Heat defense pushes Spurs to pass

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the Spurs’ pass-happy offense

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs’ offense has been a thing of beauty all season. But if the ball movement seemed like it reached a new level in Games 3 and 4 of The Finals in Miami … well, it did.

According to SportVU, the Spurs passed the ball 362 times in Game 3 on Tuesday, an average of 4.21 times per possession, their highest mark of the season. And in Game 4 on Thursday, they passed the ball even more, 381 times, or 4.54 times per possession.

This series is a race between the Spurs passes and the Heat’s rotations. And most of the time, it’s been like a race between Usain Bolt and Charles Barkley. Miami’s defense is meant to disrupt the opponent’s offense, but it has essentially pushed the Spurs to do what they do best.

In fact, before Game 3, the Spurs’ highest passes-per-possession mark came on Jan. 26 in … Miami. So the three games that they’ve moved the ball most have been the three games that they’ve played at American Airlines Arena.

Most passes per possession, 2013-14 Spurs

Date Opp. Res. Passes Poss. PPP PTS OffRtg
June 12 @ MIA W 381 84 4.54 107 127.4
June 10 @ MIA W 362 86 4.21 111 129.1
Jan. 26 @ MIA L 381 91 4.19 101 111.0
Jan. 28 @ HOU L 374 90 4.16 90 100.0
May 27 @ OKC L 370 92 4.02 92 100.0
Feb. 12 @ BOS W 364 91 4.00 104 114.3
Mar. 14 vs. LAL W 390 100 3.90 119 119.0
Mar. 24 vs. PHI W 373 96 3.89 113 117.7
Nov. 11 @ PHI W 360 93 3.87 109 117.2
Feb. 18 @ LAC W 381 100 3.81 113 113.0

via SportVU
PPP = Passes per possession
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

Tony Parker knows that he has to share the ball and trust his teammates more against the Heat than he does against other opponents. And once he gets rid of it, it can be like a hot potato, with Boris Diaw acting as a de facto point guard in the middle of the floor. The more the ball moves (especially from one side of the floor to the other), the more likely it is that the Spurs will get an open shot.

There’s no real correlation between how often the Spurs have passed the ball and how efficiently they’ve scored. Games against the Rockets and Thunder in the above list were pretty poor offensive games by San Antonio’s standards. And they’ve had games where they’ve scored efficiently (like Game 7 vs. Dallas and Game 1 vs. Portland) without moving the ball much (2.86 and 2.78 passes per possession, respectively).

But the Heat seem to bring out the Spurs’ best ball movement. If Miami can’t find a way to slow it down in Game 5 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), its season will likely come to an end.


  1. Irene Bravo says:

    Well season did end on game 5. The Miami Heat is exceptional but Popovich trains well all his players. It’s not about getting more stars for Miami, Lebron is amazing, it is about better training and coaching.

  2. jayr says:

    where’s that lbj troll here who keeps on saying on every article that so and so can’t win a championship unless you will join his king James…blah blah… what now?? beaten badly by the aging trio of the Spurs… if lbj wants his third ring, he should join the Spurs.. hahahaha

  3. Benching says:

    Spo trying to imitate Coach Pop? What was he thinking throwing Beasley and Haslem in Game 5?? No team work. Congratz Spurs!!!

  4. Drago says:

    This Spurs team is probably the best team to win it all in the last 10 or more years this is true basketball.I think only that championship Dallas team can shoot like them.

  5. okcDoke2014 says:

    Spurs coast through last two playoff series ! Congrats to old school B-Ball………………………………………..

  6. ton says:

    coach spo, for me please resign as a coach, i’m filipino but i don’t see that you are capable for that position. after you loss on dallas i told that you are the problem handling the player. when you won 2 championship bec your team are too good. now you had good team , its ok to loss with close margin not a blowout score … your defence are hell … always double team so your players use alot energy for that…. dammmm resign , put pat riley there.. please.. miami court boooing the team what is that????

  7. mike mills says:

    mike miller hahaha micky arison is cheapskate sold out the championship to save a few pennies. what on earth did lebron take a paycut for, to make micky a cheapskate???

  8. Pedro mejias says:

    I think is very difficult to win a team like Spurs when they score 70 points in the first half. That is something you only see in playstation 2k13. None can beat Spurs in that level, it is impossible, none even Michael at his best with his best teams. As Lebron said; He has average 27 points and over 50 percent from field and even that they have been losing so hard therefore the chance in terms of % to win this series is 1 in a million.

  9. Nana says:

    Lets go spurs

  10. Geremih says:

    I want heat lost tonight. Spurs

    • Geremih says:

      I want heat lost by spurs win 5 champion Bosh wade James lost tonight crying want get add Carmelo
      Big four Don’t not happend

  11. imisswatchingthethunder says:

    Can’t wait until tonight!