Posts Tagged ‘Danny Green’

Spurs belong with all-time elites


VIDEO: Tim Duncan on the court after winning his fifth championship in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – If you ask the San Antonio Spurs about the greatest sports dynasty of our time, they’ll probably caution you not to rush to judgment.

After all, they might not be finished.

When the Spurs put the finishing touches on the destruction of the Miami Heat on Sunday, with one last whipping in Game 5 of The NBA Finals, maybe the only thing more impressive than their sheer dominance of the two-time defending champion was the simple fact that the Spurs, inexorably, keep on winning.

Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs’ taciturn forward who was named The Finals MVP, was only 7 years old when his teammate Tim Duncan raised the same trophy over his head in 1999, when the Spurs won their first title by beating the New York Knicks. Through the interim, the Los Angeles Lakers have risen and fallen and risen and fallen again, and now lie in a ditch so deep they might need more than a long rope to climb out. The Boston Celtics resurrected their past glory for a few shining seasons but have now fallen on hard times. The would-be contenders, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, have changed cities and, in one case, changed names.

The Spurs have changed, too, from a deliberate, rugged team built on a foundation of tough, unyielding defensive chops to a work of offensive artistry that emphasizes quickness, ball movement and 3-point shooting.

What’s stayed the same is an organizational philosophy that promotes professionalism, selflessness and sacrifice. It is those core beliefs, and the way they have been carried out over so many years, that have produced the five championships that solidify San Antonio’s case as one of North America’s greatest sports dynasties ever.

When asked by ESPN’s Stuart Scott the biggest difference between the two titles, 15 years apart, Duncan gave the simplest and most accurate answer: “Fifteen years, probably?” (more…)

For Ginobili, a slam and sweet redemption

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Play of the Day: Manu Ginobili muscles past Ray Allen and slams over Chris Bosh

SAN ANTONIO – If a year’s worth of bottled-up anger, frustration and guilt could be flushed in a single play, Manu Ginobili accomplished it Sunday night with a powerful drive against Ray Allen, finished by a thunderous, mouth-agape, left-handed throw-down over Chris Bosh.

The AT&T Center erupted with such force that shockwaves were surely felt in Ginobili’s native Argentina.

Earlier in the season, the 36-year-old Ginobili tried such a maneuver and strained a hamstring. Just a few weeks ago against Oklahoma City, he did it again and got blocked, badly, as he recalled it. His San Antonio Spurs teammates teased him.

“They actually made me promise that I wasn’t going to try that again, and I said, ‘Yes, I won’t try that again,’” Ginobili said following the Spurs’ Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat that clinched the franchise’s fifth championship and fourth of the Big Three era. “But in the heat of the battle with the adrenaline pumping and the situation — really, I don’t know what happened.

“I went hard and once I was in the air, I felt like I had a shot, and I tried.  I think it helped me, and it helped the team too to get pumped up.”

Watch the replay. Tim Duncan might never have smiled so big. He practically burst into laughter as his 38-year-old legs bounded down the floor, his giant hand giving Ginobili’s head a playful I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw push.

“It’s so nice. It’s hard to explain. I’m not skilled enough to explain properly how we feel,” Ginobili said in the aftermath of his 19-point, four-rebound, four-assist effort in little more than 28 minutes. “Not only me, I’m pretty sure that Tony [Parker] and Tim [Duncan] and Pop [coach Gregg Popovich] feel the same way. Last year was a tough one for all of us. We felt like we had the trophy, that we were touching it, and it slipped away.  It was a tough summer. We all felt guilty. We all felt that we let teammates down.

“But we work hard. We fought every game in the regular season trying to get better to have the same opportunity again. We got to this spot, and we didn’t let it go.”

A mess of turnovers stressed by mental and physical fatigue a year ago, Ginobili was a stabilizing force throughout this postseason. In the first round when the Spurs were caught off-guard by the Dallas Mavericks and taken to seven games, Ginobili was their best player.

Throughout the title run that then went through Portland, Oklahoma City and finally Miami, Popovich often called upon his super sixth man early in first quarters and sometimes started him in third quarters to either change momentum or sustain it. Popovich did both in Game 5.

