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
|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|
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.