Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina
The truth is he never left you. Manu Ginobili has been here, waiting, for the right moment to put his stamp on this series. I am clueless as to why he waited until Game 5 to play with any sort of aggression, but his largest output in the Finals might have something to do with his only appearance in the starting lineup thus far. Playing more minutes alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker opened up some seams for the dribble-drive.
Ginobili has averaged more turnovers than rebounds this series, and has been looked like a shell of his former self. His performance after Game 4 prompted many to believe he was injured (what most analysts assume when a player looks completely out of his rhythm) and a quote even came out of an interview that mentioned retirement. His dominant performance in the second half kept the Spurs ahead and left Miami clueless. They hadn’t dealt with any of his scoring outbursts thus far this series, so it made it harder for them to adjust to him.
At this point if you were Miami you were just hoping to contain Danny Green (still didn’t) and keep Parker out of his rhythm. With Ginobili finding his rhythm and utilizing his entire offensive arsenal, the Miami Heat defense has a whole different problem now. Danny Green and Gary Neal are threats along the three-point line, Tim Duncan is reliable from the elbow, Tony Parker owns the middle of the paint, and now Ginobili driving towards the baseline could prove to be indefensible on most occasions. This team can now effectively score from anywhere on the court and Miami’s defense is predicated on aggressively taking away 90% of open space. Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan failed to take advantage of these holes last game, and Parker and Ginobli capitalized this time around. Stay tuned for Spoelstras adjustment. I love the NBA Finals. It’s like a two week long chess match.
BORIS?! A guy named Boris!?
I really don’t intend to pour a glass of hater-ade after every Lebron James NBA Finals performance. It kind of pours itself. Sure, he makes some spectacular passes. Every quarter or so, he will snatch a rebound out of the rafters. However, the NBA Finals this year was going to be won by dominant second-half scoring performances. Parker won Game 1 with his, Danny Green/Gary Neal won Game 3 with theirs, Dwyane Wade won Game 4 with his, and Manu Ginobli won Game 5 with his.
Lebron was border-line unstoppable last night, when he wanted to be. On defense, his hand action stripped Danny Green and Tim Duncan cleanly on numerous possessions, usually leading Miami to a fast break. He was disruptive in the passing lanes and contesting shots inside, and he was a bully in the post during a brief stretch in which he dominated Danny Green on the block.
When the Spurs inserted Boris Diaw in the lineup and put him on Lebron James, I thought it was over. Boris…Diaw. It was seemingly a mismatch on all levels. Lebron James should be able to score easily on Boris Diaw. I know it, you know it, and Ellen Degeneres knows it. I think Sean Connery even said it to himself last night as he watched Lebron James get the ball at the top of the arc. The only problem was is that Lebron James didn’t know it. He shot 1-for-8 from the field when Diaw was defending him. He had a marvelous Game 4, rebounding from his disastrous Game 3. But here is the problem. These are lost games because the greatest player on the planet doesn’t take advantage of his opposition in those exact moments. He lost them Game 3 because he needed to regroup for Game 4. They are losing in this series right now because he hasn’t been aggressive enough to get the free throw attempts that he is so accustomed to getting in the regular season. He talks about how getting his teammates involved has always helped him win and how he isn’t going to change. That’s fine, but he isn’t even playing as well he has in the regular season. He is playing like a more passive and more disinterested version of himself late in games. He played much better in 6 years ago against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Before this years Finals he said that he is 50 times better since his performance in the eventual next round of that aforementioned year against the Pistons. He is. His post game has improved, his jumper has improved, and his defense has vastly improved. His killer instinct has dwindled however, if it ever even existed. Regardless of the series outcome, Lebron James has shown that he is not mentally tough enough to be compared to Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan would have put up 20 in the 4th quarter if he was being guarded by Boris Diaw. After every made basket he would jog up the floor staring down Greg Poppovich. Then Poppovich would retire and be remembered as the guy who put Boris Diaw on Michael Jordan in the 4th quarter of a pivotal NBA Finals game.
“Seriously? You put a guy named Boris on me? I will NEVER let you forget this”.
– Danny Green has made a lot of 3-pointers this NBA Finals. All different types. Off the dribble, spot-up, fast-break, 28-footers. Can a role player win Finals MVP?
– Tony Parker executed some great adjustments after Game 4. We saw him getting into the lane and usually throwing up hurried and unorthodox layups that put him on his own rear end, leading to Miami fast breaks. This time around, when he penetrated into the lane he stopped short of the restricted area and worked his floaters and hook shots. Miami will adjust to this in Game 6 and it’s up to Parker to either hit some mid-range jumpers or get to the basket and draw fouls.
– To waste time or not to waste time…that is the question. Am I the only one who asks themselves this question? San Antonio, up 20 with less than 10 minutes left. If you are coaching, do you tell your team to use up the majority of every shot clock and take the best shot that they are left with? Or do you remain aggressive, attack early and try to keep momentum? San Antonio stayed very aggressive, even taking long 2’s and 3-pointers early in the shot clock. Miami had some success with this strategy, as they cut the lead to 8 points. San Antonio remained aggressive however, and built the lead back up enough to cruise to the finish line. If San Antonio was up 20 with 10 minutes left, could they waste 20 seconds of each shot clock and feel comfortable? Granted, they would have to score to balance the expected Miami scoring output, but would they feel more confident with the passive or aggressive approach?
– I see Chris Bosh. I just don’t notice Chris Bosh. Most people tend to forget that Chris Bosh was a franchise player in Toronto. Chris Bosh used to score 40 points in a game. Chris Bosh used to grab 20 rebounds in a game. Is he being misused? He attempted 11 field goals last night. Is that enough? Lebron James in the post hasn’t been as fruitful as imagined in terms of opening up space for shooters, and watching Dwyane Wade work on offense is like watching a Full House rerun. Sometimes fun, sometimes boring, and ultimately predictable.
– Lebron James was an absolute nightmare in the post in Game 5, when he was in the position to. He bullied Danny Green to get the post position he wanted and he played with great muscle memory as he usually jumped towards the rim with his back to the basket and converted easily on hook shots and lay-ins. They never went back to this in the chances they had, and it hurt their offense. Miami needed to convert inside, and make more mid-range jump shots. San Antonio has contested shots excellently when Miami has driven in, and they have defended the Miami pick and roll at the top of the arc and the elbow very well. In Game 4, Dwyane Wade’s assertiveness in taking the mid-range jumpers and Lebron James ability to convert them broke that defensive scheme. In Game 5 they didn’t, and it hurt them. Considering the unpredictability of the Big 3’s ability to take and make jump shots, Miami will have to find other ways to swing momentum their way. Most likely, it will have to be their knack for forcing turnovers and creating fast break opportunities. Expect the half-court pressure to start early in Game 6.
– Miami will have a home and home, and will need to send a message in Game 6. In 2011, Miami faced a similar scenario, down 3-2 and going home for two games. They lost. In 2010, the Lakers went back to Staples Center down 3-2 and blew out the Celtics in Game 6. They won a defensive battle in Game 7 to win the championship. A blowout would be preferable, because if it comes down to the wire, expect Poppovich’s adjustments in Game 7 to greatly benefit the Spurs. The last team given the a full day to make adjustments will most likely have the upper hand. Basketball is a game of adjustments, and it has been most evident in this years NBA Finals. Last thing you want is 48 minutes of dissect-able game film in the hands of the best coach of the league.