Just three minutes, 19 seconds into Game 5, with the Heat off to an 8-0 start, Ginobili subbed in for Danny Green and immediately fed Duncan, who got to the free-throw line. A few minutes later, Ginobili drove and got fouled, completing a 3-point play. On the next possession, he drained a step-back 3-pointer, scoring six points in 21 seconds and getting the Spurs right back in the game after falling behind 22-6.

“He did a great job,” point guard Tony Parker said.

If the NBA awarded its MVP trophy to the best player over the course of the entire playoffs and not solely for The Finals — like the NHL does with the Conn Smythe award — Ginobili would be high on the list.

He averaged only 25.5 minutes a game, but was tied for third on the team in scoring, with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, at 14.3 points a game. His 4.1 assists per game were just behind Parker’s 4.1, and he shot 39 percent from beyond the arc (41-for-105).

Ginobili, who a year ago questioned his ability to put his aches and pains behind him, sat at the dais Sunday night like a new man, proud, satisfied and a champion yet again.

“I’m at a real high right now,” Ginobili said. “I feel so happy and lucky to be on this team.”

Game 5: Duncan close to one for the thumb

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Tim Duncan talks with Steve Smith about being on the cusp of a fifth title

SAN ANTONIO – The Miami Heat played their two best games of the NBA Finals on the Spurs’ home floor. If not for LeBron James exiting the final minutes of Game 1 with cramps, they might have headed home up 2-0. So much has changed since then. The Spurs embarrassed Miami, not once, but twice, to push the Heat to the brink. Miami’s only hope is to regain their form the last time they were here.

The Basics:

Game 5 tips off Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Prior to this year’s format change, the Heat would be playing this Game 5 on their home floor, but considering how lousy they played at the American Airlines Arena, they might feel more at home with their backs against the wall on the road.

They have little to fall back on now. Their 13-game streak of winning after losing is history. The last time they lost three in a row came back in the 2011 Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the team that raised the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the Big Three’s first season together. Could a Spurs victory end that era?

It certainly sounded on Saturday as if a Spurs victory will extend that Big Three’s era at least another season. Tim Duncan, potentially headed for a fifth championship and a Finals MVP at age 38, as well as 36-year-old Manu Ginobili, playing so well this entire postseason, gave no indication on Saturday that they plan to call it a career, in fact just the opposite. Adding to that, coach Gregg Popovich, the NBA’s Coach of the Year, said he has no plan to walk into the sunset just yet. However, there’s still the matter or wrapping up a fourth championship with Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker.

The Narrative:

The best player in the world is getting clobbered by criticism and the best team in the NBA the last two seasons is suddenly being downgraded as a group of individuals that don’t play within a team concept. Both accounts are nonsense. Yes, the Heat was built on the backs of superstar talent, but they have always played as a team. James is one of the most unselfish players in the game, often criticized for passing to an open teammate instead of shooting in the final moments. It can’t go both ways.

The fact is the Heat are being beaten by a playing better than they are, by the best passing, most efficient offense the league has seen likely since the 1980s with Magic Johnson‘s Lakers and Larry Bird‘s Celtics. The true weakness at the moment for Miami is that it’s not getting as many solid performances from up and down the roster as are the Spurs. Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade have struggled in recent games and Miami’s role players aren’t delivering with the juice of Spurs players such as Danny Green, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. (more…)

GameDay Live: Heat-Spurs Game 4


VIDEO: Old man River Walk (Tim Duncan) and the Spurs looked just as good away from home in The Finals

MIAMI – Didn’t see it coming.

None of us did.

Not like this.

Not from the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat.

Not like this.

In the span of eight quarters the Spurs took the Finals and flipped it upside down and inside out, pushing their lead to 3-1 after Thursday night’s 107-86 thrashing of the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. The best road team in the NBA this season showed themselves to be every bit of the juggernaut away from home that their record indicates they should be.

All that’s left is the close out. It could come as early as Sunday night in San Antonio, provided the Spurs keep this up. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals (0-31). No team has won consecutive road games by 15 or more points in The Finals … until now.

History will be made in this series, one way or another.

But I promise, no one saw this coming.

No one!

The Spurs didn’t.

And the Heat certainly didn’t see it coming!

