Film Study: Spurs Lock Down In The Fourth

MIAMI — Game 1 of The Finals was one of the best played playoff games you will ever see. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs committed just 13 combined turnovers and 24 combined personal fouls, a Finals record.

But the Spurs took a 1-0 series lead, in part because Tony Parker hit a ridiculous shot and in part because they held down the Heat’s offense in the fourth quarter.

The Heat scored just 16 points on 22 possessions in the final 12 minutes, the only time either team was held under a point per possession in any of the four periods. LeBron James was off the floor for the first 2:59 of the fourth, but Miami still scored just 12 points on 16 possessions after he checked back in.

Those 16 possessions were largely a result of the defensive improvement the Spurs have undergone this season. After an evaluation of what defensive numbers were really important, they improved from No. 11 in defensive efficiency last season to No. 3 this year. And they’ve held their opponents under a point per possession in 11 of their 14 playoff games leading into The Finals.

They forced the Heat into 5-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter (which made for a very bloody shot chart), as well as five turnovers (four of which were live-balls). It was great defensive work by all five guys on the floor, but the Heat also hurt themselves with some sloppiness and poor decisions.

Here are five noteworthy stops from the final seven minutes…

Possession No. 10 – 6:52 left – Bosh misses a three

James attempted just four of his team’s 18 shots (plus two free throws) in the fourth quarter. And if you want to question his aggressiveness, this is the play to point out.

He comes off a Chris Bosh screen and encounters Tim Duncan outside the paint. The rest of the Spurs – other than Gary Neal, who smartly stays attached to Ray Allen in the corner – are in good help position, ready to help on James or a rolling Bosh.


There are two questions for the Heat on this play. First, does James miss an opportunity to drive past Duncan and get to the rim here? He was 5-for-5 in the restricted area in Game 1, but just 2-for-11 outside it.

Second, shouldn’t Bosh be rolling the basket instead of popping out to the 3-point line? If he rolls, there’s only Parker there to stop him.

Possession No. 13 – 5:20 left – Duncan foils a Wade drive

This is just 10 seconds of terrific help-and-recover defense by the Spurs. First of all, Neal again stays attached to Allen when James screens down. Then Kawhi Leonard helps on Mario Chalmers and recovers back to James, enough to prevent a straight-line drive to the basket.

Duncan helps on James’ drive, recovers back to Chris Andersen, and then helps again when Manu Ginobili closes out a little to hard on Dwyane Wade.

Perhaps James misses an opportunity here to roll to the basket…


Possession No. 14 – 4:48 left – Transition D leads to a turnover

The Heat had nine fast-break points in the first half, but none in the final 24 minutes, and this example of the Spurs’ terrific transition defense was a big reason why. James gets the rebound at 4:48 and tears down the court with three teammates at his side. But the Spurs run back to stop them.

When Chalmers gets the ball in the corner, he’s run off the 3-point line by Leonard. And when he drives baseline (with 20 seconds still left on the shot clock), he’s greeted by three other Spurs.

Ginobili, who had hit the floor on the other end, sprints back and helps prevent an Allen three, with Neal also closing out from the baseline. And then Parker gets to the corner to challenge Chalmers, who coughs the ball up.

You can say that’s an unforced error, because Chalmers just lost the ball. But the possession doesn’t get to that point without a ton of effort from the Spurs.

Possession No. 15 – 4:13 left – Ginobili stops Wade

Sometimes, it comes down to a one-on-one situation. And here, Ginobili does a terrific job of staying in front of Wade on an isolation. Both Leonard and Duncan show Wade that they’re in position to help, but this is just great one-on-one defense. And when Wade surrenders the ball to Chalmers in the corner, Parker smothers him.

The Heat are certainly to blame for taking too long to get into this possession, but not many defenders keep Wade from getting off a shot in that situation.

Possession No. 20 – 1:08 left – Another Bosh three

The Heat run one of their favorite plays, with Allen setting an on-ball screen for James and then flaring out to the left wing.

