Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NBA Finals Chronicles, Wednesday June 11

Photo from
I was unable to watch last night's game live, but I caught a replay of it this afternoon on NBA TV's NBA Playoff Playback.

I was totally blindsided by the blowout. I never would have predicted that there would be a blowout in this series, especially not so early on. But, looking back, it makes sense to me how this happened. The Spurs simply kept hitting shots. There was absolutely nothing the Heat could do to stop them. Sometimes teams have games in which they hit everything, and they also have games where they miss everything. Sometimes you're Henrik Lundqvist (normal Lundqvist, not what he's currently doing. Let's not talk about it.) and sometimes you're Rick DiPietro. Sometimes you're Ted Williams and sometimes you're 2014 Derek Jeter (too soon?). Usually performances lie somewhere in the middle. The great players and teams normally play closer to that highest level than everyone else, which is why they are considered great. But even for the best, they can still get better. That's what happened last night.

The Spurs moved the ball very well, playing perfect Spurs basketball. That was exactly the way anyone would expect to see a Gregg Popovich team play. And that offense was leading to buckets. Scoring 41 points in the first quarter, led by 16 from Kawhi Leonard, who I will get back to later, the Spurs made a statement from the very beginning. They shot a blazing 86.7% from the field in that quarter. They were simply, unstoppable. They were aggressive and looking for open shots. While they cooled off a bit from there, they still ended the first half shooting 75.8% for the game.

The best part is that they largely did it without relying on the Big 3. Tony Parker didn't score in the first quarter, while Manu Ginobili added two field goals and Tim Duncan went into the second with only one made basket. Tiago Splitter was looking to score moreso than usual after being replaced in the starting lineup by Boris Diaw. Danny Green went 7 of 8 from the floor, but only one of those made shots were from behind the three point line. He was putting the ball on the floor a lot more often and even attacking the basket. It will be interesting to see if he keeps on with that strategy from now on.

The Heat played a bad game by their standards, but they were by no means awful. LeBron James had 7 turnovers, which is pretty unusual for him, but while watching it I didn't feel like they were playing horribly. Certainly some of the turnovers were bad, but it just felt like things were piling on the Heat. Normally they'd have a chance to make up for mistakes, but not when San Antonio is shooting the lights out.

Now it's time to circle back to Kawhi Leonard. I absolutely love him, and last night was the best game of his career. He came out looking to score, which is not what he usually does. He took over from the beginning, and LeBron James and the Heat didn't have an answer for his hot shooting. I really hope he continues to play like this not only for the rest of the series, but into next season. I've said it before, but he's very capable of being a great player with the right mentality. Maybe my prediction for him to make an All-NBA team was a year early?

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