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.
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.