Parker knows what’s coming and stays attached to Allen, but that gives James a clear path to the lane. Duncan, of course, steps in to stop James, leaving his man, Bosh, wide open at the 3-point line.

Bosh is 6-foot-11, and he took 12 of his 16 shots from outside the paint on Thursday. He was 0-for-4 from 3-point range and seemed content to just float around the perimeter.

Here’s a question for this possession: What happens if Bosh is positioned where the red arrow points to below?


If Bosh is on the baseline, Duncan still has to help on James, who could then hit Bosh for a layup. If Danny Green decides to slide down to help on Bosh, Mike Miller is then wide open in the corner. And Miller from the corner is a better shot than Bosh from the wing.

So, while the Spurs deserve a ton of credit for their fourth-quarter defense, the Heat can certainly help themselves with better decisions. Specifically, they need to provide more of a threat in the paint.


  1. Vishious says:

    Can you guys imagine, this same Miami team playing the 2005 or 2007 spurs team. With that stellar D and the big three in their prime. Spurs would be a no brainer. They play basketball like the way its supposed to be played. Team first.
    If spurs beat Miami, to win the finals. Spurs would seal a legacy.

  2. Ricardo says:

    I would love to see the video clips that are the reason for this article but the 30 second ads are just too much to see every single time

  3. Spurs all-the-way says:

    In 07 I encountered Ohio fans who were also calling Lebron “the greatest player on earth”…….they asked for a sporting wager as a challenge in support of their hero. I accommodated & even uped the antti to a Spurs sweep in 4, they were elated & encouraged even more supporters to “chip in” their ever growing wager pot. You know the results.
    Sure Lebron is better today, who wouldn’t be? But here is the defining factor; Basketball is still a TEAM sport! Spurs are a team, not only a “one man show w/supporting Role players”. Also, the Archilles Heel of Miami is their ever growing EGO. Spurs in a Sweep.

  4. jordanforever says:

    simply as that stop compare jordan to the rest ( lebron and kobe ) jordan never lost a NBA FINALS period, lebron lost 2 so far and looks like its one more to come,LOL kobe lost 2, JORDAN WOULD KILLS THIS SPURS TEAM.

  5. APHX10 says:

    Bosh needs to start off the bench like he did for last years Finals. More effective when he doesn’t feel pressured into trying to do too much. Start with Anderson, Haslem, James, Wade, Chalmers. But give credit to Spurs…they knew every time James was to drive and dump to Birdman, they let Bosh who’s struggling take open shots and he didn’t make them pay, they covered Allen well, it was just great defense.

  6. idenadesno says:

    this is all coach pop’s study of miami, spoelstra coulnd’t outcoach pop neva, eva eva, and thats why spurs are going to win the finals

  7. iljjas says:

    spurs are incredible

  8. Oh & yeah, Let’s not forget the Spurs phenomenal De#####!!!

  9. Lebron-Hater says:

    Shut up MIami,fans!! So many reasons, so many alibis. Spurs won, Heat loss. Move on..
    Lebron will never be champ again..2012 will be his first and last. Mark my word…

  10. J says:

    great article very intresting!!!
    heat in 6!!!

  11. Alan Hollway says:

    I can’t believe you guys criticising Bosh! I am a spurs fan and thought Bosh had a great first half. if the spurs are going to leave bosh open he should make the shot! It adds variety to the Heat and if Allen gets covered by Neal. Somebody has to make the shots you can’t leave it all to James. Bosh and Duncan play different games, Bosh is not physical, so get him doing. what he oes best and for all those Bosh haters he is the 3 point shooting centre in the NBA. I would play the more physical Anderson in centre on Duncan and cover him deep in the paint, play Bosh as power forward adding defensive cover support and tossing in treys when on his own, wade and James as guards and Allen and Battier swapping continually. The Heat big three all played well but they still lost to the spurs who were only shooting 38% if spurs Leonard, Green and Bonner hits some big shots they will be even harder to beat. The heat cannot stop Parker full stop and that’s where it ends. If wade was healthy he should be covering Parker like a blanket and forgetting his own game.

