The Spurs made things interesting in the fourth quarter, but the Heat held on by dominating the paint with Bam Adebayo and DeWayne Dedmon, and Jimmy Butler drawing fouls to keep the Spurs from closing the deficit. The turning point in the game was a span in the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth where the Heat’s 17-0 run gave them enough cushion to last out the game. Devin Vassell had moments, but didn’t look comfortable in his first start in a while, but he has 11 more games to get it right. Early foul trouble on Jakob Poeltl hampered the Spurs defense in the paint as it allowed the Heat bigs free rein in the paint for most of the game.
- It’s Superhero Day. Pick your fighter:
- Super Hero night, but no Tyler Herro. That’s probably a plus for the Spurs, because he killed the good guys a week ago with a cascade of triples.
- Devin Vassell is starting tonight. Derrick White is out for the season, which is terrible, but it’s an opportunity for the young rookie to get some court time and develop his game. Next man up.
- The Heat uniforms are so gaudy and asymmetric, they make the Fiesta jerseys look like pinstripes. It’s really hard on the eyes, and for some crazy reason, I like it.
- Jakob’s tendency to pick up early fouls takes him out of the game too often. He really needs to tone down his aggressiveness the first few minutes of the game, because he’s not helping the team sitting out most of the first half after picking up 2 fouls in the first three minutes, and his third foul shortly after he re-entered the game early in the second quarter.
- DeWayne Dedmon was a real difference maker for the Heat tonight. He took advantage of the absence of Jakob with foul trouble in the middle to punish the Spurs in the paint. Not bad for a guy whose name was misspelled on his jersey (Dedman).
- Adebayo shuffles his feet a lot, and the refs did a bad job of noticing the bad footwork. Pop did a lot better job of seeing the violations than the officials did tonight. Even with all the help from Popovich, the referees still seemed to have some difficulties with the rules of the game, but Pop persevered with the training, and to the ref’s credit, they didn’t call a tech on the white haired coach.
- Devin Vassell struggled with his shooting, but he made the right plays on defense, and I look forward to him becoming acclimated and improving his offense once he gets comfortable.
- The Spurs played a zone defense for part of the fourth quarter, and it was a failure. The spacing wasn’t that great and the Heat easily beat it with ball movement and shooting. If the Spurs want to use this again, they need to practice it more.
Jakob got called for his first foul on the first play of the game, and the Heat were sharp to start the game, running out to an 11-4 lead by taking advantage of Spurs mistakes. After a time out, the Spurs went into grind mode, they were still having trouble scoring, but they weren’t giving as many easy buckets to the Heat, and kept the game within reach until late in the quarter, as the cold-shooting from the Spurs allowed the Heat to lead 31-20 at the break.
The Spurs scored the first 8 points of the second quarter and were instantly back into the game. The surge was interrupted by a Bam Adebayo offensive foul + travel that wasn’t called. Pop noticed and rudely brought it to the referee’s attention. This paid off later in the quarter as they actually called it when Adebayo travelled and got a charge called on him. Unfortunately, Spelstra challenged the call and got a reversal that gave Jakob his third foul, sending him to the bench. But an offensive explosion from Lonnie Walker and DeMar DeRozan allowed the Spurs to retake the lead by as much as 6. The Heat cut into the lead, but the Spurs would have been ahead except for a lucky Goran Dragic buzzer beater bank shot that gave the Heat a 55-54 lead at the half.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair to start off, but Spurs turned up the defensive intensity and were able to turn over the heat and finally take over the lead halfway through the quarter, stretching their lead to as much as 7, which was quickly erased by a 15-0 Heat run to retake the lead, with Jimmy Butler and DeWayne Dedmon doing most of the damage. The Spurs trailed 82-74 after three, reeling from a four minute scoring drought, and seemingly close to being knocked out of the game, just like they were last week.
The Spurs showed some life to start the final quarter, with three-point shots from Lonnie Walker and Rudy Gay to finally end the 17-0 Heat run. A quick Spoelstra time out righted the Heat, and they surged back to a 10 point lead with Goran Dragic making key shots. Vassell a triple plus a free throw to make it interesting, but the Spur kept scoring but could not get enough stops to cut into the deficit. The game was being played in the 6-10 point lead range for most of the fourth quarter. The Spurs tried out a zone defense in the fourth quarter, and it was not good. The Heat used ball movement to get open shots, and led by 10 with 4 minutes left. A 7-0 run got the Spurs within 3 at 109-106 with just under 2 minutes left, but they couldn’t close the deal. The Heat were able to hold on by getting offensive rebounds and by Jimmy Butler drawing fouls, and even though the Spurs made it interesting with a Rudy Gay triple late, the Heat won 116-111.
This is a cautionary tale about not taking success for granted until you’ve at the destination. Don’t pay the fare until you arrive, you’ve been warned.
What’s Next . . .
For the Heat fans’ perspective, visit Hot Hot Hoops.
The Spurs are headed to Boston to face the Celtics on Friday night. Marcus Smart is suspended tonight, but should return on Friday. Bad timing for the good guys.