Here are some numbers for you:
9738: Number of minutes played by the Heat's big three this season
7272: Number of minutes played by the Spur's big three this season
2015: Number of minutes played by the Heat's big three in the playoffs
1536: Number of minutes played by the Spur's big three in the playoffs
That extra 32 percent time in the playoffs may not seem like a huge deal to us armchair coaches watching the game on television exhorting those athletes to move their lazy butts and give more effort, but at this level it is a huge deal. Go out and run ten miles or so at a pretty good clip. Not too bad eh? Now go out and run 13 miles at exactly the same pace.
The numbers don't even tell the whole story. Pop rests his players when they need it. Spoelstra often had to keep his players out there even when they needed to be on the bench to either mentally or physically regroup. Yes, Pop has a deep bench and multiple effective lineups so he can do that, but I would argue that the coaching philosophy played a huge part in developing that deep bench and lineup advantage. Getting rest at the right time is just as important as the amount of rest. Advantage Spurs.
Energy levels are the result of a lot of different factors and body wear is just one of them. A big factor, maybe the biggest, is mental state of mind. You have way more energy when your team is winning and things have been working well, and inversely you have way less energy when you are mentally fatigued when questioning yourself, your teammates, your legacy, etc.. The Heat are always under the media microscope. When times are good they can feed off the media frenzy, but when times are bad it can crush spirits and exaggerate fatigue. The Spurs, on the other hand, both get and invite minimal media noise, preferring a low key approach depending on faith in themselves and each other. Advantage for this particular situation: Spurs.
The Heat are an incredibly talented bunch of players. Looking only at physical basketball skills LeBron is one of the greatest players ever and has the potential to be the greatest. Incredible speed, athletic ability, power and finesse all in one body. Incredible. The talent levels of Wade and LeBron are so high that we discount Bosh and Ray Allen, both stars in their own right. If they all play to their potential there are very few teams in history that can beat them. But luckily, well, not really luckily, by design the Spurs are playing to their potential while the Heat are not. A big part of that is simply Gregg Popovich carefully balancing lineups and minutes. That is only one of the factors, sure, but it is an important one. The Spurs simply have more physical and energy left to draw upon when times get tough.
As an aside, here are some personal numbers: 26,600, 7.6. I watch nationally televised games at the gym, but unfortunately the Spurs are not often on national TV as apparently this great nation would rather watch the train wreck in LA seven days a week than the gorgeous poetry created by the Spurs even once. Ugh. Luckily this postseason I have had nineteen games to watch at the gym, burning approximately 1400 extra calories each time. That works out to 26600 calories so far, the caloric value of 7.6 pounds of fat. Despite the extra ice cream and chocolate intake I have indeed lost seven pounds during these playoffs. Funny how math works
Back to the main topic. The teams are pretty evenly matched in many ways, so any advantage can be incredibly handy. If we can jump out early in game six and keep their mood down it will be that much more difficult for them to dig deep for extra energy. The Heat will not concede, of course, they are way too talented and proud to let us win easily, but we go in with a huge advantage. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that advantage is just by luck.