    The X factor – Will Heat find the turbo overdrive extra gear that they often find at will and will the Spurs 3 point shooting give them an even more decisive advantage. Spurs in 5.

  12. lakerslakerslakers says:

    bosh needs to evolve before he becomes extinct like the rest of the dinosaurs

  13. Lebron's Biggest Fan says:

    Lebron made the right plays. His teammates just didn’t make the shot. Why force it? He doesnt care about stats to show people hes the greatest overall player. That doesn’t mean anything to him. Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson were better overall players than Michael Jordan in terms of stats but people considered MJ better cuz he had more rings. That’s what Lebron is aiming for and he’ll get it!

  14. bosh says:

    bosh need to step up his game. he make one basket and start screaming…. come on man… stay in the paint .. the team has enought 3 point shooter and bosh is not one of them

  15. Don't Trip (Spurs Fan!) says:


    First of all I’d like to put on notice all bandwagon fans, fair weather fans in my city included -who r their to get tanked @ celebrations but M.I.A. for the hard last 6 yrs (sweeps, 1st rnd eliminations n all), thank you for your flattery but please get off at the next stop.

    Thank you -signed: bleed silver n black

  16. Series says:

    Lebron did well but the Spurs are on to him and swarmed him with defense every time he got the ball, if his guys got some of the easy shots he opened up for them he could have gone for 18-18-18. Miami would have ideally wrapped up the Indiana series by game 6, I think fatigue both metal and physical was a factor in their 4th quarter fadeout. Because of the finals structure the Spurs now have a huge advantage, if they win the next game they have pretty much won the series, if they lose it the game becomes ” hold on to home court to win.” I’m for Miami, but the worry is THEY ACTUALLY PLAYED WELL in game one. Allen hit three’s , Wade was good Lebron was good, even Bosh was good in the first half, despite this the Spurs didn’t go away.

  17. Tristan says:

    I really enjoyed reading this film study. More please 🙂

  18. john olds says:

    Too many ads to watch the clips.

  19. G QShepp says:

    When you have the best Coach three veteran stars with 14 years of playing together it becomes second nature to win big games and play well. The spurs will come out determined in game two to put the Heat up against the wall and take another win.

  20. Edgarlen says:

    I wonder why they always say where tired we have 7 game series i wonder why they get tired after 2 days pf rest maybe bangup but not tired i just watch 5hours match of rafa vs novac if u watch you know what i mean

    • Magic Jordan says:

      wow! do you play competitive sports at all? Going by your argument, the fittest athletes in the world are probably golfers since they play 6 hours non stop a day for 4 days in a row. And they they do it almost every week.
      Try hitting the gym for a full hour’s high intensity workout for 81 days a year and then some. Come back here when you’re done and then you’re qualified to make your comments.

  21. digitioli says:

    The Spurs had at least 4 bad calls against them in the first quarter and missed 6 bunnies or this game was a blow out. If the refs keep it under a dozen bad calls against them, they’ll win game two. Be ready for some horrific officiating.

  22. Ren says:

    The game could have gone either way yesterday. You can say Parker made a lucky shot, but think of it this way. The more you prepare yourself, the more chance you being lucky. Just like PGA tour player makes more hole in one, than amateur. Overall, I think the Spurs is just a better performing single team unit. It takes time to play as a team like that, and huge amount of trust. Honestly, yesterday Spurs offensive game wasn’t that good. They missed a lot of open shots (3 pointers). Also Ginobli, I feel he was too harsh on himself. Maybe trying too much at some plays. There’s no doubt he’s a big factor and his confidence and courage to take big shots with no hesitation is what I admired of him. But I was not impressed of his rebounding effort yesterday. Can do better than that in the next game, but I am not worried. Ginobli always find way to affect the game even they don’t show on the stat sheet.

    About the Heat, I feel they are more sporatic in team play overall. You can’t change or improve that at this time of the year. It takes time and it takes personality compatibility to play naturally as a team. However, the Heat can be dangerous especially when Lebron gets hot..

    I am a Spurs fan, so I hope and I believe the togetherness of Spurs can bring in the title this year. May the team who exhibit the best team works win !