Revenge of the Spurs

Tony Parker said he likes the term “rematch” better. Call it what you want. But two straight beatdowns on the road gives the Spurs the right to call it whatever they want.

(more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 164) The Finals … Live on location in Miami

MIAMI – The differences between Miami and San Antonio are striking, in so many ways.

But these days, 32 points is what separates the two combatants in these NBA Finals …

Well, that and the fact that in San Antonio the Hang Time Podcast crew was scattered for the first two games. For Game 3 and Thursday’s Game 4, however, we’re back together here near South Beach and delivering our own insights on what went down and what’s next for both teams.

Will Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green help the Spurs to another win on the Heat’s home floor? Can LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh bounce back and even this series up? Does Derek Fisher have any chance of succeeding in New York?

We also weigh in on the news that the New York Knicks have finally found their new coach (congrats Phil Jackson) and commence the search for Lang Whitaker‘s lost luggage (and mine, too).

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, we find out how long it takes Rick Fox (the self-proclaimed most interesting man in the basketball/entertainment world) to sweat through a linen shirt in the South Florida sun?

Dive in for the answers on Episode 164 of the Hang Time Podcast: The Finals … Live on location in Miami:

VIDEO: The Hang Time Podcast crew on Biscayne Bay the morning after Game 3 of The Finals

 

Time after time, it’s on Spurs’ side

Gregg Popovich has always kept a close eye on his players' minutes. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Gregg Popovich has always kept a close eye on his players’ minutes. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

This is when it pays off, all that commitment to the philosophy, unwavering belief, downright stubbornness.

It’s about time.

Then again, it always is with Gregg Popovich, who watches the minutes and seconds more than any other numbers in the box score.

So here were the Spurs, hardly out of the woods going into the last 5:40 of Game 3, and there were Tim Duncan and Tony Parker taking seats on the bench.

It was a night when Kawhi Leonard gave the world a glimpse into San Antonio’s future when the Big Three eventually walk into the sunset, and when Danny Green delivered another one of those do-nothing-wrong efforts. But in truth it was simply one more example of why the Spurs are back for a second straight Finals appearance — because they’ve watched the clock and taken care of their time.

Every coach, every organization talks about the importance of having a solid supporting cast. But nobody really walks the walk like Popovich, who became the first coach in NBA history to finish a season without a single player averaging 30 minutes per game.

“Guys really get screwed playing for me,” Popovich said after a practice a couple of weeks ago in the Western Conference finals against the Thunder. “It hurts their stats.”

But it helps their win total as the Spurs won an NBA-best 62 regular season games and have continued churning through the playoffs.

A year ago, it was whispered in some corners that the Spurs made it to The Finals because their biggest obstacle, OKC, was missing Russell Westbrook, who was injured in the first round of the playoffs. You could hear the whispers rising again this year when the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka was believed to be sidelined for the playoffs as the Spurs built a 2-0. But Ibaka came back and the Thunder quickly tied the series. Then the Spurs showed their superiority in winning the next two games, coming from behind at halftime in the clincher without an injured Parker.

The Spurs are back here because they are the deepest team in the league and credit for that goes to gathering the talent. But it also goes to Popovich’s steadfast adherence to his belief in conserving energy and playing time anywhere that he can. It could be November in a nationally televised game in Miami or March on a night when his team is getting blown out early in the third quarter.

“Pop has his rules, has his ways and he doesn’t change when it comes to our playing time,” Parker said.

“Sure, there are times during your career when everybody would like to stay on the court and keep on playing because you’re having a great game,” Manu Ginobili said. “But you can’t argue with the results. Since I have been on this team, we have won three championships and now we are in The Finals for the fifth time. Pop is doing something right.”

He’s got a team built around a 38-year-old Duncan, 36-year-old Ginobili and 32-year-old Parker able to stand eye-to-eye with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat because he has kept a tight leash on his stars’ minutes and given their supporting cast so many opportunities to thrive.

Duncan barely hit the 30-minute mark in Game 3, Parker played 33 and Ginobili 27. But the 24-year-old Leonard was turned loose for 39 minutes and Boris Diaw went for 37.

