The Miami Heat didn’t play a good game of basketball in Game 1 of the NBA finals, but it’s not the right thing to do and pin it all on LeBron James and usual clutch cliches. Erik Spoelstra, not for the first time in this playoffs, struggled making adjustments inside a game and giving the right kind of instructions to his MVP, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in order to somehow come out with the win.
The Heat had a lead for most of the game, but lost it in the final minutes during a fourth quarter in which they scored only 16 points. For an almost an entire quarter, the entire mode of operation was LeBron James trying to muscle his way through Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan before dishing out to an open shot for Chris Bosh or someone else.
All throughout the game, Duncan didn’t leave the top of the key. He didn’t allow Bosh, who hit only 37.5% of his field goal attempts in the game, to take shots from his comfortable spot most of the time. He forced him to shoot from beyond the arc, taking four three pointers, hitting none of them.
The Indiana Pacers decided that their way, most of the time, was letting James do his thing, while stopping everyone else from around him to get involved offensively. The Spurs don’t have that kind of defensive personnel to do that for 48 minutes, so they decided they’ll put all their effort into stopping James, and let the rest of the Heat try and win the game.
Spoelstra has shown in the last couple of seasons that he’s very good at making the adjustments between games, but not during them. Maybe it’s because eventually, LeBron James and the players have the control during the 48 minutes, and not the head coach. But maybe it’s a certain problem with the coaching staff in identifying what’s going wrong, blinded by the individual talent of their best player.
The Spurs don’t have the ability to press and trap like Miami or others teams do. They work around Tim Duncan providing the pivot in the defense (and on offense as well), steering the opposing offense into the direction he feels comfortable with. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard provide the defense on the outside with their length and strength, although Green can’t guard James when it comes to physical power. Luckily, Wade isn’t as mobile as he should be, which gives Green, who has no problem guarding both type of guards, a much easier night of defensive work.
And it comes back to ball movement, which the Heat have been inconsistent in, eventually leading to James trying to post up, holding on to the ball for far too long, wasting away the attack and taking a bad shot at the end of it. Miami, at its best, is a team that draws focus to its two best players, while lining up shooters, knowing that one or two of them will be open to take a good shot, while in the meantime, have someone, James or Wade, cutting to the basket, almost impossible to stop, even without the ball.
That has to be the line of thought for game 2. The Heat did a good job on defense, eventually falling to one crazy shot by Tony Parker. Manu Ginobili struggled, while Tim Duncan was the only one who really made a difference in the paint. Not Tiago Splitter, not Kawhi Leonard or anyone else found a way to give the Heat thae kind of trouble Roy Hibbert did. The Heat know how to handle this kind of offense, but LeBron James needs help around him offensively to make the Heat make the most of the advantages they have, and take control of the series again.