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Spurs return to the scene of the crime

San Antonio's first visit back to Miami after their beatdown of the Heat in last year's Finals revealed some interesting things about both teams.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Spurs played in Miami, it was Game Four of the NBA Finals.  This happened:


















My blog after that game was entitled "Reruns", since Game Four felt like a rerun of Game Three, another Spurs blow-out.

Those two games established the Spurs as the best team on the planet, with Game Five back home as the coronation - it felt like the last day of the Tour de France where the winner rides into Paris drinking champagne.

Last night, the Spurs returned to Miami.  I watched the game on TNT, which meant I had to listen to Isaiah Thomas refer to Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw as "guards".  Kawhi has never been a guard, and Boris hasn't been one in 30 pounds.  Isaiah was a bad coach and a worse GM.  Now he is going for the trifecta, acting as a terrible pre-game commentator.

Other observations from the game:

1.       Danny Green started the game missing two wide open 3s.  I don't think Miami fans saw him miss two 3s in a game in either of the last two finals.

2.       Pop was back in full "college coach" mode.  Most NBA coaches have fairly strict substitution patterns.  Pat Riley was famous for taking Kareem out at the exact same time each quarter, subbing him in at the same time each quarter, and returning him to the game with 9 minutes left in the game to play the rest of the way.  Pop is the opposite.  If a player screws up, you can see Pop point to a player on the bench and say "get him out of there".  Last night Patty Mills came in, played two minutes, and never saw the floor again - and Corey Joseph took full advantage.  After listening to Pop tell the team at halftime to commit NO MORE TURNOVERS, Tiago Splitter threw away the ball away the first time he touched it in the second half.  Pop subbed him out at the 9:49 mark, putting in the Boris Diaw.  13 seconds later Diaw was called for a three second violation - and was removed 25 seconds later.  Pop ran through  his power forwards until he found one he liked - Matt Bonner of all people.  Who played well.

3.       Pop continued to sub like a college coach - everybody played.   Ten Spurs played double figure minutes, and Aron Baynes played 9 minutes.  In contrast, in the Clippers Warriors game last night, Doc Rivers played all five starters 39+ minutes, with only two bench guys playing double figure minutes (15 for Doc's son, 10 minutes for Big Baby Glen Davis).  Amusingly, Doc said after the game that his bench "didn't play well".  More accurately, they "didn't play".  Spurs do things differently.  As an aside, I always find it amusing when announcers say the Spurs bench scores more than any bench in the league.  Don't people know the Spurs bench also plays more minutes than any bench in the league?

4.       Before Chalmers made his 60 foot three-pointer before halftime, I had a sense of déjà vu.  He made two similar threes out of timeouts against Dallas in the 2011 Finals, and I just knew the ball was going in once he let it go.  Apparently Pop did too - as noted in Chris Itz piece, Pop didn't react at all.

5.       It was strange to play in Miami with some guy named Lebron not dominating the conversation - and the game , for better or worse.  However, Lebron and his new team still entered my thoughts.  While Diaw was posting up whatever hapless defender the Heat put on him, I couldn't help thinking that the same thing may happen in the NBA Finals this year.  Does Kevin Love have a chance to cover Diaw on the block?  (Short answer: No.)

6. Speaking of the Finals, I continue to monitor the Cavs record,  The Spurs hold a one game lead over the Cavs in the loss column.  Of course, it would be three games if not for the Kyrie Irving 57 point game two weeks ago.  Ouch.  Maintaining that one-game lead may be the difference in keeping home-court advantage in the Finals.  (Assuming the Spurs can get past the Warriors juggernaut, of course.  The Warriors will have home court advantage against ever other team in the universe.)

7.       In LA, fans are watching the standings for different reasons.  By winning in Philadelphia Monday night, the Lakers blew a big chance to "catch" the 76ers for the third spot in the lottery.  Now the Lakers are only one game down in the loss column to Orlando, and risk "falling" to fifth if they catch the Magic.  The Lakers really really need to keep their lottery pick, which is only top five protected.  This Laker team is so bad it can't even tank well.  While a win for the Spurs tonight in Orlando is important for the Spurs' Western Conference seeding, and  title hopes, the sanity of Laker fans everywhere, the Magic need to win a game or two before the season's end.  Just not tonight.