Whether it’s Patty Mills coming off the bench as the backup point guard or Tiago Splitter riding a yo-yo string in and out of the starting lineup, they have all been entrusted with responsibility during the regular season that has kept everyone fresh and bred a confidence that there is little or no drop-off. Opponents don’t just have to beat the Big Three, but everybody up and down the active 12-man roster.

You could watch when Duncan and Parker were sitting side by side on the bench as they entered the last 5:40 of Game 3 and see the same ball movement, the same crisp passing, the same poise from their replacements. Duncan and Parker would return after both getting a two-minute rest. During their break, the Spurs’ lead increased by a point.

This team, built for the long haul, always looking ahead to late June, now has a 2-1 lead, but with eyes set on what it could take to survive another long series. So if it gets back to Games 6 or 7 again and Popovich finally has to turn loose Duncan, Parker and Ginobili to go the distance, some might say it’s about time for the Spurs.

That’s because it always is.

Film Study: Spurs swing and attack


VIDEO: GameTime: Role players shape Game 3

MIAMI – The ball did not stick in Game 3. And the results were remarkable.

After his team lost Game 2 of The Finals on Sunday, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remarked how the ball “stuck” too much in his team’s offense.

According to SportVU, the Spurs made exactly the same number of passes in Game 2 (337) as they did in Game 1, and on fewer possessions (88 vs. 95). But some passes are better than others, especially against the Miami Heat defense. When you say the ball sticks, you could mean that it sticks in one guy’s hands or that it sticks to one side of the floor.

In the first half of Game 2, the Spurs swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other with a pass just 19 times (on 46 possessions). They were passing, but they didn’t necessarily move the ball effectively. Here’s an example of a possession where the ball was passed four times, but stayed on the right side of the floor.

In the first half of Game 3, the Spurs swung the ball from side to side with a pass 30 times (on 44 possessions), which led to a relentless attack of the paint.

Monday’s Film Study noted the Heat’s ability to close out on shooters and force the Spurs’ into 23 mid-range shots in Game 2. On Tuesday, the Spurs attempted just eight mid-range shots, the same number as they attempted in their Game 1 victory.

When the ball is coming from the other side of the floor, closing out on shooters is tougher. The Heat’s weak-side defenders are generally in the paint, ready to help on a drive or cut. So when the ball is reversed, they have a longer distance to travel than if the ball is coming from the top of the key or the same side of the floor. They may get to the 3-point line, but their momentum keeps them from being able to stay in front of their man as easily.

And when the defender is coming from far way with that momentum, attacking those close-outs is easier. With the ball moving from side to side on Tuesday more than it did on Sunday, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green went right at the Heat’s recovering defenders.

Here are a few examples…

Play 1: Swing and attack

The ball movement wasn’t crisp on the Spurs’ third possession of the game, in part because they were trying to take advantage of a mismatch – Mario Chalmers guarding Leonard. But once they saw that they couldn’t get the ball to Leonard in the post, the ball swung from the right side of the floor to the left. And when the ball came back to the right side, Leonard had just enough of a lane to the paint…

20140611_leonard_1_1

Leonard drew a foul on Chalmers on the play, but also could have hit Tony Parker for an open 3 in the left corner…

20140611_leonard_1_2

Play 2: Got him with the rocker

A few possessions later, the Spurs quickly swung the ball from the left side of the floor to the right, and then reversed it back to Leonard at the top of the key. With 16 seconds left on the shot clock, the Heat were already scrambling, with LeBron James having totally lost contact with Leonard and Dwyane Wade forced to switch out …

20140611_switch_1

Leonard looked to swing the ball to Green, but James recovered well enough. Wade displayed some great awareness to see James on the baseline and know that he had to go guard Leonard. And because Leonard first looked to pass (and because Chris Bosh also hedged over), Wade was able to get in front of him. But a simple rocker move got Wade leaning to his left, and Leonard was able to get him on his hip, get into the paint, draw a foul on Bosh, and hit a nifty scoop shot.

Play 3: Green gets in the act

The ball stays on the right side of the floor on this play, but it’s another example of Leonard’s and Green’s attack-the-close-out mentality. After Parker gets a sideline screen from Tim Duncan and takes the ball toward the right corner, he reverses it to Green. Wade closes out and positions himself to force the ball to the sideline …

20140611_green_1_1

… but Green uses Wade’s momentum against him. He attacks that right leg and gets into the paint for a runner.

