Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Film Study: Spurs on a string

VIDEO: Through the Lens: Finals Game 4

MIAMI — The 2014 Finals have turned into a thorough beatdown. The Miami Heat have won a game by two points, while the San Antonio Spurs have won games by 15, 19 and 21.

They got help from LeBron James‘ cramps in Game 1 and had a flukey shooting performance in Game 3, but were still the better team through the first 144 minutes. And Game 4 was their most complete performance yet.

Except for a couple of ugly quarters, the Spurs’ offense has been humming all series. On Thursday, they were just as good on defense.

James scored 28 points in Game 4, but 19 of those came in the second half, when the Spurs had the game well in hand. They held the Heat to just 36 points on 43 possessions in the first half and basically shut down James’ supporting cast … until James Jones hit four straight shots in garbage time. It was Miami’s worst offensive game of the postseason.

The Heat are the best finishing team in the league. In the regular season, they led the league by shooting 68.0 percent in the restricted area. Through the first three rounds, they were shooting even better than that at the basket and they were solid in the paint through the first three games of The Finals.

But in the first half on Thursday, the Heat had almost as many turnovers (7) as points in the paint (8), where they shot a miserable 4-for-15.

On a string from the start

The first possession of the game foreshadowed exactly what was to come for the next 48 minutes. It was five guys on a string helping each other, closing off the paint, recovering out to the perimeter, keeping the Heat from getting an open shot, and, eventually, forcing a turnover.

The possession started with a Mario Chalmers/LeBron James side pick-and-roll, with Kawhi Leonard sitting back at the foul line, where he can help on Chalmers, but also get back to James. Every other Spur was ready to help…


After Chalmers swung the ball to Dwyane Wade, he got a sideline screen from Rashard Lewis, and there was Tim Duncan, at the block, cutting off the paint…


Wade squeezed by Duncan under the basket, but had no shot on the other side of the rim, because Leonard sunk down to prevent it…


When Wade kicked the ball out to James, Boris Diaw rotated out from the corner. James saw it coming and immediately got the ball to Chris Bosh, but there was Leonard again, closing out…


Bosh attacked the close out and got by Leonard, and there was Duncan again…


And when Bosh tried to slip a pocket pass to Wade, Leonard had recovered and got his big mitts on the ball.

It was a supreme effort by Leonard, who was all over the place over a span of 15 seconds. But it was also an example of perfect synergy from all five Spurs. There was no miscommunication and no hesitation in their rotations. When one guy got beat, another guy stepped up and everyone else reacted quickly and appropriately. (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 4

VIDEO: Charles Barkley feels the Miami Heat will lose this series

Game 4 basics
Pace 84.9 84.9
OffRtg 99.1 128.9
EFG% 51.4% 63.6%
OREB% 15.8% 36.4%
TO Ratio 15.0 16.9
FTA rate 0.282 0.357

MIAMI — For the second time in three days, the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Miami Heat on their home floor, taking Game 4 of The Finals with an easy 107-86 victory. One stat stood out from the rest as the Spurs took a 3-1 series lead and gave themselves a chance to win a championship at home Sunday.

The stat

38 – Total point differential in the first quarter of the series.

The context

The Spurs have begun the second quarter with at least a six-point lead in all four games. They’ve won first quarters by six, seven, 16 and nine points.

It’s been dominance on both ends of the floor. The Spurs have scored a ridiculous 129 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter and have held the Heat to a paltry 87.

The first quarter has been the Heat’s worst all season and through the playoffs. In their first round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, they won the first quarter by only one point. In their five-game series against the Brooklyn Nets, they won the first quarter by only three points. And in the conference finals, the Indiana Pacers outscored them in the first quarter.

Against lesser opponents, the Heat could deal with bad starts, climb themselves out of holes, and rely on fourth-quarter execution. But the Spurs are much better than any of the teams they faced in the first three rounds.

The Spurs were at their best in the first quarter in the regular season, outscoring their opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions. They had some early struggles in the Conference finals, but have otherwise been strong in the first quarter in the postseason.

