Game two between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs was one of the more exciting playoff games of the NBA postseason. It showed that the two former championship teams have gone to the next level of their competitive rivalry. As such, it appears as that this will be another long series headed to a 7-game NBA Finals.
Game two was a highly contested game, where the highest scoring differential was five points. Furthermore, the game was a heated back and forth play that saw Lebron James go off on the Spurs after his highly controversial exit in the final minutes of Game one, due to a cramp in his leg. James garnered 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in the game. This should not be a surprise to NBA fans though. Over the last few years in particular, he has shown to be a dangerous player when embarrassed. He did it in game four against Brooklyn with 49 points and game six against the Pacers with 26 points, and he most likely will do it again.
Much like in Game One when the major news surrounding the game was James’ leg, the major controversy in the end of Game Two was that of the elbow to the side of the ribs to Tony Parker. As a result, a flagrant was called on Mario Chalmers who committed the act, for which Parker was rewarded two free throws. Still reeling from the incident, Parker took two free throws but missed both attempts. In order to have a little rest, he was taken out of the game, only to return a minute later. However, the damage had been done. Parker’s range of motion was limited, thus he could not push the Spurs to a 2-0 series lead.
What the Spurs Need to Do – Considering each game’s finish was marred by a notable injury to a key player on each team, it is hard to argue that the two squads are even now. Now it is a matter of how each team will adjust. Popovich, who is arguably the best coach in the NBA, is the master adjuster of the game. When his team loses, they come back with a plan to fight, and typically they win because of it. However, the Spurs need a lot more than to adjust their strategy against the Heat.
In game two, San Antonio shot just 12-20 at the free throw line. In a crucial moment, not only did Tony Parker miss his pair of free throws with 6:45 left in the game, but Tim Duncan also missed a pair of free throws not long after. With the game on the line, missed free throws are oftentimes the difference between winning and losing a game. While Parker did have his injury that prevented making the shot, Duncan should have at least made one his shots from the strike, not to mention the other two he missed earlier in the game.
Another problem was that it seemed the Spurs were a tad bit nervous in the final minutes. With a little more than a minute and a half to play and a one point lead, Ginobli hoisted up a far back, rushed three. From a veteran such as Ginobli, a play such as this is inexcusable and, arguably, could have made the difference in the game. The Spurs have proven they are one of the best fourth quarter teams, but when going against another great fourth quarter team in the Heat, they need to slow things down and take their time, especially when they have the lead.
While he has had a great playoffs, Duncan needs to be a force to be reckoned with. Early on in the game, Duncan had a quick 11 points for the Spurs. However, he only ended up with 19. This has been a common thing in these playoffs, but Duncan, who should be a nightmare for the Heat, needs to dominate. No matter what the adjustments are, his size and sheer ability should destroy Miami.
One of the key advantages San Antonio has had over most squads all season is their depth. However, their role players did not appear to show up to the extent they have in past games. The big three of Duncan, Parker and Ginobli combined for 58 points; however, there was not a single player besides them that made it into double figures. Danny Green who has shown to be a threat in the playoffs was notably missing throughout the game due to early foul trouble. As such, he only took five shots for nine points. He needs to play more diligently by staying the game and be that consistent fourth guy. Also, Diaw who did hit a key three-pointer and rebounded the ball 10 times, needs to shoot the ball better. For the evening he was 3-9 for only seven points. All in all, the depth for San Antonio needs to be a factor.
What the Heat Need to Do
The greatest disadvantage the Heat have had since the beginning of the big three in Miami is their depth. That said, the last few games, Miami has had others come to the table in recent games from Rashard Lewis, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and even Chris Andersen. If they are able to maintain it, Spoelstra needs to get the other guys involved. It will help relieve the monster minutes of James, Wade and Bosh, not to mention it will prove to the Spurs that they can beat them at their own game. The role players need to be more consistent, particularly Ray Allen who has been inconsistent during these playoffs. Additionally, the bench needs more help as they only had 12 points in game two.
Another problem is something that has been hurting the Heat all season. Rebounds. Yes, they beat the Spurs in total rebounds by a single board in game two. However, Miami needs more help. Bosh who has gone on record saying he has relaxed more in the post, needs to find a way to board better with his height. Three rebounds simply is inexcusable for a 6’11” basketball player. Lebron James has been fantastic at boarding with 10 boards in Game Two and even Wade managed a fantastic seven rebounds, while Andersen had nine off the bench. That said, the team as a whole needs more help in the rebounding department. While Bosh needs to pick up his act on the boards, Lewis should be helping as well. Maybe Spoelstra needs to put in guys like Battier, Haslem and even Greg Oden to help fight the size of the Spurs. One thing is for sure, they need all the help they can get for one of the league’s worst rebounding squads.
These two teams have played each other several times over the last couple of years. As such, they have adjusted time and time again. Between last year’s finals, the regular season and the two games already played in these finals, this series is far from over. It pits the big three of the East vs the big three of the west. Needless to say, it would be shocking if these NBA finals did not result in another long, seven-game series.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey