 18 footer.

• The Spurs got a Ginobili three at the buzzer to make it just a two-point loss.

Notice with those shots, not one was in the paint. Green missed his and Parkers’ three came off penetration and a kick-out.

Miami did well overall on defense, their rotations were sharper and they played with much more aggression. Heat coach Eric Spoelstra had said they just needed to do what they normally do for a full game, and to do it harder. Miami was far better defending the pick-and-roll and cutting off penetration before it got going.

“We had to take the challenge one-on-one and do a better job with that, contain the pick-and-rolls two-on-two to give our backside defense more help and more opportunities to make plays,” Chris Bosh said.

The question for the Spurs is how they adjust — you can bet LeBron will be back on Parker for key stretches, that can’t kill the ball movement.

For the Heat, the question is consistency — they haven’t done that these playoffs. They have been great for stretches but not entire games, or after a good one they have a bad one. Miami can’t do that against San Antonio.

We will get our answers Tuesday night.

Mario Chalmers picks up flagrant foul elbowing Tony Parker (VIDEO)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Two

SAN ANTONIO — The game was not decided with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter.

But when San Antonio looks back at blown opportunities in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, this sequence will come to mind.

Mario Chalmers (who has struggled these Finals) was driving the lane when he elbowed Tony Parker in the gut. After the game LeBron James and other Heat players tried to say that the elbow was inadvertent, it certainly didn’t look like that to me. That was intentional and deserved a flagrant.

Tony Parker went to the line and missed both.

“(Pain from the blow) definitely affected me but I’m a little frustrated, should have made them,” Parker said after the game.

San Antonio got the ball out of bounds, ran a play where Tim Duncan got the ball in the paint and was fouled while shooting. He went to the line and then missed his shots.

Four missed free throws on one play.

At the other end, LeBron James knocked down a three.

San Antonio had been up two and could have been up six, instead one possession later they were behind by one.

It was a blown opportunity.