At their best moments in the previous game, the San Antonio Spurs had Gary Neal and Danny Green doing most of the damage, not the more traditional suspects of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. And although trusting your role players to carry the offense certainly brought in more confidence to the team, if Parker is in fact limited or worse by an injury heading into game 4, that smells like trouble for the Spurs.
Their one constant in the series so far has nothing to do with Tony Parker. His defensive abilities don’t really fall in line with what San Antonio have been able to do to LeBron James by pretty much playing some sort of zone defense against him and forcing him to give up the ball and think about other things than drive to paint, but Parker not being able to lead the team for longer stretches is going to be a problem.
The Spurs have a lot going for them, and like other teams have troubled the Heat this season when it comes to rebounding, San Antonio did an incredible job in game with 19 offensive rebounds, including 7 by Tim Duncan, as the Spurs grabbed 41% of the balls bouncing off the Heat’s rim. Kawhi Leonard has been as efficient on both ends, so far averaging 12 rebounds a game to make up for his struggles on offense, although he did pretty well in game 3 with 14 points.
What does San Antonio need to change? Well, usually, whatever isn’t broke doesn’t need any fixing, but you don’t play in a five-six-seven game series without making some adjustments, and it’s mostly about how to predict what the Heat are going to change in order to comeback from their humiliating experience on Tuesday. It’s bound to be about more pressure on ball handlers and early traps, and for that, they need Tony Parker, who weaves around better than any other point guard in the NBA, managing to create mayhem and open shots for Green, Leonard and Neal, ending up with 8 assists on his 29 minutes.
Tim Duncan is doing what David Robinson did on his final NBA season, more or less. His scoring in the last couple of games is quite bad, averaging 10.5 points while shooting 33.3% from the field. And yet his lack of involvement in the offensive game, at least as a finisher, hasn’t stopped the Spurs from being successful. His importance on defense makes up for any kind of problems he’s having down low with Chris Bosh and anyone else guarding him, and as long as he avoids getting into foul trouble and remains that rock in the middle that forces Miami to try and move around him, the Spurs’ defense is going to be fine.
As long as Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard continue doing an excellent job on James and Wade, keeping them away, as somewhat of an outer wall that protects Duncan and Splitter from having to pick up fouls by getting direct contact with the players driving to the basket, San Antonio are fine. They can’t guard everyone, so their gambling decision is to let Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and the rest try and beat them.
At the moment? It’s working, as long as the ball movement on offense flows like it did in game 3. The Heat will surely be a lot more aggressive in trying to cut off and anticipate passing lanes in game 4, and the Spurs need to avoid the kind of breakdown we saw from them at the end of game 2, knowing that out-of-this-world shooting isn’t something to rely on every single night.