Play 4: Taking what they give you

The Heat are trying to push the ball to the sideline on their close-outs. They do not want the ball in the middle of the floor, where layups can be had and passes can more easily be made to whoever is open.

We were still in the first six minutes of the first quarter when Parker and Duncan ran a standard high pick-and-roll. A quick pass put the ball in Boris Diaw‘s hands with Ray Allen sinking down to the right block on the weak side…

20140611_green_2_1

Two passes and 1.5 seconds later, the ball was in Green’s hands on the right wing. Allen closed out and, just like Wade, positioned himself to force the ball to the sideline…

20140611_green_2_2

Unlike Wade in the play above, Allen has help in the presence of Duncan and Chris Andersen, who are preventing Green from attacking that right leg. But Green still uses Allen’s momentum to get to the basket. He just goes the other way.

Where the title will be determined

Green set a Finals record with 27 3-pointers in last year’s series. And Leonard’s mid-range shooting has improved quite a bit since he came into the league. But the pair were a combined 12-for-12 in the paint in Game 3, because of how well the Spurs moved the ball from side to side and because of how well they attacked the Heat’s close-outs.

There’s a reason all three Finals Film Studies thus far have been about the Spurs’ end of the floor. The Heat have been solid offensively throughout the series, especially when James has been able to stay on the floor. They’ve scored at least 105 points per 100 possessions in eight of the 11 quarters in which his body didn’t shut down.

In order to win their third straight championship, the Heat will need to get more consistent stops. They’re trying to be only the fourth team in the last 35 years to win a title after not ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. And there’s a reason why only three teams have done it in that span.

Blogtable: What about these Finals?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: No assistants needed | Awesome O, awful D? | Whaddya think now?



VIDEO: The best from the slo-mo Phantom camera in Game 3

> After Game 3 … what strikes you most about this series? Who or what disappoints you so far? What’s exactly what you figured? What’s this thing going to turn on?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll be honest, I get a little preoccupied with how the whistles are going from game to game, because they play such a huge factor in the outcomes. If Kawhi Leonard gets in foul trouble again for a third straight game, who knows how differently Game 3 plays out? I found myself cringing a little as Tim Duncan got stripped of the ball time and again – I don’t want to see him get old overnight and look like Manu Ginobili last year or, dare I say it, Willie Mays falling down at the plate in ’73. Guess I mostly fret my way through these things that we see stellar basketball, that the big names play well and it gets determined by best vs. best. My biggest hunch going forward: We’re going to put the 2-2-1-1-1 changeover to its test.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s the series that a lot of us wanted, needed and deserved. After going the full seven games a year ago, the only thing we could ask was to do it again. These are the best two teams in the league by a long measure and that’s exactly what anybody who’d been paying attention all season long should have known. Disappointed? Are you kidding? Let them play best of 17 or 27 or till training camps open in October. It’s about the Spurs having the will and the ability to move the ball on offense and the Heat being disruptive on defense, getting into the passing lanes, creating turnovers and scoring off them. If Miami can make it the LeBron Show, the Heat three-peat. If San Antonio keeps getting open shots, it’s the Spurs. I’m still picking the latter.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Spurs’ depth and ability to get scoring outbursts from multiple players on any given night is a big, big factor. The Big 3 have each had big games. Kawhi Leonard busted out in Game 3. Tiago Splitter had 14 points in Game 1. Danny Green has played big. Boris Diaw has been a high rebound and assist man, and has the ability to score 18 in the next game. The only real disappointment has been the play of Heat point guard Mario Chalmers. He’s really hurting his team. He’s managed to stay on the floor for only 70 minutes because of this: 3-for-12 shooting, 1-for-5 on 3s, nine assists and nine turnovers. Exactly what I figured is the Spurs would be up 2-1, although, truth be told, I figured they’d take both games at home and then win Game 4 in Miami to go back home up 3-1. What’s this thing going to turn on? All I know is the team that plays the best defense the longest probably has the best chance to win.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No matter how much we’ve seen it over the last 17 years, the Spurs’ offensive brilliance is always striking. The Heat’s trap-help-and-recover scheme can be suffocating when it’s at its best, but Miami just hasn’t been able to keep up. Most disappointing has been the play of Miami’s point guards, who are a combined 7-for-27 (2-for-11 from 3-point range) and haven’t made an impact defensively. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have shot a combined 59 percent (62 percent from 3-point range), and their team has been outscored by 32 points over three games. That means that they need more help from their supporting cast and/or better defense. I still think that this series come down to the Spurs’ end of the floor and the Heat’s ability to stop them from getting the shots they want to get. There’s a reason why only three NBA champions in the last 35 years have ranked outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season like the Heat did this year. You need to get stops to get a championship.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Through three games we’ve seen so much of what I expected from these two NBA titans. But as I (and several others) pointed out before The Finals started, Kawhi Leonard was the one player who could change the temperature of this series in his team’s favor with his play. It took three games for my prediction to look good, but Leonard came through like a champ in Game 3. Leonard and Danny Green continuing to provide the boost they have swings this seriies in the Spurs The thing that surprises me most is that the Spurs have basically handed out two beat downs in this series so far. I know LeBron’s cramps impacted the finish of Game 1. But there was no doubt in Game 3. I didn’t see either one of these teams dominating the other in the fashion we’ve seen the Spurs dominate the Heat, twice already. The biggest disappointment for the Heat has to be the disappearance of Mario Chalmers, who has had his moments in The Finals before but has been disastrous so far this time around.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What strikes me is just how even these games are. There aren’t any huge lessons to learn from game to game — both teams defend well, both teams move the ball on offense, both teams have players who create for each other. To me this series will hinge on the little things, like which team will have bench players who can produce consistently. And maybe that’s the key: consistency. We know what each team does. It may be excellence of execution (shoutout to Bret Hart) that separates the ultimate winner from the loser.

