A clinic, hosted by the Spurs, broke out at Game 3 of the NBA Finals. It was
the most incredible first quarter that I've seen in my 40 years of watching the
I've never seen anybody move the ball like that, make the
right passes and finish. In the first
half they had something like 14 assists on 25 baskets. Anybody can make a pass
(my 85-year-old mother could make a pass), but not like the Spurs. If I'm on
the Spurs, I could pass the ball to post or I could feed into a player who's in
position to score. If I'm a cutter, I'm going to cut a little bit harder,
sharper, tighter, because I know the ball is going to be on time and on target.
A great passer motivates a great receiver. The Spurs' precision was
I would venture to say that if Erik Spoelstra weren't
involved in the Finals he would think the Spurs' play in Game 3 was really
great. But he's on the other side thinking about how his team can stop them.
Because of that, it puts so much pressure on the Miami offense to try and meet
the scoring need.
They were down 21 at the half, and I think Spoelstra's
halftime locker room speech was one of the finest speeches made by a coach. He
told them they needed to shave a few points off, play with courage, play with
heart, do what they do. It was a fantastic balance of firm, but not over the
top where these guys felt pressure. He was just spot-on, and those guys came
out electric in the first six or seven minutes.
You could feel their energy, but in the back of my mind, I
was wondering how long Miami could claw back into the game without any
production from Chris Bosh. Role players are role players, but stars have to be
stars on the brightest stage. When the lights are bright, that's when the
greats get their reputation. LeBron and Dwyane played really hard, but I
believe Chris has to be an equal opportunity offensive player for Miami to win this
series. As a matter of fact, he's my X-factor for Miami. He's got to do more
than stand in the corner. He's got to be like a realtor – location, location,
location – and sometimes you have to change your zip code a little bit.
The biggest thing I'm noticing is the bench. The depth of
San Antonio is unbelievable. I actually thought that Patty Mills and Boris Diaw
closed the barn door when Miami was trying to make a comeback. Diaw picked up a
couple charges, made some nice passes...Mills had multiple defensive efforts. And
then when Miami cut it to 7, Belinelli hit the three-pointer to take it back to
10. You could see that took the steam out of Miami. Can the Heat make a
comeback? Yes. But can they sustain it?
Going into Game 4, the pressure is all over Miami. They do
not want to go back into San Antonio down 3-1, which would be a massive hole to
try and come out of. They must get the win...with rebounding, low turnovers and
pushing the pace. They have to rebound and run before San Antonio sets their
defense, and I think they need a combination of about 65 points from the Big 3.
I think Miami wins tonight. They have too much pride, they
have hearts of warriors, they don't quit and they know they have to win
tonight. It's one of those must-have games in the life an NBA player competing
in the Finals.
LeBron James is an amazing athlete and person. And like I
said in my last blog, I think the criticism of him after Game 1 was
unwarranted. But does he really need any more motivation to be great?
Great players shine in great moments. From Tiger Woods to
Michael Jordan, you see that in the history of all sports. The greats of the
greats come up with spectacular performances that exceed expectations. And what
LeBron did last night – especially once he started getting in a flow and
building his confidence in the first quarter – was really breathtaking to
Miami played great basketball. Bosh was a factor, which he
has to be. The Big 3 have to be the Big 3. Between them, they had 67 points.
Match that against the final score (98) and it shows you how those guys have to
play great basketball every night.
There is no substitution for chemistry. It's a really wicked
stat. Both teams have great chemistry, and there's a reason these two teams are
in the Finals. It's like watching a chess match; that's what I got out of last
night's game. It's almost like watching Bobby Fischer play chess...two high IQ
teams playing chess with a basketball.
