NBA Finals Game 2 Preview
Now that’s almost been 3 days since San Antonio took game 1, let’s ask ourselves; are we really surprised? If you said “yes”, you really haven’t been paying attention to the playoffs. This Miami team has been far from dominant. Sure, they won an incredible 27 games during the regular season. But aside from that, have they really looked dominant since they all came together? This is the same core group (Chalmers/ Lebron/ Wade/ Bosh/ Haslem) that had a losing record and looked lost in their first month of playing alongside each other, before picking things up and finishing with the 2nd seed in the East. That season, they dealt with Philly, Boston and Chicago (maybe their most convincing run up until this point) before falling flat on their faces in the finals against the Mavs. The next season, they endured similar question marks throughout the season and fell behind against the Pacers (still a very raw team with George and Hibbert nowhere near the same players they were this season), Celtics (outside of Rondo, who was spectacular, an aging and experienced squad who needed 7 games to beat an 8th seeded Philly team, so that shows their own flaws) and Thunder (who’s predictable offense was easy to pick apart if Westbrook, Durant and Harden weren’t firing on all cylinders). Outside of game 6 in Boston, Miami was not pushed to the brink. But make no mistake about it, game 2 is absolutely a must win game for Miami. They cannot drop the first 2 games at home and hope to have a realistic chance to win the championship. They would have to win 4 out of the next 5, with 3 straight in San Antonio, and with the execution precision and sheer mental poise that the Spurs play with, that’s one hell of a challenge to present to any team in NBA history, let alone one that struggles maintaining its focus like Miami has.
And that isn’t even taking into account the form of both teams heading into game 1. The Spurs were 12-2 in the playoffs before Friday’s (Friday in Australia, Thursday night for you North Americans) game. The Heat were 12-4. San Antonio destroyed a depleted Lakers team (but still more of a challenge than a Bucks team that had no right being in the playoffs), a Golden State team that had captured the imagination of the basketball world with their play in the first round against Denver (Miami played Chicago, who despite their heart, was severely decimated by injuries to virtually everyone on their squad) before sweeping Memphis, a team that had won 8 out of their last 9 games in the playoffs (Miami was pushed to 7 games by a Pacer team that, on paper, looked lucky to get one game)
The Spurs are now 13-2 in the playoffs. Miami is 4-4 in their last 8 games.
The result of Game 1 was not surprising in the least.
But they still control their own destiny. The last two NBA champions have lost game 1 (The Mavs in 2011, and Miami last year). The great thing about sports, is everything I have written above, really doesn’t matter. What matters is how Miami learns from what they did wrong and if they actually adjust. They cannot expect blatantly bad officiating at this stage. The league wanted Miami in the finals, but once they’re here, they won’t hand them a ring. Look at what happened in 2011 against Dallas, and how the refs backed off and actually did their jobs well. What they should be concerned with is the fact that the Spurs barely shot 40% (41.7%, to be exact) and they still won the game. They missed multiple open 3’s that went halfway down, with Gary Neal and Leonard going a combined 1-9 from beyond the arc. If they only made 3 from 9, we’re talking about a double digit point margin here.
Structurally, Miami does not seem to have the answers to contain San Antonio in the half court. The Heat’s defense relies on help coming from a variety of angles when Parker or Ginobili get into the paint, or Duncan is in the post. The problem with that is The Spurs are a very patient team that moves the ball brilliantly to counter that and get great shots. This happened in game 1, but as I mentioned before, those shots weren’t falling for San Antonio and yet they were still able to win the game.
As I predicted before the series, Miami is in trouble. They’ll probably win game 2, but I don’t say that with any real confidence. But just remember this: The Spurs are 5-0 against Lebron in the finals. Sometimes, numbers can be deceiving. But when something repeatedly happens, it’s usually for a reason. Popovich is doing a number on Lebron like he did in 2007.
PS, Lebron, can you please shut up about being “fatigued”? Did you see any players from Chicago making excuses after losing games because of their injuries or how the referees were protecting you? And Heat fans wonder the rest of the basketball community can’t stand you. Just shut up and focus on making some adjustments so you can get back into the series instead of trying to justify a loss. But hey, what else should I expect from someone who is more interested in stat padding in. It seems you’re much more concerned with the people’s perception of you rather than producing. That’s it. No more excuses. You’re great? Go out there and prove it. Don’t start with this “we’re tired” crap. You had to go 7 games because your team played horribly against the Pacers. Get over it and play. J