Stampler's Take: Pop's Final Exam

USA TODAY Sports

Do the Spurs really need to make a change to deal with Miami's edge in rebounding? How about going big vs playing small-ball? Who will the defense give open shots to as they double LeBron? These questions and more are considered in Part 2 of Stampler's Take.

The first part of Stampler's Take posted yesterday and can be found here:

Too much has been made of Miami's 46-37 rebounding advantage, and it's misleading. Defensive rebounds are far easier to get than offensive rebounds and the Spurs pursue offensive rebounds less than any team in the league except Boston. San Antonio attempted six more shots in the game and missed five more, so there were more defensive rebounds there to be had for Miami. The Heat also had four shots that bricked off the rim and over the backboard, not a rebound for the Spurs technically, but it gave them possession all the same.

In fact, the Spurs secretly won some battles on the offensive boards, too. LeBron was incredulous at how they could've finished with 21 second-chance points with only six offensive rebounds, but he didn't take into account all the deflections for loose balls that went out-of-bounds off Miami, giving the Spurs offense new life. San Antonio had 10 "second-chance" field goal attempts and made eight. The Heat only got off seven shots even with nine offensive boards. The Spurs won the second-chance scoring 21 to 8.

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Small-ball vs. Big-ball

The Spurs were big for 31:40 (-5) and small for 16:20 (+9).

The Heat were big for 20:33 (-4) and small for 27:27 (0).

This conclusion might lead you to believe that the Heat have a small-ball edge vs. the Spurs. However, if we slice it a little further, here's what we find...

Big vs. Big: 17:33 (Spurs +4)

Small vs. Small: 18:20 (Spurs +7)

Spurs Big vs. Heat Small: 9:07 (Spurs -7).

I think Pop learned from the folly of trying to stay big vs. the Heat's small lineups, as he only used it for 22 seconds in the second half, matching size for size with them the rest of the way. Or maybe he just learned not to play Cory Joseph. One of those two. We'll keep track.

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Watching the game the first time I thought the Spurs missed a ton of open shots and had a lot of room for improvement there, while the Heat had a lot fewer open looks in the second half. Re-watching it and tracking it though, I'm not so sure. The two teams were so evenly matched, it's sick.

Spurs: 27-of-43 on good looks, 8-of-38 on contested shots.

Heat: 25-of-41 on good looks, 9-of-35 on contested shots.

Where the Spurs might have an edge is with the guys the defense wants to take shots, actually taking shots. A "good look" on an open jumper from Wade or a wing three from Bosh isn't the same as a "good look" from Ray Allen at the corner, for example. I think where the Spurs have consistently excelled in the Pop era is with guys avoiding shots they don't make consistently . I get the feeling that Gary Neal is someone the Heat don't mind taking open threes, but besides him is there anyone you'd feel okay with leaving alone if you're a Miami coach? Taking it one step further, I feel better about Duncan or Parker taking an open 18-footer than I do Wade or Haslem for Miami.

I think if the Spurs stay even or slightly ahead of the Heat throughout the series in good looks, they'll have the edge because they have more guys who can shoot it. Conversely though, if Miami can force as many contested shots as the Spurs do, they'll have the edge, because the Heat's superior athletes will allow them to make more difficult shots.

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I'm happy that Shane Battier has shot himself out of Miami's rotation. That's one less defender to worry about. The more Allen and Miller are on the floor, the easier the game will get for the Spurs offense. Those guys can be exploited, as can the undersized bigs vs. Duncan or Splitter. James and Mario Chalmers are good defenders and Bosh has good length, but I think their wings are their underbelly and it's just a matter of passing it quickly enough to find the mismatches. It's not like all five guys they use are all-world defenders. It's just that LeBron is so fast he's like three people. The Spurs will get used to his speed and their rotations and having Duncan in the post and Manu as alternate creators will cause Miami problems in the long run.

I think, similar to the last series against the Grizzlies, the Heat will be limited by the predictability of their offense. They don't have as many creators, and it's somewhat easier for the Spurs that they don't have to track LeBron off the ball and deal with him as a catch-and-shoot/catch-and-drive guy. As long as Wade is a black hole, the Spurs defense will be in good shape.

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Miami uncharacteristically played without both LeBron and Wade for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. Spoelstra said later that LeBron told him he needed a rest and in their pressers both James and Wade admitted fatigue affected them due to the Pacers series. It's the first time I can ever recall those guys conceding being tired.

We'll see how it effects them going forward, but it's worth noting that James was 16th in the league this season, with 2,877 minutes played. Bosh totaled 2,454 and Wade was close behind at 2,391.

Did you know Danny Green led the Spurs in floor time this season? True story. He was 86th in the league, at 2,201.

Here's a selection of players who played more minutes than Danny Green:

O.J. Mayo (2,913, 11th), J.R. Smith (2,678, 32nd), Jeremy Lin (2,640, 34th), Alonzo Gee (2,541, 47th), Luke Ridnour (2,474, 53rd), J.J. Redick (2,379, 60th), Darren Collison (2,372, 62nd), Jarrett Jack (2,349, 64th), Randy Foye (2,249, 80th), Jamal Crawford (2,230, 84th).

You'll note several of those guys are their teams' respective sixth men. San Antonio's top minutes guy played less than a bunch of sixth men.

Parker was 90th with 2,174 minutes played.

He played less minutes than Bismack Biyombo (2,186, 88th).

Duncan was 106th, at 2,078 minutes.