Two nights after dropping 41 on the Heat in the first 12 minutes, the Spurs’ early success was more about defense. They held Miami to just 17 points on 23 first-quarter possessions. Their rotations were quick and sharp, and they just swarmed the Heat whenever they got near the basket. The team that led the league in field goal percentage in the restricted area began the game just 2-for-7 from there. Dwyane Wade finished the game shooting just 2-for-10 in the paint.

And the Spurs never let the Heat off the mat. The rout was on and San Antonio is just one win away from its fifth championship.

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

For Spurs to win, Parker knows he needs to be pass-minded first

VIDEO: Sounds of the Finals from Game 3

MIAMI — After his 29-point performance in Game 3 of The Finals on Tuesday, Kawhi Leonard got several punches to the chest from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as he approached the bench.

Pop had actual words for Tony Parker, as we heard near the end of our “Sounds of the Finals” video (above).

“Great leadership,” Popovich told his point guard. “You didn’t get 30. You used great leadership and solid, solid play with the ball and your teammates. Great job.”

“I have to trust my teammates in this series,” Parker responded.

“Exactly,” Popovich said.

Parker was the Finals MVP the last time the Spurs won the championship, having torched poor Daniel Gibson for 24.5 points on 57 percent shooting in the 2007 Finals. If San Antonio gets two more wins before the Miami Heat get three in this series, Parker won’t be winning another MVP.

But he might be the Spurs’ most important player.

Back in October, before his team began its season by upsetting the Heat in its home opener, Philadelphia 76ers coach (and former Spurs assistant) Brett Brown was asked what the key would be for rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams in his first game against the Miami defense.

“Getting off the ball,” Brown responded.

Parker is no rookie, but the same holds true for him. The Heat defense is attacking him with a second defender when he comes off pick and rolls …


… and the best thing he can do is get rid of the ball, so that it can eventually find the open man. And the faster he gets rid of the ball, the better shots his teammates will get.

“You have to move the ball against this team,” Brown said back in October. “The ball cannot stick.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Popovich talked about the ball sticking after the Spurs lost Game 2 on Sunday. And Parker was clearly the main culprit, having stopped the ball movement in attempts to go one-on-one too often.

In Game 3, Parker kept the ball moving. He had a couple of big games in last year’s Finals (including 26 points in a Game 5 win), but Parker knows that the offense generally has to come from somewhere else against the Heat, who are looking to get the ball out of his hands, either by doubling him on pick-and-rolls or defending him with LeBron James.

“It’s our key,” James told David Aldridge, “just to try to limit what he does.”

“For me the key is to find a happy middle between being aggressive or being patient,” Parker said Wednesday, “and looking at the advantage that we have. Because if LeBron’s guarding me, that means we have an advantage somewhere match-up-wise with Kawhi [Leonard] or Manu [Ginobili] or Danny [Green], so I have to be patient and make sure I call the right stuff.

“We talked about it with Pop after Game 2 because that’s the kind of series for me I just have to trust my teammates and move the ball. They’re trapping me on the pick-and-rolls, and then in the fourth quarter they’re putting LeBron. So I just have to be patient and look at what’s available for us, and just move the ball because Danny and Kawhi are going to have plenty of opportunities if LeBron’s guarding me.”

The numbers back up the notion that the Spurs are better when Parker is most willing to pass. His usage rate is lower in their five Finals wins against the Heat over the last two years (22.6 percent) than it is in their five Finals losses (26.8 percent).

And as he’s faced more aggressive defenses in this postseason, Parker’s usage rate has dropped every series, while the rate that he passes the ball has increased.

According to SportVU, Parker passed the ball 69 times per 100 touches in the first round against Dallas. That number stayed about the same in the conference semifinals against Portland. But it increased to 74 times per 100 touches in the conference finals against Oklahoma City and is up to 77 per 100 through three games against the Heat.

He still has the ball in his hands quite a bit. The offense still runs through him, but this is a trust-your-teammates series for Parker. The Spurs will have a better chance at another championship if he has little chance to be the Finals MVP.

