The difference between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs? Teams that love to Pick & Roll, but defend very differently, not to mention one having their game based on the cooperation between a point guard (Tony Parker) and a center (Tim Duncan), while one man, LeBron James, runs almost everything for the NBA champions.
The Spurs haven’t faced a team like the Heat in the postseason, playing against teams that have a strong paint presence so far, sometimes having nothing but paint presence. The Heat have seen almost everything in terms of changing styles, but they haven’t seen anything like what the Spurs bring to the floor in terms of offensive variety and sort of a twin tower routine in the paint.
Regular Season Meetings
The first time the two met this season was on a Thursday in front of a national audience on November 29. The big story was Gregg Popovich deciding to give up on Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (Danny Green was also excluded from the trip), giving his stars a rest, while a bunch of subs managed to push Miami to the limit, losing in South Beach 105-100. Ray Allen was enjoying his awesome start to the season (went downhill from there), finishing with 20 points, while LeBron James led the team with 23. The Spurs got big games out of Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter, combining for 38 points.
In the second game, in San Antonio, on March 31, Chris Bosh came out as the hero with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sitting out this one, leading the team with 23 points and hitting the game-winning three pointer with 1.9 seconds left, handing the Heat an 88-86 win. The Spurs didn’t have Manu Ginobili, but Duncan and Parker both spent 35 minutes on the floor, with the point guard hitting only 33.3% of his shots.
Regular Season in General
The Miami Heat posted the franchise’s best record ever, finishing with the best in the NBA (66-16), including 27 consecutive wins from February till late March. The Heat had the number one offense in the NBA, averaging 1.01 points per possession during the regular season, and the 7th best defense, allowing 0.9 points per possession.
The Spurs? They finished second in the West, giving some of their players a long rest before the playoffs began, with another impressive 50+ year for Popovich (58-24). Their offense was ranked third in the NBA (0.98 points per possession) and their defense was fourth in the league, allowing 0.89 points per possession.
The Spurs have had the more impressive run so far in the playoffs, losing only twice in their three series so far. It began with a 4-0 sweep over the Los Angeles Lakers, including two wins by 20 points or more in Los Angeles to close out the series. The only team that gave them some trouble were the Golden State Warriors, but once the Spurs figured out how to stop Stephen Curry while taking Andrew Bogut’s defensive effect out of the game, they had no problem handling the series, winning 4-2. Against the Grizzlies, who many though were going to give the Spurs a very hard time, it was much harder than the sweep shows, winning two games in overtime, and excluding the first game (a 22 points blowout), won by an average of 7.3 points. Not extremely close, but not so easily done as well.
For the Heat, the beginning was smooth, as expected. They had no problem defeating the Bucks in four games, winning all four games with a double-digit margin. Next came the Chicago Bulls, who did stun the Heat at the beginning, probably due to the long layoff the Heat had between series. After that opening loss, came four straight wins, all but the last one in double figures. The Pacers series was something completely different, dragging on 7 games, with the Heat struggling at times to handle the size and physicality of Indiana, eventually finally bringing the right kind of intensity to Game 7, winning by 23 points.
The Spurs have the best offense in the playoffs so far, scoring 1 point per possession. Nearly 29% of their offense goes through the Pick & Roll, scoring 0.89 points per possession on those plays. Most of that goes through Tony Parker, handling the ball on over 40% of the Spurs’ pick & roll plays, scoring at 0.89 points per possession, while Tim Duncan is the most common rolling man, averaging 0.81 points per possession. The Spurs’ transition offense has been the best in the playoffs so far, scoring 1.62 points per possession, while their spot up shooting, which they don’t use often enough (17.3% of the time) also has been doing well, scoring 1.03 points per possession.
For the Heat, offense has been sluggish at times, but not by much, scoring 0.96 points per possession. They run the Pick & Roll quite often (23% of the time), but without a point guard like Tony Parker, their success at the play (0.78 points per possession) is far inferior to that of the Spurs. What they do well is create shots on the outside, mostly through LeBron James (6.4 assists per game) driving, drawing a double team, and kicking it out to Bosh, Haslem and others. The Heat are scoring 1.05 points per possession, going to the spot up shooting on 27% of their plays.