By Craig Fields
The theme for LeBron James and the Heat this postseason has to be redemption. They have had this ability to bounce back after every loss this postseason. A few numbers to help put things into perspective are 37, 18, 11, 23, and 19. These are margins of victory in games after a Heat loss this postseason.
For the most part, however, this game was close and tightly contested. I mean, for the better part of the first three quarters this game was up for grabs. But then something happened. With the score being 62-61 in favor of the Spurs at the 3:49 mark of the third quarter, the Heat’s defense went on a tear not seen since the one in my pants at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Making 12 of 13 shots, causing five turnovers, and forcing the Spurs to shoot contested jumpers en-route to a two for ten performance during that nine minute time span, spurred a 33-5 Heat run that ultimately sealed the deal. While many people, analysts, and fans alike will talk about the 33 point part of the run, in my opinion the five point aspect of the run is more vital. Not just the five, but the entire game defense was awfully good.
The personnel on the floor during the eight minutes and 36 seconds of dominant Heat basketball may be the most surprising part of the run. LeBron James and Mario Chalmers were joined by the likes of three bench players named Mike Miller, Ray Allen, and Chris Anderson. While only one of the reserves is known for his enthusiasm and effectiveness defensively (Anderson), they were still able to wreak havoc and be extremely disruptive against a Spurs lineup that showcased two if not three bona fide Hall-of-Famers in Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili.
After the Spurs big three went 21 of 48 (44%) from the field and scored 54 points in Game 1 — holding Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan to a combined 10 of 33 (30%) shooting and 27 points in Game 2, spoke volumes of Erik Spoelstra’s ability to make adjustments to his defensive scheme.
One of the glaring differences between the two games was the forced turnovers by the Heat. Forcing 16 turnovers in Game 2 as composed to just four in Game 1 is a major difference. This is a Heat team that thrives on the turnover so that they can get out into the open court and get easy baskets. Turnovers are vital for this team because they do not possess the size inside to clog up the paint like an Indiana or Memphis team. They depend on speed and swarm like defense to be successful. Rotations and player accountability have to be at the forefront of their defense. Period.
This series, needless to say, has gotten a lot more interesting. We will see if the Heat can play as well as they did in Game 2, in Games 3, 4 and 5 — which will be held in San Antonio.