Tony Parker by series

Round MIN TOP Poss% Touches Passes PP100T USG%
Reg. season 1,997 410.8 20.6% 5,136 3,767 73.3 26.6%
First round 231 48.4 20.9% 566 392 69.3 31.8%
Conf. semis 145 34.3 23.6% 364 251 69.0 30.4%
Conf. finals 167 31.4 18.9% 413 306 74.1 25.0%
Finals 105 21.4 20.4% 265 205 77.4 23.9%

TOP = Minutes with the ball
Poss% = TOP/MIN
PP100T = Passes per 100 touches
USG% = Percentage of team’s possessions used (via shots, assists or turnovers) when on the court.

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…


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


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 …


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 …


… 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…


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…


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: Straight to the big-boy chair

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 Starters on new Knicks coach Derek Fisher

> Is this a good trend or a bad one, players (like Derek Fisher) jumping straight into head coaching jobs? Isn’t time spent as an assistant worth anything?

Steve Aschburner, This long has been a copycat league, so I’d get concerned if this started being copied for the wrong reason – to land a big name for name’s sake or to distract fans from an under-skilled roster. I think of the career assistants, too, who can’t crack the inner circle because they don’t have notable (or any) playing experience. But these trends tend to come in waves – it wasn’t long ago that Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown and others were getting “all” the jobs. I think smart, recent veterans players bring a great deal of knowledge, and instant credibility with their players. But I don’t see any downside in those guys spending a year or two sitting next to a head coach to learn more about the care and feeding of an NBA club.

Fran Blinebury, Good trend, bad trend? Unless you’re running a halfway house for long suffering assistant coaches, the only thing that matters is winning. Does it work? It didn’t for Magic Johnson. The jury is out on Jason Kidd. Now Derek Fisher will get his chance. It’s like high school players making the jump to the NBA. Good idea if you’re Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant. Others not so much. But Fisher ought to ask his new boss to get him a real team.

Jeff Caplan, I don’t see it as good or bad. Last summer we saw a run on assistant coaches awarded first-time head coaching jobs. Jason Kidd was the outlier. I think the Knicks situation is, too. Phil Jackson wanted someone he knew, who came through his system. Steve Kerr was his top choice, but Kerr went to Golden State. If Kerr took the Knicks job as he nearly did, then we’re not even talking about Fisher as a coaching candidate. He might have ended up in a front office or wearing a headset on TV. As for the experience of learning on the bench as an assistant, well, 18 years in the league as a point guard is pretty good experience, too. There’s just no way of forecasting who will and who won’t be successful and why. Will Quin Snyder be the answer for the Jazz just because he built up his resume as an assistant? Maybe. And maybe Fisher will be the right man for the Knicks.

John Schuhmann, It depends on the team and the coach. It’s tough to compare Fisher with Jason Kidd, because Kidd is more basketball savant and Fisher is more expert communicator. They’re two very different people with, more importantly, two very different rosters. But time spent as an assistant can only help in regard to understanding the preparation that goes into a game plan, what information is most important, and what works on both ends of the floor. Kidd developed nicely over the course of seven months, but the Nets could have won 5-10 more games had he not had his early-season growing pains.

Sekou Smith, I don’t know how long this trend lasts, but I don’t think it’s detrimental to any part of the game. Who knows the intricacies of this game better than the men who toil between those lines on a regular basis? Why this sort of corporate knowledge wouldn’t be rewarded the same way work in the film room or as an assistant  coach, for any amount of time, is beyond me. Time as an assistant is worth plenty. But it doesn’t guarantee success as a head coach any more than a stellar 19-year career as a player does. And that success or failure depends largely on the man taking that plunge, the support system surrounding him, the structure of the organization he’s joining and lastly and, I believe most important, the talent at his disposal. Kind of interesting the way it all comes full circle for the player-turned coach. Is Steve Kerr any more ready than Fisher? Nobody knows. I say good for Fisher and good for other players, who won’t have Phil Jackson waiting on them, interested in making that leap.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Time spent as an assistant can be valuable, but I don’t know if anything’s more valuable than having the experience of playing against the guys you’re coaching against just months earlier. It obviously took Jason Kidd some time to adjust to the coaching role, but he obviously warmed to it as the season went along. I think Fisher will have a similar learning curve in New York. If someone like me became a head coach with no prior experience and no time as an assistant on my resume, then I could see an outcry. But considering Fisher was out there playing just a week or two ago, I think he’s prepared.