Right & Wrong: Spurs strike back


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Game 3 of the NBA Finals

MIAMI — When you consider that the San Antonio Spurs literally didn’t miss many shots through the first two quarters of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, perhaps it’s not surprising that they came away with a 111-92 win. But in some ways, that nearly 20-point margin is a bit deceiving — during the third quarter the Heat clawed back into the game, and with 1:59 remaining in the third, the Heat were down just 7 points.

But on this night, the Spurs just had too much. Of everything. Particularly of note, they got a star-making performance from Kawhi Leonard, the kind of breakout, big stage game that Spurs fans suspected lurked inside the quiet third-year pro.

Meanwhile, the Heat withstood San Antonio’s flurry of body blows and knockout punches and mounted that second half return, but they just seemed to run out of gas down the stretch.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 3:

Right: Leonard was simply brilliant, on both ends. Offensively, he started quickly, with 10 of San Antonio’s first 18 points. Defensively, he hounded LeBron James all night, and even though the Heat iso’d James repeatedly, Leonard managed to stay out of foul trouble and seemed to relish the challenge of facing James. Coming off of a Game 2 performance where Leonard fouled out and finished with just 9 points, it was exactly the sort of game the Spurs needed from Leonard. “That’s how he’s played all year long,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough. That’s just the way it is.” Some things will never change.

Wrong: With Leonard getting after him and the Spurs defense keying on his every move, James finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds, a fine performance for most players but a noticeable drop-off from the 35/10 he posted in Game 2. James also set a Finals record with 7 turnovers, including 5 in the second half. As James surmised after the game, with a rueful smile, “It’s not surprising that I have a Finals record for something I don’t want to have, you know, so there we go. It’s a new storyline for LeBron.”

Right: In Game 2, no Spurs player other than Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili managed to break double digits in the scoring column. In Game 3, not only did Leonard go off for 29 points, but Danny Green found his stroke to the tune of 15 points with 5 steals to go with that. The Spurs know they’ll get steady production from their big three, but they also need to rely on their complementary players to be able to win this Finals.