  23. Steven says:

    I wish everyone would stop pretending Tony Parker hit a game winning shot and saved the spurs from a defeat… yeah it was an amazing shot, but they were already up by 2 when he made it, they would’ve probably still win the game even if he missed it.

    • Tyrone says:

      Game sealing* shot.

    • Angelo says:

      how would you have known that? parker misses, heat calls a time out, spoelstra calls a set play designed for Allen in the corner for 3, heat win by one

      • Angelo, the other says:

        But it did not happen. and even if it did, Allen is not a perfect. unless he has a career 100% three point percentage then he might have done it.

  24. Bryan Beverley says:

    Don’ t watch the ads. Just mute the sound and then read the article until the commercial is finish playing

  25. Interesting article, but: if f 2 of those 3pt shots would have gone in, then you would be saying “how in the world can the Spurs leave Bosh alone in that position?” and “the Heat are genius for leaving a big man out in the perimeter to hit those game-changing threes”.


  26. Lord Force says:

    Why so many ads? This would be great if you didn’t have to watch an ad every time you try to watch a clip. How can I block these?

    • What He Said says:

      just go to the settings of your internet browser and select add-blocker,that’s it

  27. Vanessa says:

    Heat ALWAYS rebounds from a loss and will definitely win game 2. They will win 1 or 2 in SA and then finish off at home. I agree that Spurs is good but Heat is better. Heat wasn’t in great physical shape on Thursday – still reeling from the physical Pacers who wore them down. Spo should play Rashard because he is a good player and limit Bosh’s time……..Bosh is afraid of contact but Rashard isn’t. Dwyane will be fine and will give it his best shot, which will be good enough for us to win. Lebron cannot afford to have so many turnovers in 1 quarter because that is what cost us the game. I know you are tired Heat but just remember we only need to win 4!!!!
    Go Heat!!!!!

    • domesr 210 says:

      the spurs is (are) good but the heat is (are) better??…. the heat did play better than the spurs stat wise but THEY STILL LOST. can u please breakdown exactly how the heat are better than the spurs? if not then please just go practice ur vocabulary.

  28. hipster says:

    Parker hit a great shot, but it wasn’t why the Spurs won. Why do you journalists keep sensationalizing it like it was.

    The Spurs were already ahead by 2 when he hit the shot. Had he missed the Heat would have had less time on the clock and would have had to make a basket to tie it. They didn’t do that.

  29. IndianaFan says:

    Both teams didnt play their best, but thats a credit to their defense and while Miami lost game 1 at home, I doubt there should really be any worry until Game 2 as that is usually the focus of how well the teams will make adjustments

  30. Filipino Idiot says:

    Those are good looks, Bosh is able to make those shots and once he does, Heat is gonna win the game.

  31. Temple Stark says:

    Nice breakdown. I see Spurs improving overall Sunday, with shot % at the very least. It remains to be seen whether Miami can. No doubt James will be more aggressive, but will that be enough?

  32. Heat need to rebound and win game 2!

  33. HC says:

    Great defensive effort by the Spurs and great breakdown of the plays but is it really essential that before every clip there is a commercial? Sure I can sit through one for a clip that lasts a few minutes but when the game tape is shorter it is ridiculous.

    • Tony says:

      Use adblock extension to your browser. I have firefox+adblock – works perfectly. BTW, installed it cause of the NBA website. That 30 sec commercial before 15 sec clip is super ridiculous.

  34. Dethrone says:

    It’s ALMOST crying time…lol. LeBron, Bosh, Dwade.. I will take Popovich over Spoelstra All day..

  35. Uberbunk says:

    agreed no reason at all for Bosh to be shooting 3s …he should be glued to duncan from the 1st to the last second

  36. GSG says:

    the spurs really let bosh shoot 3s widely because they know they can contain him unlike lebron james, but credit to kawhi he did a great job of defending the king.

  37. darko says:

    For how Bosh is used Rashard Lewis would be a much better option. People forget how important usage time, to get a rhythm going, is for some players; in Bosch’s case this is especially true: he gathers momentum, and by endgame he’ll take anybody off the dribble- that is if he’s given enough floor space to work with. At least that’s how it was back in his Toronto days; a similar story might be told for DWade.

