It’s not that LeBron James needs to be the one to take the final shot every time for the Miami Heat; Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are on this team for a reason. But if Tim Duncan feels very comfortable with letting Bosh shooting three pointers, the defending champions needed to get a little more creative in finding a way for James to be more efficient offensively for the rest of the NBA finals.
It’s usually hard to complain about a player’s performance when he gets a triple double, as James finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. All of a sudden, despite the size difference, the Heat didn’t have any 7’2 Hibbert to deal with, and actually won the rebounding battle. But they still ended up losing the game, 92-88, falling 1-0 in the series, and not because (or not just because) of Tony Parker hitting that shot with 5.2 seconds left in the game.
The Heat played into the Spurs’ hands with their ball movement, especially in the fourth quarter, scoring only 16 points. James kept making the same play, coming from the right and trying to push his way through the middle as both Kawhi Leonard (in a fantastic defensive performance) and Tim Duncan kept him away from the basket. No one trying to cut to the paint, while the only option left is finding Bosh open beyond the arc.
While having Chris Bosh a lot more involved (taking 16 shots, making only six of them, including 0-of-4 from beyond the arc) is a good thing, it’s not when these are the shots the Spurs want him to take. Not 15-18 footers, but three pointers, as Tim Duncan knows perfectly well how to make that difference. The big three ended up scoring a combined 48 points on only 42.6% from the field.
Finding a way into the paint wasn’t that hard for most of the game, but shots wouldn’t go in during the second half. James was 5-of-5 from inside 5 feet, but the rest of the team was only 10-of-21, including 42.9% in those plays during the second half. After turning the ball over only twice in the first half, Miami gave it up six times in the second half.
Not everything was bad in the game, especially on defense. The Spurs struggled executing their pick & rolls, but Tony Parker found a way to be more effective in isolation plays, especially against Mario Chalmers. The Spurs found a way to score on the post, with Duncan scoring 20 points, and the Heat struggled to keep up with the ball movement at times, as San Antonio scored on 44.4% of their spot-up plays.
When did Miami look at their best? When Chris Andersen was on the floor. It does take away the stretch option this offense loves having, but Andersen is the only big man the Heat have who can score in the paint without a problem, continuing his impressive playoff shooting success, scoring 7 points on 3-of-5 from the field. He’s the only big guy forcing the Spurs to squeeze into the paint, making it maybe a little bit smarter to keep him on for longer, maybe next to Bosh, who roams the areas a small forward usually does anyway.
Ray Allen and Mike Miller provided the nice touch from beyond the arc for most of the game (combined 4-of-6 from beyond the arc), and Mario Chalmers slightly disappointed on 2-of-6 and some bad defense on Tony Parker. But at the end of the day, people look to LeBron James, especially with Dwyane Wade not making his opportunities beneath the basket, and Chris Bosh’s jumper going cold on him.
If James and the Heat don’t keep up the ball movement and intensity in their driving to the basket, forcing the Spurs to consider a different defensive strategy, these games will continue to be decided by a shot here or there, giving the Spurs, with the better clutch players who are slightly more unpredictable, an edge in the rest of the series.