Exploiting people because they’re different
Travis Nicholson: The Pacers have been waiting a full calendar year to have home court advantage for the Eastern Conference Finals, and now they’re down 2-1 and waiting to play Game 4 in Miami. Any happy feelings the Pacers have about Game 7 being on their home floor is absolutely contingent on getting there first.
Indiana is purpose-built to play the Miami Heat, but instead of matching them the Pacers tried to flip the script and become their anti-thesis. The Heat are a hyper-flexible small-ball basketball team with interchangeable parts, and the Pacers… aren’t that. If you can’t win by their rules, invent your own. Control the pace, assert your strength, and if there is something the other team is good at, don’t let them do it. Except, really good teams are always able to do what they want — that makes them really good teams. The Heat, a really good team, haven’t been able to match the size and strength of Roy Hibbert and David West, who are both playing well and are having the kind of impact that Indiana wants them to, but everywhere else on the court the Heat have been dominant, because they are a really good team.
The opposing identities of these teams has lead to mismatches all over the floor. The Heat are the deeper team and due to the short bench and the inflexibility of the Pacers, they’ve been able to exploit these mismatches perfectly. Lance Stephenson has been losing the battle against Dwyane Wade all series, but he’s been much more successful than Paul George, who has been noticeably inconsequential throughout the first three games of the series.
West/Roy were frustrated about lack of 2nd half postups. DW on what MIA did to take them away: "Nothing." RH: "I don't know. I don't know."
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 25, 2014
Worth noting: Heat have played all of a minute in the ECF without one of LeBron or Wade on the floor. Great rotation balance by Spo.
— Rob Mahoney (@RobMahoney) May 26, 2014
Eric Spoelstra’s ability to balance the playing time of Wade and James has been huge for the Heat in winning the mismatch battle. Miami’s ability to easily dictate the pace leads to situations where David West has to guard Ray Allen, and predictably the Heat were able to slaughter the Pacers once they found and exploited this matchup.
Ray Allen's jumper is so wet my car hydroplaned on it and it killed my wife Cheryl. We have to stop Ray Allen.
— Ian Karmel (@IanKarmel) May 25, 2014
Once things start to click for the Heat, a chain of events begins to happen that are nearly impossible to stop. Suddenly, Ray Allen is wide open and raining threes and despite timeouts called on the floor to stop this madness, no one at first is sure how all this happened and any chance of getting back in the game is vanquished. The Heat don’t linger on an advantage once they have it, but instead bank what they have and build more. It’s unrelenting ability to keep prodding and poking, making their victim more uncomfortable, but also not forgetting where all the tender spots are.
The Heat have finally achieved a pecking order that NBA writers have been hypothesizing about for four years now. The chain of command firmly flows from Spoelstra to James down to Wade, Bosh and then to a cadre of primed role players who don’t question the system. With Wade playing well, LeBron is able to defer to Wade, and now the defense is forced to collapse towards Wade. LeBron prods and finds the holes, Wade attacks them. Now the defense is on its heels as they deal with Wade and LeBron, so Bosh is able to get open looks, heat up and attack the glass. Offensive rebounds are left open as the Heat create chaos by forcing switches and double teams for Wade and James. The other team is being desperately outscored and they need buckets, so they focus tactics towards the offensive end which leads to less attention to detail on the defensive end, and they get burned. Offense panics, defense lapses. With Wade attacking the holes LeBron has opened up, Bosh gets open space because of over-concern about LeBron/Wade, and the defense is in full blown panic. Now it’s Ray Allen’s turn to hide beyond the arch until he gets you four times, without missing. Norris Cole attacks you off the dribble for no good reason other than to do it. This happens over and over again, like a monkey with a miniature cymbal, until it is over.
The lure of the beach is hard to shake
— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) May 25, 2014
(This makes me inexplicably happy.)
After minor Sergery, Spurs expect quick recovery
@thirstyvillain: The way that the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals had me thinking that the series was over in five games at a maximum. Last night’s performance might have changed my tune jusssst a little.
Ignoring the final score, which was closer than it should have been, OKC put together what might be its finest game of these playoffs. Their finest wouldn’t have been possible though without hyper effective shooting throughout most of the game, ultra aggressive team defense thanks to the return of IBLAKA and solid bench contributions from both Butler and Adams.
"I was very disappointed that we didn't come out with more of a 'foot on the neck' attitude." Gregg Popovich
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 26, 2014
As much as OKC played all-world basketball in Game 3, San Antonio were on the level of the Washington Generals. San Antonio threw up 16 turnovers which all seemed to come from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, were constantly late on their defensive assignments and shot a horrendous 39% for the game. Call me crazy, but I don’t see San Antonio repeating ANY of these feats in Game 4, just as I also don’t see Oklahoma City repeating their feats either.
What does that mean? OKC may have bought themselves an extra game in this series, but I still see San Antonio doing what they do best: making adjustments, remembering that they’re the best basketball team on the planet and taking care of business.