- Heat vs. Spurs: Finals Hub
MIAMI – The way these Miami and San Antonio teams are constructed, it’s likely that the 2013 Finals will be decided by part or all of somebody’s Big 3.
Just as long as it isn’t the NBA’s Big 3 – the three guys with whistles policing the action.
Evaluated in players’ terms, the Game 1 crew of Monty McCutchen, Tony Brothers and Jason Phillips didn’t exactly fill up the box score Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. They assessed only 24 personal fouls, the fewest in Finals history by a considerable margin. On June 7, 2007, the Spurs (15) and LeBron James‘ Cleveland Cavaliers (16) combined for just 31 fouls. Five nights later, they nearly matched that with 32.
Each team was called for just 12 fouls, breaking the mark of 13 shared by the Lakers (in a 1988 Finals game against Detroit) and the Spurs (against New York en route to the 1999 title).
It’s not entirely clear whether the Spurs and the Heat played clean, finesse basketball, the refs Thursday let some contact slide or some combination of the two. But fewer whistles makes for a relatively breezy game, whether participating or viewing. And from the sound of it, the players are fine without undue clock stoppages and trudges to the foul line.
“You just hope they’re consistent more than anything,” San Antonio’s Tim Duncan said before his team’s practice session Saturday. “Consistency is all we’re kind of worried about. If you go out there and get a ticky-tack foul, and [then] get beat up on one, those things are frustrating.
“The Finals are usually a lot more physical and you get away with a bit more than you do in the regular season. I think everybody understands that and is okay with that.”
Based on regular-season performance, this didn’t figure to be a whistle-heavy series. San Antonio, averaging 17.4 personals per game, committed fewer fouls than any other team in the league, while Miami ranked 23rd at 18.7 fpg. Only five Heat players and three Spurs fouled out of games during the season; in the playoffs, it’s three and none.
The teams shot 35 free throws, 18 by Miami, 17 by the Spurs. This season, the Heat ranked 10th (23.0) in average free throw attempts, while San Antonio was 21st with 21.0.
Miami’s Ray Allen, who prefers to score his points three at a time anyway, said most players prefer fewer whistles.
“I’d rather there be no calls made,” Allen said. “We all can adjust to that, as opposed to not knowing if you’re being over-aggressive. One thing offensively about this league is, guys are going to come at you [with the ball] and there’s a point where you have to hold your ground. Sometimes you’re trying to decide, ‘Do I open up or do I stand there? And if I stand there, am I going to be called [for] a foul?’ I’d definitely have it be a more physical game where the referees just let us play.”