The Spurs got what they wanted in Miami as they stole home-court advantage with a 92-88 victory over the Heat. Every fiber in my being is begging me give in to the post game euphoria and draw some all encompassing conclusions about how the Spurs are simply better, their defense is simply too good and Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are unstoppable. But the truth is, this was just one game. We didn't see the best the Heat have to offer but they didn't exactly see the best version of the Spurs either. For now, let's just be happy that the Spurs are up in the series.
The Spurs didn't let rust bother them and went on a 9-0 run to grab the early first quarter lead. Parker was aggressive, sidestepping the Heat's vaunted pressure defense en route to a six point quarter. The Heat was able to stay in it initially thanks to red hot 3-point shooting. Both teams seemed to be sizing each other up and neither could open up a significant lead. After the first, the Heat led by one.
The Heat's bench surprisingly outplayed the Spurs' in the second despite Manu Ginobili looking spry and creating easy buckets for his teammates. Dwyane Wade seemed in top form in the first half, contributing 13 points while Lebron was well on his way to a triple double before halftime. But Tim Duncan, who started an ice cold 0-5 from the field, vastly outplayed Chris Bosh and with Danny Green and Parker providing some perimeter scoring, the Spurs weathered a three-point barrage and some breakdowns in transition defense. After not playing particularly well, they only trailed by three going into the break, thanks to a fall-away 18-footer from Duncan off an out-of-bounds play with .8 seconds left on the clock.
Some very solid defensive play by the Spurs is all that prevented the Heat from running away with it in the third. With Parker and Duncan only combining for six points on six shots, things could have turned ugly fast. But Lebron only had two points in the full twelve minutes and the Heat's bench couldn't provide a scoring boost. Meanwhile, Ginobili and Neal combined for 12 of the Spurs' 20 points in the frame and the Spurs started getting back on defense better, not allowing a single fast break point after conceding nine in the first half. Going into the fourth, the Heat still led by three, but it seemed like the Spurs might have taken Miami's best shot and survived.
The fourth quarter belonged to Tony Parker. The Wee Frenchman scored 10 points including the bucket that put the Spurs iced the game. Parker hit some mid-range jumpers from all over the floor and prompted Erik Spoelstra to switch James onto him. The Spurs' defense was still smothering and with Lebron in distributor mode, Miami just couldn't find consistent scoring anywhere else. Bosh crowned an underwhelming game by missing a huge open three down four with less than a minute to go and the Spurs ran some clock until Parker put the last nail in the coffin with a crazy shot-clock beating banker as Lebron could only look on. I'll let JRW's description from the Quickcap paint the picture for you:
Parker dribbled through the lane, found it closed, turned right and faced up with LeBron James guarding him, slipped and fell to one knee, picked up his dribble and regained his feet, turned to the basket, faked James into the air, and let go a 16 footer with literally no time left on the shot clock. The shot kissed ever so gently off the glass and bounced twice on the rim before falling through the hoop for the final 4 point margin the Spurs won by.
The Spurs stole one in Miami and no one that watched the game, or any of the Spurs' games in the playoffs, should be shocked.
- Watching the Spurs shift the point of attack was beautiful. Parker would use a screen at the top of the arc and go to one of the sides. Just when the Heat tried to overload the strong side the Spurs would reverse the ball and start a pick and roll from what was supposed to be the weak side. When the Spurs were patient they got points by simply moving the ball and getting the defense off balance. Oh, and the Spurs only turned it over four times the whole game.
- The Spurs could have won this one more easily if they had just hit some corner three pointers. Especially in the third quarter, the Spurs just kept missing open and semi-open looks from their preferred spot beyond the three point line. Leonard missed three in a row and even Green, who is usually deadly from those spots, missed one.
- Gary Neal continues to alternate between infuriating and pleasing. He started off hesitant to pull the trigger, which is just about the worst thing to do against this Heat team. He then started hitting but got overconfident and took a couple bad shots. A typical Gary Neal game.
- Diaw and Bonner played limutes and mostly did fine. Both guys passed up shots and didn't contribute much in the scoring department. If Parker keeps avoiding traps, Diaw won't be as needed as I thought. Still, they weren't bad, but I don't expect them to get a lot of minutes unless there's foul trouble.
- Tiago Splitter was pretty bad for the entire first half but turned it up in the second half when the team needed it the most. He only logged four points and a couple boards after the break, but his help defense was stellar. Tiago used his mobility to rotate and bother shots and has a huge part of the Spurs fourth-quarter run that finally got them the lead.
- Timothy Theodore Duncan put up 20 points, 14 boards, four assists and three blocks because he is the best big in the league this season. Anyone who thinks Hibbert is even comparable to Duncan offensively
is crazyshould have their judgment questioned.
- Leonard and Green played good defense. Leonard's shot just wasn't falling but he was a monster on the boards, like he has been all playoffs. Green only took three pointers but he connected on four of those. He always seemed ready to catch and shoot and that skill is invaluable in this series.
- Manu Ginobili looked healthy. He got to the rim and his shot was there, hitting a couple of three pointers. Manu was happy to sit back and watch Tim and Tony take most off the scoring load but was ready when called upon. He took one three pointer in the fourth quarter that made me want to kill him, but that's par for the course for Manu. It was a very encouraging first game from him, in my eyes.
- Parker was the unstoppable force we knew he could be and made anyone that was predicting his demise look foolish. The 21 points were nice but what I loved from Tony's performance was his poise under pressure and his decision making. Parker had zero turnovers and six assists and if he can keep that up, this series could get uncomfortable for Miami in a hurry.
Game two will be on Sunday and if the Spurs do what they did in that second half, they could go home up 2-0. Still, the objective was to steal one in Miami and the good guys accomplished that.
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