The Anatomy of the Blowout
The cheers of the hometown crowd bring subliminal pressures that are usually ignored by the talking heads. The assumption is always that the home team has the advantage. Sure, there’s the familiarity and energy that a team can only get from its home court, but there’s just as much of a possibility for uneasy, piercing silence that resonates through a nervous and disappointed crowd. That can be crippling.
In Game 3, San Antonio never allowed doubt to creep into the arena for more than a few short spurts at the end of the second and third quarters.
Gregg Popovich’s theory to stop the Heat: cut off the head and the rest of the body will fall. Arguably the smartest coach in the league is winning the battle against the undisputed best player in the game. The “LeBron can’t be stopped; he can only be contained” theory of the past two years is being put to the test. In three games, LeBron is shooting .388 from the floor, including .23 from 3, compared to his 56% from the field and 40% from 3 during the regular season. If you told Pop that by the middle of the 4th quarter LeBron would be shooting 33% from the field, he would have gladly given the garishly dressed Sebastien De La Cruz a tryout in the 4th quarter with the human victory cigar Tracy McGrady.
I thought Game 2 of Western Conference Finals was Pop’s offensive scheme’s magnum opus. The ball movement was the best I’d ever seen, and it totally used the Oklahoma City Thunder’s athletic advantage against them. The Thunder were repeatedly out of position, and their defense left the Spurs three-point shooters constantly wide-open. Game 3 was that much more impressive. Miami’s blitzing defensive always seemed to be on the run, closing out a second or two later than they should have. They didn’t rely on the inside-out Duncan-centered approach, or the pick-and-roll you to death, Parker-centric approach; instead it was a simple dribble, drive and kick. The perfect scheme just so happened to coincide with two once-in-a-lifetime games by Gary Neal and Danny Green.
The Pop system prevails.
The Anatomy of the Meltdown
For a fan and, I would venture to guess, even for a player, the most discouraging part of a blowout doesn’t occur when the lead is 20+. It happens around the time the lead is cut down to something seemingly manageable. It leaves a sense of patronizing hope, an optimism that can be ripped away in the matter of seconds.
That happened to the Heat twice in Game 3. After tying the game up at 44 at the end of the 2nd quarter, Miami gave up a three to Parker and buzzer beater by Gary “I don’t enjoy missing, so I’m just not going to” Neal that put the Spurs up six at the half. At that point the Heat were optimistic but for two 3s in 30 seconds, they were still in the game despite playing poorly.
Then threes poured in from Green and Neal. After every three, Miami looked at one another for answers. It’s as if Roddy Piper surprised the Heat with a firm sleeper hold that they couldn’t fight. But matches rarely end when the sleeper is first applied, and Miami fought back with nine straight points by LeBron James to cut the lead to 13. Suddenly out of the grasp of the sleeper, the Heat were lulled into a few seconds of hope before Tiago Splitter (successfully) dunked the Spurs back to a 15-point lead before the 4th.
Then the floodgates opened. Danny Green, Gary Neal and even Cory Joseph nailed dagger after dagger. They seemed to all have access to NBA Showtime’s fireball, and it was as if the Spurs’ defense activated a cheat code that left Miami in a perpetual cold shooting streak.
It was clear the game was out of hand.
Coach Erik Spoelstra, however, like a disappointed parent, left the “Big 3” on the court. It was as if to say, “Look at the mess you made. I want you to appreciate and soak in this embarrassment.” Spo has never been a coach who seemed intimidated by the thankless task of coaching the Miami experiment. Save for a few games, he seems to have the pulse of the team. After his postgame shaming of his team, it’ll be interesting to see if he can revive his team from the Game 3 meltdown.
Also Check Out:
Game 2 NBA Finals Recap: The Talk
NBA Finals: Spurs vs. Heat Game 1 Recap
San Antonio Spurs – Better With Time
Introducing You to San Antonio in the Great State of Texas
Yung Berg: Still On The Rise & Headed Straight To The Top