|Photo from rsenetwork.net|
First of all, Erik Spoelstra replaced Mario Chalmers in the lineup with Ray Allen. Shalmers has been absolutely useless so far in the series, so it's good that he's been relegated to the bench. This confirms my thinking that LeBron James will be in control of the ball for most of the night.
Already, LeBron James is guarding Tony Parker, which is an interesting adjustment. The Heat refuse to let him get the Spurs' offense into a rhythm early on. Overall the defensive effort of the Heat has been great so far.
While on the other side, the Big 3 has been super aggressive to begin the game. Dwyane Wade hit a jumper to kick off the scoring, and LeBron James has been active around the rim when given opportunities. He's been running the offense, but not necessarily looking out for himself so far, because he hasn't needed to.
The Spurs are 1 for 12 from the floor to start the game. Their shots have been contested all night, and LeBron James already has two blocks tonight, including a beautiful flying block in transition against Tony Parker.
The Heat just keep knocking down shots, and it's going to be impossible to stop them if the Spurs keep coming away with empty possessions on the other end.
Now Ginobili has scored 6 points in a row, and finally the Spurs have gotten something going, forcing the Heat to take a timeout.
Oh, now Kawhi Leonard hits his second three of the night, so things are looking up for the Spurs after Ginobili assisted the wide open Leonard.
Now 12 straight for the Spurs as Patty Mills gets some friendly bounces from the rim to knock down a three.
But LeBron answers with a pretty long, contested three. He hadn't been looking to score from jump shots as much as I thought he would early, but that's going to be an important factor in his ability to score tonight. That's his second three pointer of the night. He's been great so far anyway, as he has 17 points so far. Now he's aggressively looking to take the ball into the post against his man.
With 4.6 seconds left, Shane Battier commits a bad foul against Kawhi Leonard, who is receiving MVP chants from the crowd as he shoots free throws. I can't saw I'd totally disagree, but at this point, I'd give the Finals MVP to Boris Diaw should the Spurs win. That's right, the guy who was cut by the Bobcats during the worst single season by any franchise in NBA history, has earned the Finals MVP so far.
Of course, that won't matter if LeBron James continues his current pace. He ends the first quarter with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
The Heat lead 29-22 at the end of one.
Oh my. What an alley oop from Boris Diaw to Kawhi Leonard to kick off the quarter. A beautiful cut by Leonard and a beautiful pass from Diaw. That's the epitome of the Spurs' offense right now. And Leonnard follows it up by knocking down a mid range jumper.
Oh hey Dwyane Wade. Once again he scores the first points for the Heat in the quarter. Unfortunately those have been his only four points in the game. But he looks confident when shooting jumpers, which is good for the Heat.
Now Boris Diaw makes an appearance on the defensive end, intercepting a long pass from LeBron and leading the fastbreak. The Spurs scored, but after Ray Allen committed a kicked ball violation, so the play was ruled dead. That's a really stupid rule. The Spurs were on their way to a bucket. The kicked ball rule is meant to benefit the offense, but it works against them in this situation. The refs should be allowed to let the teams play on, and only make the kicked ball call should it in fact disrupt the play.
Chris Bosh has had no fear tonight shooting the ball. If he's open on the perimeter, he's going to put it up. That's good for Miami. Sometimes he's too passive and likes to pass out or put it on the floor, hoping for a better look, even if he's already wide open. He's not really shooting too well so far, but the Heat are certainly willing to get him involved.
Now we see a Boris Diaw offensive rebound which he then passes to Marco Bellinelli, who fakes, takes one dribble, steps inside the line, and knocks down a jumper. Could there be a more classic Spurs sentence.
Well, there's this too; Tim Duncan is aggressive and scoring the ball successfully from the post.
Sometimes, the Heat's philosophy to switch everything on the pick and roll comes back to bite them, especially against a team that moves the ball as well as the Spurs. They just left Tim Duncan wide open in the post, who obviously knocked it down.
Leonard follows up some very ferocious defense on LeBron James with a three to give the Spurs their first lead of the game. He stuck with LeBron throughout the entire possession, not allowing him any room, even as there were screens to help him.
The Heat aren't playing horribly right now, but the Spurs are simply better. The defensive pressure has been great both at the rim and on the perimeter. They've forced the Heat to miss their last 7 field goals, leading to an 11-0 Spurs run. But the Heat have been taking good shots.
Manu Ginobili just drove through the entire Heat defense and posterized someone, but I can't exactly tell who.
LeBron James ends a 14-0 Spurs run with a turnaround jumper. So naturally, Ginobili responds by hitting a contested three. It was Bosh who was dominated by Manu at the rim earlier, in case you were wondering. He's taking the game over right now, as he has 14 points off the bench.
The first half as coming to a close, with some classic Spurs offense as great ball movement leads to a Boris Diaw score at the rim.
Scoring only 11 points in the second quarter, the Heat have really taken a step back so far, but again, it's more because the Spurs are playing amazing defense than Miami's own failures. LeBron needs to continue to carry the load offensively. He has half of his team's points so far, but he needs to continue that trend in the second half. He's playing well, but clearly not well enough, as the Heat trail 47-40 at the end of the first half.