He played fewer minutes than: Jason Terry (2,124, 100th) and Vince Carter (2,087, 104th).

Does it matter that James played over 700 minutes more than Parker and 800 more than Duncan during the regular season (and another 143 and 183 more, respectively in the playoffs)? We'll find out. But it can't be a bad thing for the Spurs.

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Ginobili's numbers weren't great, but I was happy with his aggressiveness in going to the rim. He made two lay-ups, drew fouls on a couple more, and was fouled without a call on like three of four other attempts. That's eight forays inside the paint overall, and as long as he can keep that up, good things will eventually happen both for him and the team, hopefully with a more sympathetic refereeing crew. But he took another stupid three early in the shot clock down the stretch though; can't have that.

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There was a stretch from midway through the third to early in the fourth where I felt like we were being trolled. Eight times the Spurs had a chance to tie or go ahead and came up empty, with Green, Leonard and Neal each missing a pair of threes (four of the six were good looks) and Duncan missing one jumper and turning it over on another chance.

When the Spurs finally drew even (one ahead, actually), with 7:47 to go, it came via Parker free throws, so that was kind of anticlimactic. It's more psychologically satisfying to take the lead on a made field goal in open play.

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I guess it's a function of their game plan, and you have to pick your poison, but man do I get nervous with all the wide open looks the Boshtrich gets against the Spurs. I know he has his sweet spots and his cold areas, but the guy is a pretty good jump shooter. I'm not advocating leaving Allen or Miller by any means, or paying less attention to LeBron, but I'd much prefer to have Wade be the one who gets those 20-footers with no one near him, if possible.

Bosh will have at least one game this series with 25 points, right? Unless he reads the papers and listens to the pundits and takes it upon himself to be aggressive to the basket and being a post guy and tosses up a bunch of contested crap. That'd be terrific. C'mon, Chris, attack! What are you afraid of, chipping a nail in the paint? Are you intimidated by Tiago Splitter you big hairy girl?

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Neal played 21:34 in Game 1, which was about 20 minutes more than I would've hoped, but honestly it wasn't all terrible. He had a couple of big shots in the third quarter to keep us in the game and while his shooting touch (and thoughtful shot selection) abandoned him in the fourth quarter, his defense on Allen and Wade was surprisingly good. He actually played better against Allen than either Green or Ginobili did, actually.

The fact of the matter is the Spurs are going to play small quite a bit against Miami, maybe half the game. Green, Leonard and Ginobili can't play the whole game, especially Ginobili. Even Parker will need to sit for like six to eight minutes. Joseph may well be unplayable in this match-up.

So, let's treat this part of Pop's Final Exam like a multiple choice test: the choices are -- A: Go with Neal, B: Play the others to death, or C: Take your chances big vs. small. I'd pick D: Play T-Mac. But that's not realistic. My real choice would be more of the Duncan-Splitter tandem. It's just hard to fathom getting away with playing Neal that much a second time, though it's not as bad when he's got either Manu or Tony with him (often both) the whole time.

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By my count LeBron had five possessions against Parker late in the game, and while Tony got nothing easy for himself (two bricked contested 20-footers, a pair of hockey assists, and that miracle shot at the end), in almost every case he got a switch on the high screen, so James was off of him immediately. Inconclusive results to be sure, but I get the feeling that Ginobili will be key here for the Spurs as James takes on more of this burden, assuming that he's not too tired.

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Analysis, via Magic Johnson: "The adjustment the Heat have to make is to be better in the fourth quarter."

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Analysis, via Bill Simmons: "LeBron needs to go to the post more. Danny Green, Tony Parker, he's way bigger than those guys. The Spurs don't have anyone like Paul George."

Kawhi Leonard is pretty long, Mike Wilbon informs Simmons.

"He's a rookie!" Simmons scoffs.

That reminds me, I'm pretty cheesed that Leonard was left completely off everyone's ROY ballot this season. I wonder if it has something to do with this being his second year in the league?

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According to this Buck Harvey column, the players that Stephen Jackson thought he deserved to play over were Green and Ginobili. That's like me saying I'm a better writer than Simmons, but, you know, wrong.

Thanks for 2003, Jack, and I'll forever be grateful for the much-needed toughness you contributed to the team last season and your role in expelling He Who Shall Not Be Named, but after this story came out I'm glad they got rid of you. What a nut.

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The earliest "dynasty" I was aware of as a young sports fan was the Oakland A's of the "Bash Brothers" era. Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Terry Steinbach, Carney Lansford, Dave Parker, Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley and Tony LaRussa. They dominated baseball from 1988-1990, easily appearing in the World Series three straight seasons, winning 103, 99 and 104 games.

In '88, they were upset by the LA Dodgers. In '89 they swept my Giants in that Series that was marred by the massive earthquake. In '90 they were shockingly swept by the Cincinnati Reds.

This year's Heat is similarly in the third year of their dominance of the Eastern Converence, and they were upset by the Mavericks two years ago before performing their gentleman's sweep of the Thunder last year. I guess what I'm saying is it'd be cool for this year's Spurs to play the Cincinnati Reds to Miami's Oakland A's.

After all, Eric Davis was always one of my favorites.

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I found it odd that the Heat have adopted The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" seeing how the entire team is from the United States. If any team should have that song as an anthem, shouldn't it be the Spurs? We've got the U.S., France, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, um... The Virgin Islands and... uh... oh yeah, Belgium. That totally counts. Seven!

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And I leave you with this. Sure, it's a viral ad, but who says the Spurs won't do endorsements?

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