  38. matthew g says:

    he was open becuase spurs well let him shoot that all day…..need to make something else happen…but spurs are to good

  39. 1k2k3k4k5k says:

    Great examples of Spurs defense.

  40. Big Al says:

    Bosh should stop punching below his weight. The Heat have a lot of three-point shooters, so his services downtown are not needed. Go stay in the paint and protect the rim like you should. Be the guy that beat the Spurs at home when LeBron and Wade were sidelined.

    • 34yr fan says:

      he beat the spurs by shooting 3’s as a center….he can have those all day long…..and sometimes it wins ball games….but most of the time that type of offense is a possession killer for the heaters

  41. Angelo says:

    Bosh doesn’t like contact. That’s why he floats. Wade doesn’t have a jump shot. That’s why he fake-flops. LeBron doesn’t like being blamed. That’s why he chokes. I’m interested on James’ response about his efficiency. To me it sounded like he doesn’t mind not being a big factor scoringwise and carry the burden offensively to win the game as long as he fills up the stats? or it’s just me?

    • Setsuna F. SeiEi says:

      It’s just you. If you ridicule James’ offense then you disregard Spur’s defense. You’re just a hater. A pathetic being unworthy of your existence. Can’t you give credit to the defensive set-up to the spurs?

      • Angelo says:

        i’m not questioning James’ offense or his ability to make shots. i’m talking about his aggressiveness offensively and his mindset on carrying the Heat’s scoring load especially at times they needed it the most. he’s the best player in the planet! he’s unstoppable! then why not use that? i just think he’s too concern on his stats that he’d rather have a quadruple-double that nobody has ever done for his legacy than to win a game.

    • crefflo says:

      Angelo I have to say Wade doesn’t have it anymore! Bosh’s role has changed and is design for Miami’s system. Center here and there, perimeter here and there. But I couldn’t agree more on the James statement. I think sometimes all the media hype on him being a complete player gets to his head. He tends to get soft on the competitiveness and neglect his winning mentality. He needs to find a balance between responsability of a leader and the habit (he was coached this way since college) of being a team/family first player. Right now the only stat he should be carring about are 32-10-10 instead of 18-10-18

      • Saeed says:

        Yes Creffelo, I agree with you. LeBron has to step up offensively. Neither this series resembles the regular season nor LeBron resembles Dwight Howard.

      • Me says:

        Lebron didnt go to college and play…

      • Rapido_ratrat says:

        yeah thats why kobe is better than him as a winner.he can stand and blame it on me if he fails but he tried his very best to win each game

      • justine says:

        By now, James should realize the hype media is telling about him are exactly what they are. HYPES… he is never near a complete player unless he becomes a good leader on and off the court. not for a quarter, but for the entire 48 min of every game. Imagine if they are playing against a young and dominant Duncan, a young and dangerous Ginobili, a young and much faster Parker.

      • Angelo says:

        All i’m saying is, if you are the best player in the planet today, we know it he knows it, everybody knows it, and you got the ball in your hands with the game up for grabs, what would be your mindset? is it i’m gonna create for my team mates or i’m gonna score every single freaking time! i won’t freaking care if they’re gonna foul me or there will be three of them in front of me!.. that’s called killer instinct. Kobe has it, MJ had it. and that’s what separates him from the all time great winners. he will may be up there somewhere as one of the best player ever played basketball but that’s just it. a player. but being a closer? not really. BTW, being a great clutch performer doesn’t just mean making the winning shot. clutch performers are the MJs, Kobes, Birds, Magics. winning shot makers puts you along with Horry, Kerr and others.

      • alo says:

        justine, i agree with you on most points, but i think parker has actually gotten better because of his improved midrange.

    • PSR says:

      Its just you.

    • rj says:

      in some point you are right about lebron.. he can score more and over power any defense of Spurs because of his size.. like what he did in the game 6 of Eastern finals between Celtics and Heat.