As this year’s NBA Finals approach their conclusion, there’s plenty to discuss, and not enough time to discuss it. So, rather than write a full-length piece about every storyline, I’m going to touch briefly on each little topic worth talking about.
What’s happened to the vaunted Miami defense?
Um, the Spurs happened, I guess. Miami made a living this year off blitzing sets, forcing offensive teams into improvising, and then playing scramble defense. Essentially, the Heat thrived off chaos and unpredictability. The reason this worked is because Miami was athletic enough to recover on everything, and teams weren’t smart/skilled/deep enough to punish the Heat consistently for doing this.
However, in the Spurs, Miami has found their kryptonite. San Antonio’s offensive system has a counter for basically any scheme and more importantly, principles in place that make it impossible to cover everything. When Miami doubles the pick and roll, Tim Duncan slips to the foul line rather than roll to the rim, making the perfect pivot point for the Spurs’ shooters to work off of. If Miami plays the Spurs straight up, San Antonio finds the weakest link and picks on him. When Miami switches, the Spurs run pick and roll until Tony Parker gets the matchup he wants. Get the picture here? Unless Miami finds a useable lineup that has no weaknesses defensively (or the Spurs cool off all at once, which isn’t an impossibility), LeBron and co. are in trouble.
How badly is Popovich out-coaching Spo?
I used to be a big Erik Spoelstra detractor in his early years, mainly because I didn’t think he knew how use the Heat’s stars properly, but I’ve changed my stance over the past few seasons, and this year especially Coach Spo has done a masterful job of managing this Heat team. The offense is tailored perfectly to LeBron James’ abilities, the defensive philosophy is well suited to the quick-strike ability of Miami’s roster, and Spoelstra has skillfully adjusted things along the way to keep the team on course.
However, in this series the master (Popovich) is schooling the apprentice. Besides inserting Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup for game five, Pop has adjusted his rotations to counter everything Miami does, such as shrinking Thiago Splitter’s role, or implementing Gary Neal to destroy Miami’s point guards, or forcing LeBron to hit jumpers, or letting BORIS DIAW use his size to bother King James. Speaking of which…
How great was Diaw last night? Man boobs aside, Boris was a monstrous factor in game five, doing an admirable job on LeBron James and acting as a key ball-movement cog offensively. Diaw played so well that I had to re watch this clip.
Can he keep up his level of play for the rest of the series? Does it even really matter?
The Danny Green Finals MVP Argument
During last night’s game, my buddy Serp (the same one whose rap name should be “B. Sweat”) texted me this question:
“If the Spurs win the series, they have to give MVP to Danny Green, don’t they? Or is it a foregone conclusion that it’ll be a lifetime achievement award?”
My answer (edited to read coherently and lacking emojis):
Obviously Green has entirely changed this series with his historically efficient shooting, but the knock on his MVP case is that he’s simply a product of the Spurs’ system. If Green were breaking guys down off the dribble and pulling up over people (like Stephen Curry, for example), then yes, he would be the unquestioned MVP of the series. Instead, though, Green is knocking down spot up jumpers with little resistance from Miami (which is inexcusable at this point).
The argument would be that Green is somewhat interchangeable; if Mike Miller, Ray Allen, or heck, even James Jones were playing the same role for the Spurs, wouldn’t they be coming pretty damn close to the success that Danny is having? Instead, the MVP should go to the players that there is no replacement for, such as Duncan or Parker. Without either of those two, the entire Spurs offense wouldn’t hum the way it does.
So yes, Danny Green is shooting at a clip that we’ve never seen, and may never see again, and he deserves all the credit in the world for changing the balance of the series in this way. But don’t think for a second that he’s the most valuable player of the Finals.
The Problem with 2-3-2
So everyone’s basically writing Miami off at this point, because the winner of game five typically wins the series, and the Spurs have two shots to close this thing out. Theoretically, though, isn’t this exactly where Miami should be at this point in the series? If we are assuming that the home team is supposed to win every game, then Miami should be down 3-2 going back to South Beach, as they are.
If Miami is supposed to be the favored team in the series, then the format should reflect that. At no time should it be expected that the Heat be down in the series, yet the 2-3-2 dictates that this happens. Why not just make the series into 2-2-1-1-1 like every other round?
I’ve been wrong on just about everything this series, so I’m not sure why I’m even bothering. Every time Miami beats the Spurs, I assume they’ve turned a corner and that their overwhelming talent will finally win out, and Miami follows up with a dud every single time.
I’m at the point now where I don’t see Miami putting together back to back wins. I think they’ll win game six, but the Spurs will close this thing out in seven.