Blogtable: Great offense, or just bad D?

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 Spurs erupted for 41 points in the first quarter of Game 3

> If you had to lean one way or the other concerning the first half of Game 3 … incredible offense or poor defense?

Steve Aschburner, If I had to choose, I’d side with the Spurs’ offense. They were crisp, sharp, focused, urgent, you name it. And it showed in the ball movement more than the uncanny shooting, which was a result of the ball “not sticking,” to put it in Game 2 terms. Miami wasn’t at its best, defensively or in its approach to the game. But it scored 50 points in the half and would have gotten away with that defense against 27 or 28 other teams.

Fran Blinebury, Incredible offense. So many of the Spurs’ possessions were textbook displays of how to move the ball, find the open man and then, of course, make the shots. It was the best display of offensive basketball that I have seen in nearly 40 years of covering the league.

Jeff Caplan, Absolutely incredible offense. You could play against air and not make 76 percent of your shots. The Spurs were getting to the rim and setting up one another up for easy buckets because of mesmerizing player movement and passing that should be bottled and shown to future generations as the right way to play the game. But they were also making some difficult shots. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard couldn’t miss from wherever they rose up. It was an incredible performance

John Schuhmann, Incredible offense. This series is a race between the Spurs’ passes and the Heat’s rotations. On Tuesday, the Spurs’ passes won the race. They reversed the ball more than they did in Game 2, and Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green attacked the Heat’s close-outs to get into the paint. San Antonio hit some crazy shots, but its success started with aggression, both with the pass and with the dribble.

Sekou Smith, Incredible offense. Crisp and downright superb ball movement. And a Heat team that struggled defensively as a result of the relentless offensive assault the Spurs threw at them. I’ve never seen anything like the sometimes six, seven, eight and even nine passes on one possession that we saw from the Spurs Tuesday night. Everything Gregg Popovich says about his team, how they need to play and the characteristics that mark their performance on the nights they handle the business the way they did in Game 3 is the epitome of the Spurs Way. For years you wondered if it was legit or if it was just clever wordplay for for a style of basketball that was more of an ideal than an actual nuts and bolts system. I think we have a definitive answer now.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogIncredible offense. And that may be an understatement. The only Spurs players to miss a shot from the floor in the first quarter were Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, and they only missed one shot each. It should be noted, sure, that the Spurs’ great shooting was at least partially attributable to their ball movement, which created numerous open looks. But I’m not sure it would have mattered if the Heat had doubled every shot the Spurs took — the Spurs looked like they just couldn’t miss. And it was incredible.

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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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,’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.

The Finals Stat: Game 3

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

The basics
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.


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

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

Film Study: Heat switch and challenge

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down Tony Parker’s woes in Game 2

SAN ANTONIO — The differences between Games 1 and 2 The Finals were on both ends of the floor. The Miami Heat were better offensively in Game 2, and the San Antonio Spurs were worse.

Both games were decided in the fourth quarter, and on Sunday, LeBron James was on the floor with the game on the line. That was the most important difference, and James’ ability to get to the rim in the first half and knock down jumpers in the second gave the Miami offense a boost. The Heat scored 82 points in James’ 37:36 on the floor (105 per 48) and just 16 points in his 10:24 on the bench (74 per 48).

But defense was just as (and maybe more) critical to the Heat’s 98-96 victory. The Spurs’ offense is rarely shut down completely, but if Miami can slow it down somewhat, it’s own offense should be enough to win a third straight championship.

In Game 2, San Antonio scored 17 points on 23 possessions in the second quarter and 18 points on 20 possessions in the fourth. Those had been the Spurs’ best offensive quarters for most of the playoffs, but certainly weren’t Sunday.

Afterward, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blamed a lack of ball movement.

“We can’t put it in somebody’s hands and have them create everything for us,” he said. “It’s got to be a group effort and we didn’t do that.

“That puts a lot of pressure on everything else. It means we’re going to have to be perfect on defense, we can’t miss four free throws in a row, those sorts of things.

“You move it or you die.”

The lack of ball movement wasn’t just about the Spurs. The Heat’s defense played its part.

The Miami defense had issues in Game 1. A lack of ball pressure and slow rotations from the weak side allowed Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter to make easy catches in the paint and shoot 14-for-16, with 14 of those 16 shots in the restricted area.

The pair got another 14 shots in the restricted area in Game 2, but converted only eight of them this time. None of Splitter’s three shots were on straight pick-and-rolls like he was converting on in Game 1.

The power of the switch

One adjustment the Heat made was switching high ball screens for Manu Ginobili to prevent the roll man from going untouched into the paint.

Here’s Norris Cole, at the end of the first quarter, switching onto Splitter after he set a screen for Ginobili …


And early in the second quarter, here’s Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade switching a high ball screen…


Immediately followed by Bosh and Chris Andersen doing it…


Switching screens takes some of the bite out of the Heat defense, but also takes some bite out of the Spurs’ offense. Not only does it help prevent those open rolls to the basket, but by not sending two guys to the ball, it doesn’t give San Antonio 4-on-3 situations where their passers will usually find the open man. The adjustment was one of the reasons the Spurs didn’t turn the ball over as much, but also why they got stagnant at times. (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 2

VIDEO: Nightly Notable: LeBron James

The basics
Pace 90.5 90.5
OffRtg 108.6 105.7
EFG% 58.6% 51.2%
OREB% 16.1% 25.0%
TO Ratio 17.7 12.1
FTA rate 0.300 0.244

SAN ANTONIO — The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 98-96 in Game 2 of The Finals on Sunday. One stat stood out from the rest as the Heat evened the series at one game apiece as it heads to Miami for Games 3 and 4.

The stat

8 – Baskets by LeBron James from outside the paint, all in the second half.

The context

James got out on the break and got to the basket in the first half of Game 2, shooting 6-for-9 in the restricted area and 0-for-2 from mid-range. In the second half, the Spurs were able to cut off the paint, forcing him to take all 11 of his shots from the outside.

But he made eight of them. He was 5-for-8 from mid-range and 3-for-3 from 3-point range. That was more baskets from outside the paint than the rest of the Heat (7-for-28) had all game. James’ 35 points were the second most he’s scored in 24 Finals games, only topped by the 37 he scored in Game 7 last year.

James’ eight baskets from outside the paint were his most in 31 games (since he scored 43 points in a win in Cleveland on March 18). When his jumper is falling, there’s not much the defense can do.

It wasn’t falling through the first six games of last years Finals. As the Spurs sagged off him and dared him to shoot, James was just 21-for-62 (34 percent) from outside the paint in those six games. And if Chris Bosh doesn’t get that rebound and Ray Allen doesn’t hit that three at the end of regulation of Game 6, that would be that.

But in Game 7 last year, James was 9-for-20 from outside the paint. And he’s now 12-for-21 from outside the paint in this series. He’s had as many baskets from the outside in his last three Finals games as he had in his previous seven (he was 0-for-4 in Game 5 vs. Oklahoma City in 2012).

James still isn’t nearly as dangerous on the perimeter as he is in the paint, but if he’s hitting from outside, the Spurs have no choice but to play him closer. And that can open up lanes to the basket or shots for his teammates.

And as long as James is on the floor, the Heat offense is dangerous. Since halftime of Game 1, Miami outscored San Antonio by 22 points with James on the floor and has been outscored by 30 with him on the bench.

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