- Series Hub: Heat vs. Spurs
24 – Manu Ginobili making Gregg Popovich look like the genius he is by starting him (much the same way Mike Miller made Erik Spoelstra look like a hoops Einstein by starting his veteran shooter in Game 4). Manu’s energy and effort early on will likely set the tone for the Spurs, who need a spark after getting handled the way they did in Game 4. Bald spot or not, Ginobili remains a champion and will show a champion’s heart in this game. Guaranteed.
23 – Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh are absolutely going at it in the post. You have to wonder how this series might have gone for the Heat if Bosh had played like this in Games 1, 2 and or 3 … he doesn’t have to get the better of Duncan. He needs only make Duncan work overtime (they are trying to front him on every offensive possession) for his offensive touches and put the pressure on him to defend Bosh in a similar manner on the other end of the floor.
22 – The Spurs’ balance is ruling the day early. They open a 10-point lead late in the first quarter bolstered by said balance and some great defensive work … make that a 12-point lead after another fantastic stop and scramble that results in a Kawhi Leonard dunk with 60 seconds to play. Their 29-17 lead was really 5-on-3. The only Heat players to score until the final seconds of the quarter were Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Ray Allen scored the Heat’s only other basket
21 – Leonard has been exposed as a no-frills performer, rivaling Duncan for the title of the most boring (in a good way) player in this series. But how anyone can watch this guy work on both ends of the floor and conclude that he’s anything other than a star in the making is beyond me. He’s been spectacular working against LeBron basically the entire series. His 3 from the corner pushes the lead to 32-19 at the end of the first quarter.
20 – Danny Green for 3 … again. Welcome back to The Finals roller coaster folks. This series swings so wildly in one direction or the other on a given night that it’s impossible to get a feel for which team has any real rhythm. I don’t know if that’s a credit to the team that’s hot or an indictment of the team that’s getting torched. Either way, it makes for spectacular viewing. Green has tied Allen’s record for 3-pointers made in The Finals (22), with a shot over Allen, and we’ve got more than six minutes until halftime.
19 – The Spurs have absolutely no one who can cover LeBron in the post consistently, just as the Heat have no one who can cover Duncan in the post consistently. At least no one can single-cover either one of them on a regular basis. If we get another close game it’ll be interesting to see if Popovich or Spoelstra goes there on a final play.
18 – Parker with a sweet drive and finish to wrap up a breakneck first half for both teams. Spurs are shooting a wicked 62 percent in the first half with four of the five starters in double figures already and the fifth (Leonard) has nine. Loving the bounce back on both sides. Pop says it best, “this game is a big boy game.” The fact that both coaches continue to implore their guys to crank up the tempo is perhaps my favorite part of this series. It’s rare that you see teams willing to play to what could be the others strength on purpose. Supreme confidence on both sides. Splendid.
17 – Jay-Z comes up with three minutes of funky stuff, coming July 4, at the end of an instant classic first half that sends Twitter and Facebook into a frenzy.
16 – Shot of the night: Duncan sitting on the ground in the hallway at halftime hanging with the kids. Happy Father’s Day to all of you Dads out there.
15 – Not a single rebound for LeBron at halftime. It’s no big deal for a guy who can easily grab 10 or more in the second half. But it’s strange for him to go all Brook Lopez on us in a game like this.
14 – The Heat run with defense, steals, transition baskets and the lead is down … Parker with the layup and Green snaps Allen’s record for 3-pointers in The Finals with No. 23 and a 66-60 lead. Allen’s stink face on the Heat bench wasn’t about his record falling, it was acknowledgement that Green is officially in the “Stink Face Shooters Club.” Green is getting some great open looks as the Heat continue to fall asleep on their rotations on the defensive end. The Spurs, and Green in particular, are taking complete advantage of the Heat’s split-second laziness on that end.