In Game 1, Miami had trouble handling the pick and roll, but
you can't do the same thing over and over against San Antonio because they get
comfortable. So Miami switched it up – they switched screen rolls, they blitzed
screen rolls and their second-line rotations were much better. They made the
adjustments, and that's one of the things I've enjoyed most...seeing those guys
make subtle differences and execute on it. And a lot of credit goes to both
Now it's time for San Antonio to make their changes. In Game
2, LeBron and Dwyane were guarding Tony Parker. So let's see what Coach
Popovich does. The film doesn't lie. For a player, watching film is either the
best of times or worst of times. If a player continues to screw up and coach
keeps showing the same film, it's the kiss of death to keep watching your
mistakes. But when you're playing well, it's totally different. And by the way,
as a coach, you always end your film sessions on a positive note. You show your
team the positive things they did well so it sticks in their memory bank. Now
is not the time to beat down your players, and nobody knows this more than
Popovich or Spoelstra.
I said in my first blog that this series would come down to
foul shooting. I compared Kobe to LeBron early in his career. Well, once again,
free-throw shooting was a major factor. Late in the game, Tony Parker gets
fouled and it's flagrant. He misses both shots and gets the ball back. Duncan
then gets fouled and he misses both shots. Do the math. You lose by 2 and you
missed 4 free-throw shots in the stretch. That's the difference maker, and I
wonder if that's in the back of the Spurs' minds.
And that's taking nothing away from how well Miami played.
They had their best player on the floor and had a total team game.
I can't wait for Miami. Sun, fun and Finals adjustments!
I've played in places around the world that were so hot, and
in buildings with no air conditioning where we could barely breathe. And it
does change how you play because you have to conserve your energy and
concentrate on staying hydrated.
I remember that this
happened with the Texas Rangers last year. It was so hot in Arlington that
before the game, the starting pitchers were sitting in the locker room with IVs
so they didn't get dehydrated going into the game. So by the
players getting fluid into their body, they didn't get dehydrated going
into the game when the temperatures were in the triple digits.
You could see that the heat affected both teams last night,
and I think the criticism of LeBron James is unfair. If you've ever been an
athlete and didn't get enough electrolytes because you were sweating too much,
then you know how debilitating it can be to experience dehydration and
If LeBron had broken his leg, people would have thought it
was crazy for him to try to continue to play. But people are visual, and with
what happened last night, you couldn't see the internal damage. What did people
want him to do? Stand on the court and hop around or tell his coach that he
needed to be taken out?
I admire LeBron because he knows when he's giving 100
percent and he knows when someone needs to help. Larry Bird once said something
like, "When I'm on the court, I'm better than everyone else. When I'm injured,
I'm just as good as the average person." LeBron is the best all-around player
in the game, but if he's hurt, he's not the greatest player in the world.
He did the noble thing and asked to be taken out. Did it
affect the game? Yes. But what would have happened if he had twisted his ankle?
No matter the injury, it would have affected the game.
of the status of the air conditioning on Sunday, I suspect they are going
to have IVs available in the locker room if needed for both teams. Obviously
LeBron was depleted, and now that we know this could be a problem, I'm sure the
Miami Heat and Spurs medical staffs will plan accordingly so that these guys do
not get dehydrated.
I think LeBron will be fine for Sunday's game, but now they
have to plan for the worst. I don't think anybody in their right mind could
have been prepared for the AT&T Center to be 90 degrees in the building. You
can do your checklists of how to prepare (from players to coaches to trainers),
but you don't plan for that. Now there's a heightened awareness.
about last night's game was about the heat in the building and LeBron missing
the last 3:59. It almost overshadowed the fact the Spurs had 23 turnovers,
which was so un-Spurs like. Same thing with Miami – they were throwing the ball
all over the gym.
It will be a totally different ball game on Sunday. There
will be health adjustments, cutting down on turnover adjustments, and Miami is
going to have to find the three-point shooters of the Spurs.
I'm going with San Antonio to win Game 2. Miami needs to
show that they can locate the three-point shooters of the Spurs (and one way to
do that is keep the ball on one side of the floor)...and I'm not sure that they