Did anybody really expect the Miami Heat to be traveling to San Antonio down 2-0? I didn’t. Well, that was until the game actually started. Those thoughts actually stayed in my brain until something seemingly clicked for the Miami Heat. It wasn’t something that clicked on one cylinder per say. Or two cylinders. Or three cylinders. “Not four…not five…not six…”
When it comes to clicking on all cylinders, the Miami Heat are the Bugatti Veyron of the NBA. (That’s 16 cylinders for anybody who isn’t aware). The Bugatti Veyron goes from 0-60 MPH in roughly 2.4 seconds. At one point late in the 3rd quarter, the Spurs had cut the lead to 2, and the Heat somehow condensed a six-minute span into what seemed like 2.4 seconds, by putting the pedal to the floor.
After Miami’s run, they were but a white and red speck to the defeated Spurs.
Before that, the game mirrored Game 1 in a lot of ways. There had not been a double digit lead by any of the teams. Both teams weren’t shooting the ball particularly well. Miami was maintaining a marginal lead off pure grit, and the Spurs stayed in it by shooting the 3-pointer extremely well. The battle of half-court offenses morphed into a race and apparently the Spurs had no idea. Miami unleashed their dual V-8 engines and the Spurs borrowed Fred Flintstones foot-mobile. Not that it matters anyways. The Spurs know they can’t win a race. They know they have to make it a grueling marathon, constantly challenging the Miami Heat to question their abilities in the half-court. They have to move the ball with supreme precision to the point that Miami questions the “pack of rottweilers” defense that has worked so well for them since the parturition of their Big 3. They have to pack the paint, but still keep tabs on Miami’s vaunted long-distance shooters. They have to keep forcing LeBron James into shooting jumpers. Up until the aforementioned transition into overdrive by the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs were doing just that. LeBron James was 3-13 from the field and only had 4 assists, paltry by his standards.
Even though Tony Parker looked like Bruce Almighty bet on the Heat and was controlling Parker’s footwork in the lane, the Spurs were in a comfort zone. Tim Duncan started off slow, surely setting up a good 4th quarter. Parker would regain his composure, putting another dagger in the Heat. Danny Green was severely outplaying LeBron James, and Gary Neal was feeling it from downtown. They were entering the championship rounds and just needed to keep this fight going into the fourth. Then the flurry of a lifetime came. The highlight of the Heat’s 33-5 run was the absolutely embarrassing rejection of Tiago Splitter by LeBron James. Tiago Splitter drove to the rim and before R. Kelly could go from the verse into the chorus of “I Believe I Can Fly”, LeBron James put a scratch to the record and had his own playlist in mind. It was 6 minutes long. It contained hits like “Screen and roll” featuring Mario Chalmers, and “3 for 3 from 3” featuring Mike Miller, And when Mike Miller threw the backwards, no-look pass to LeBron James, James slammed it home like the bass dropping in the stereo system, bringing the crowd to its feet. James had difficulty scoring so he became more of a screener, allowing Mario Chalmers to get into the lane. This motivated the rest of the team to do whatever was necessary to help the team win. Parker failed to recover on a few of Chalmers drives to the lane, forcing the rest of San Antonio’s defense to collapse into the paint. That’s where all Hell broke loose. The Heat played somewhat small and stacked LeBron James with shooters and stepped up their defensive intensity. If you blinked it, you missed it. It was a barrage of fast-break dunks and 3-pointers that capped a 33-5 run that emptied the Spurs bench and sent Tim Duncan into an ice-bath well before schedule. They made the Spurs look like Ke$ha singing at the Apollo. Completely unqualified, like they didn’t belong there, and the Miami Heat were the Sandman.
But that’s what’s so interesting about the NBA Playoffs. After Game 1, we totally forgot who the Heat were. The Spurs made them look so unlike themselves that we completely forgot how dominant they can be when they are clicking. The Heat’s 33-5 was the resurrection of that style of play. “Ohhhh, that’s how they got to the NBA Finals”. When the Miami Heat play like that, they are unstoppable. However, that run was merely a playlist. It wasn’t the soundtrack to the 2013 NBA Finals. There’s a lot of music left to be made, or to clarify, more basketball to be played. Greg Poppovich will be sure to make adjustments, and from there Erik Spoelstra has to make his move. After this next game, we will get a better feel of who really is in control of the NBA Finals. The winner of Game 3 in the NBA Finals goes on to win the series over 90% of the time. It’s beyond numbers though. One of these styles has to persevere. The Spurs have kept the same core for years, and have stressed continuity throughout the organization. The Heat have came together through free agency and have re-defined small-ball. The Heat lack the skill that the Spurs have. The Spurs lack the dominant athleticism that the Heat have. This years NBA Finals shows where the league has been and where it is going. The Spurs want to delay that, and Game 3 is where they need to start putting a dent in those plans.