13 – The thing I love about the Spurs is that they are at their very best in their default setting, when they are just executing their offense and moving the ball and executing at a high level. The Heat are more entertaining when they get cranked up, but they thrive when they play outside the box with LeBron and Wade creating for themselves and everyone else.
12 – Green with the defensive stop on LeBron in transition leads to a Parker runner on the break at the other end. Great work by Green, contesting the shot before LeBron could get off of the ground, and the frustration seems to be mounting for LeBron, who looks to the officials after almost every shot now looking for a call. Someone argued me down yesterday about LeBron being a big cry baby. I suggested that he, like Shaquille O’Neal before him, is one of those rare, physically gifted stars who often takes an unfair pounding because of those physical gifts. But he is whining a bit tonight.
11 – The Spurs have gotten basically everything they’ve wanted in this game and they are up just four, 74-71 late in the third quarter. The Heat just keep walking through these punches and still coming at the Spurs. Has to make you nervous as a Spurs fan, no, just a little bit?
10 – Who needs the best point guard in basketball anyway? Spurs go on a Manu-fueled 12-1 run, seven of those 12 coming from he-who-was-supposed-to-be-washed-up. That’s 20 points and nine assists for Old Man Manu through three quarters, who finished off that run with a driving layup with his right hand with 2.6 seconds left. Not bad for a guy with one foot in the hoops retirement home. “Manu, Manu …” chants are well deserved on this night.
9 – When’s the last time LeBron got one of those trailing-from-behind chase-down blocks he’s famous for? Seriously, that’s been a staple of his game. But he’s not sprinting back on defense after misses, his own or anyone else’s. He jogs back after missing a baseline jumper and barely crosses the 3-point line on a defensive possession as the Spurs increase their lead to 14.
8 – Spurs have cranked this one open by refusing to allow James and Wade to finish at the rim. Simple as that. They are blocking all angles to the rim and getting out and running on the end. A Leonard 3, a Duncan putback of a Green 3 that bounces wide and the lead is up to 19 now. That run going back to the third quarter is 19-1. Simply stunning the swings in this game and really in this entire series are. Honestly never seen anything like this in The Finals — two teams trading places like this game after game.
7 – Pop doing hilarious things in the huddle again: “Pound the rock … Pace, pace, pace … It’s not supposed to be easy … Give them some adversity … Knock the stuffing out of ‘em.” The Spurs don’t need any reminders. They are up 20 and trying to blitz the Heat out of this thing with plenty of time left in the fourth. Still not sure this lead is big enough.
6 – The Heat spent what seemed like half of their 66-win regular season rallying from double-digit leads to steal games they should have lost. They cranked up a quick 9-2 run after going down 20 to give the impression that they might have one more in them …
5 – Duncan with the pretty spin move and layup over Bosh. Manu with a sweet fade away from the wing to jab the Heat again. #throwbackmoves … Spurs’ Big 3 carrying the load in the final minutes here. Just absolutely battling.
4 – Allen has conceded his 3-point record to Green but he’s doing everything he can to help the Heat come back and try to steal this game. Heat trail 109-101 after Wade knocks down the second of two free throws with 1:37 to play. Nine straight for the Heat to make these Spurs fans pull their hair out.
3 – And just like that, Parker (layup) and Green (corner 3) snuff out that run and push the lead back to double digits (114-103). Beautiful work from the Spurs’ MVP and their MOP in The Finals. That’s a record 25 made 3-pointers (six tonight) in The Finals.
2 – This was Manu’s night. Finishes with a season-high 24 points and 10 assists. He was huge. Pop’s decision to start him was gigantic. DDG did work again, bringing this thing full circle since he joined the Spurs’ regular rotation and starting lineup because an injured Ginobili couldn’t go. The Spurs need another dose of these two, and more, if they want to avoid a Game 7 on the Heat’s home floor. But if you’re going to pick any team to close out a series on the road it has to be the Spurs.
1 — Heat won 27 straight games this season and now they can’t win two in a row. Their entire season comes down to the streak after all. Win two in a row or face another summer like 2011.