Momentum swings and shifts in this finals series with every game. Now? The San Antonio Spurs have it, heading into game 4 feeling that their shooting and offensive ability can win the NBA championship for them this time, while the Miami Heat are licking their wounds and trying to come up with ways that get their players off the bad road they went on in the previous game.
It begins with the beginning. The Heat have been slow starters all through these playoffs. Against the Spurs it has become a huge problem, letting them run off to a 25-point lead in the second quarter. The Heat cut the lead down to seven before falling apart in the end with a series of bad shots, turnovers and playing at the wrong pace. Their instinct against the Spurs, who love to run, is slowing things down. However, at that moment, midway through the fourth quarter, speeding things up was more useful.
Mario Chalmers needs to start showing up, or simply hit the bench. The starting point guard was damaging in every way – from shooting to passing and even becoming a liability defensively, as the Heat want to use bigger players on the Spurs’ point guards but weren’t able to switch in way that pleased them against the perfect set of screens the Spurs were executing during the first half, scoring 71 points in those 24 minutes.
But Chalmers wasn’t the only one struggling in the game. The Miami Heat got a disappointing total of 53 points from their big three, despite excellent shooting percentages. Chris Bosh took only four shots (making all of them). LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each scored 22 points but turned the ball over 12 times. The Spurs were excellent off the turnovers, while the Heat got nothing out of their transition game. Slowing things down, as we mentioned.
And that’s got to be different. The system of using one guy at the top of the key while four players simply hunch and wait around, aligned in order along the baseline simply didn’t work. The Spurs moved well through the few screens that were set, not allowing Bosh to get the looks he wanted, while the Heat moved the ball oh so slowly, which meant far fewer open shots for Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Being aggressive wasn’t a problem for the Spurs, getting 29 points from Kawhi Leonard, showing his full offensive playbook, which included getting through defenders on the baseline and dunking over Chris Andersen. Danny Green was excellent with his defense and by showing that he is a lot more than just a shooter, hitting floaters and layups on the break with or without someone trying to get in his face.
The Spurs don’t need their big three to be special, but they do need them to not mess things up. Things are different for Miami. Sure, getting help from the role players is essential, but without at least two of their big three having strong performances, it’s going to be very difficult for them to shake off the lasting impression of the previous game, which was pretty much that the Spurs, at the moment, are the better team.