Time to watch the halftime show, as Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons combine analysis and beautiful humor, and Doug Collins throws in his great basketball knowledge. Sage Steele...well she's sort of just there. But I want to be her. She gets to sit next to Jalen Rose as he talks about basketball with two others who know a lot about the game. Unfortunately, he has to be censored a bit on television, and for good reason. Don't get fired!
The defensive pressure on LeBron James has been great so far tonight, coming from Kawhi Leonard, or, as we just saw, Tony Parker. But he's still getting his. The rest of the Heat need to help him out. It sounds ridiculous to say that considering the roster that Pat Riley assembled in Miami, but it's true. In an elimination game in the NBA Finals, he needs to do it by himself essentially.
Once again, Kawhi Leonard is getting MVP chants while at the line. The Kawhi takeover is in full effect. He's still bothering LeBron by getting in his face and forcing him to change his plans. I think he'll carry this great play over to the regular season. He'll be a superstar from now on. And yet, I still have never heard the man speak.
Leonard's defense is simply too good right now. He's shutting LeBron down, which means that the Heat have absolutely no chance of winning this game. Especially when Dwyane Wade is shooting 3 for 10 so far in this game.
So far the Spurs have outscored the Heat 9-2 in this quarter. I think this game might be over. It's simply impossible for Miami to get anything going offensively. Kawhi Leonard is the one man in the NBA who is truly a "LeBron stopper."
The Heat have gotten only 2 bench points in the entire game. There is no support.
Tiago Splitter ferociously rejected Dwyane Wade at the rim, which leads to a Boris Diaw assist on a Patty Mills three. Then, another Patty Mills three. And finally, a Manu Ginobili lead, and a 21 point Spurs lead. Just end the game now and wheel out the trophy. This thing is over. There's nothing LeBron and the Heat can do now.
Now the Heat are so desperate that Mario Chalmers is getting into the game for the first time tonight.
Is that really him?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, don't adjust your TVs, #8 is on the floor. Michael Beasley has just entered the game in the third quarter. Erik Spoelstra officially has no answers.
At this point, the Heat need to just hand the ball to LeBron and set screens to get him open, especially now that Kawhi Leonard is not of the floor right now. He needs to score their next 20 points for them to have a chance at winning. It simply isn't working right now.
Patty Mills has hit 5 threes in this game, with 4 of them coming in this quarter. He's unstoppable right now, and the Heat are simply not getting the message, as they continue to let him take generally uncontested shots from behind the arc.
Like I said before the game, the Spurs would be best served if the role players took over. That turned out to be true, as Tony Parker finally scored his first points of the game with less than 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Danny Green is still scoreless for San Antonio.
Even with his team up by 19 and on their way to winning the NBA title, Gregg Popovich is still very tough to interview. He gave Doris Burke absolutely nothing to work with in their "conversation" as action kicked off in the quarter.
Woah, Mario Chalmers is actually productive so far. He has 7 points and just had a really nice and one. But I still can't get used to Michael Beasley being on the court.
There's not much going on right now, other than continued great offense and defense by the Spurs. And a Boris Diaw three pointer.
There was a point earlier in the quarter when it looked like the Heat still had life in this game, but now it's over. LeBron is on the bench right now, and he looks defeated, He has 31 points and 10 rebounds so far, but that's not nearly enough as his team still trails by 18.
Michael Beasley has 8 points, and he looks like the only one of the Heat who's trying at this point. Don't ask me how that's the case.
There are three minutes left, but the celebration is beginning. This is Shane Battier's final game in the NBA, and despite it making sense for him to go out on top, I don't think it's Tim Duncan's last game. He still has a lot left in the tank, and it doesn't feel like he'd walk away while he still has the skills to play. His entire life is basketball, and he'll walk away from it when the game of basketball leaves him, not the other way around.
Here come the scrubs. Tim Duncan has been subbed out for Jeff "Pendergraph"Ayres. I don't know how he just snuck his way into a Finals game. At the next stoppage in play, Ginobili is subbed out for Cory Joseph. Now, both Tony Parker and Boris Diaw were replaces by Aron Baynes and Matt Bonner. Yes, Boris Diaw earned himself the star substitution at the end of the game.
Not to be forgotten, Toney Douglas made his way into the second straight game, along with James Jones. Somehow both guys logged minutes in two separate game sin this series.
So now the game is over, and Gregg Popovich has still yet to smile. The Spurs have won their fifth title.
What's next for the Miami Heat? Clearly things are going to change. Dwyane Wade looked completely finished in this series, and that doesn't bode well for his future. Do I think he won't return to the Heat? Not necessarily, but they certainly need to bring some other pieces in to support LeBron James if he sticks around. There is no Big 3 anymore as long as Wade isn't playing at his formerly high level. Chris Bosh is still fine. But who else will come to join the team? Will Carmelo Anthony take his talents to South Beach? It will be tough, but possible, and it would involve a massive pay cut for Dwyane Wade, which is what he deserves at this point. Or maybe they will blow everything up. We'll just have to wait and see.
Congratulations to Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. It took him until the Finals, but he finally put it all together and played like the great player that he's capable of playing like. This is the first step in a great career.
And now I know what his smile looks like, and what his voice sounds like.