Wrong: Simply put, the point guard play from the Heat in Game 3 was a disaster. Starter Mario Chalmers finished with 2 points (and no field goals), 4 assists, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in 22 minutes. His backup, Norris Cole, was only marginally better, going 3-for-9 from the floor. While they aren’t often asked to perform as traditional point guards — James spent most of Game 3 initiating the Heat’s offense — defensively neither Cole nor Chalmers made much of an impact, either. “One thing you can’t control in the game of basketball if a shot goes in or not, but you can control how you defend,” James said. “You can control how much energy you bring to the game, how much effort you bring to the game. If our two point guards do that, we can be okay with that. I know our two point guards, they’re very passionate. They’ve got a lot of pride. And I know they’re looking forward to learning from what they did tonight, and trying to be much better in Game 4.”

Right: Popovich juggled San Antonio’s starting lineup, sitting Tiago Splitter and moving Boris Diaw into the five spot. While Diaw doesn’t provide the same traditional interior presence as Splitter, he makes the Spurs a much more fluid offensive team. He finished Game 3 with 9 points, 5 boards and 3 assists. “Boris has been great all playoffs, in the entire playoffs,” Duncan said. “His ability to attack off the dribble, his passing ability. When they collapsed, he made some great passes, made some great plays, and his ability to finish at the basket as well. So just gave us another attack guy out there. Tiago’s been playing great. He’s finishing at the basket and making plays. But to have someone like Boris who can stretch your floor and make plays like a point guard in there and make decisions and punish them for their rotation, it was big for us.”

Wrong: Considering they were playing their first home game of the 2014 Finals, with a chance to sustain the home court advantage they stole with their Game 2 win, the Heat came out curiously flat. You can’t completely fault them defensively — yes the Spurs got a lot of open looks, but still, shooting 76 percent in the first half is unprecedented. Still, Miami never seemed to equal or overshadow San Antonio’s energy or effort until the second half, and by then they reached a point where they just couldn’t sustain the energy needed to complete the comeback. “What it feels like is The Finals, and you have to deal with all the emotions that happen in The Finals, frustration, anger, pain, elation, all of it, and it can swing back and forth,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “It’s a long series. We have to be able to manage this, and it starts with tomorrow owning it. That will be the process that we all have to go through together, not individually. We have to go through that together and somehow collectively come out with a much better response on Thursday.”

The Finals Stat: Game 3


VIDEO: The Spurs explode for 41 points in the first quarter

The basics
MIA SAS
Pace 90.7 90.7
OffRtg 104.9 116.3
EFG% 57.6% 61.2%
OREB% 16.8% 21.6%
TO Ratio 19.9 17.2
FTA rate 0.267 0.346

MIAMI – The San Antonio Spurs thumped the Miami Heat, 111-92, in Game 3 of The Finals on Tuesday. One stat stood out from the rest as the Spurs took a 2-1 series lead and regained home-court advantage.

The stat

1 - Number of times the Heat defense got consecutive stops in the first half.

The context

The shooting numbers were ridiculous. The Spurs shot 25-for-33 (76 percent) in the first half, hitting seven of their 10 3-point attempts. That’s an effective field goal percentage of 86 percent. Kawhi Leonard (6-for-7) and Danny Green (6-for-6) were on fire.

That’s obviously not sustainable, but the Spurs also got to the free-throw line (17 attempts) and took care of the ball (only five turnovers) in the first half. Their 71 points came on just 44 possessions. And it took 38 possessions (and more than 20 minutes) for Miami to finally get two stops in a row.

20140610_sas_1h_poss

After they did that, the Spurs proceeded to score 11 points on their final six possessions of the half. They hit some ridiculous shots, but also got good shots.

They had almost four times as many attempts in the paint (18) as they had from mid-range (5). For the game, San Antonio took just eight shots from mid-range, the same number they attempted in their Game 1 victory. In their Game 2 loss, they took 23 mid-range shots.

The Spurs made a change in the starting lineup, replacing Tiago Splitter with Boris Diaw. Their original starting lineup had played only 12 total minutes in the first two games, so it wasn’t a major adjustment. But the Spurs’ offense has always been better with Diaw on the floor, so the offensive explosion can’t be completely dismissed as a coincidence.

The Spurs aren’t going to shoot this well again, but the Heat do have to figure out a way to get stops. This was their worst defensive season since they came together in 2010, and they’ve got to find a new level soon.

Spurs’ first-half shot chart
20140610_sas_1h

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA