From midway through the first quarter until midway through the fourth, the Miami Heat held the lead for almost 34 consecutive minutes. However, the Spurs were able to respond to all Heat surges and strike back in the 4th quarter with a run the Heat couldn’t quite match. Lebron James had a superb game, putting up 18 rebounds and 10 assists, but the Spurs took away his driving lanes, preventing him from dominating the game through his scoring. James shot 7-16 from the field, and only attempted 4 free throws on the night. The Spurs also contained the Heat role players, with the exception of Ray Allen; they were content to let Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers jack up 3s, and they combined to shoot 2-10 from distance on the night.
Offensively, the Spurs struggled to find consistency from midrange and from behind the arc. Kawhi Leonard in particular had a rough shooting night, missing 3 straight open threes to end the 3rd. Gary Neal made some tough shots to keep them in the game, and Danny Green was effective from distance. However, the Spurs’ defensive effort would have all been for naught if not for an excellent night from Tim Duncan and great clutch play by Tony Parker.
Duncan’s interior defense was huge for the Spurs, as he put up 3 blocks in addition to an impressive 20-10-4 line. Leonard had a key putback layup with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter to finally give the Spurs a lead they would not relinquish. Tony Parker put the finishing touches on the Spurs’ comeback victory with a devastating spinning layup in transition on Norris Cole with 6 minutes to go, a midrange jumper with 3:30 left, and the coup de grâce, a soft, 15-foot, one-handed, broken-play bank shot as the shot clock expired to put the Spurs up by 4 with 5 seconds left. The Spurs’ defense held Dwyane Wade scoreless and held the Heat to only 16 points in the 4th quarter; due to the Heat’s stagnant offense, every basket by the Spurs dealt a crushing blow en route to their Game 1 victory.
In order to win Game 2, the Spurs are going to have to continue to play the same type of defense they played while holding the Heat to 36 points in the 2nd half. In the first half, the Spurs tried to run with the Heat, trying to match their transition game. In the second half the Spurs followed a more effective gameplan, slowing the game down and making it uglier. They need to do everything possible to slow the Heat’s transition game and prevent Lebron from getting into the lane. Gregg Popovich needs to teach his young wing players to stick to Ray Allen at all costs; if he hurts the Spurs in Game 2 the same way he did in Game 1, the game might swing to the Heat.
Offensively, the Spurs should stick to their Game 1 gameplan. They had good, open looks throughout the game, but the shots just weren’t falling. Establishing Tim Duncan in the post early on could cause trouble for the Heat, especially if he can get Chris Bosh or Chris Andersen in foul trouble. The Heat’s depth at the 5 is very limited; with Bosh and Andersen out of the game, the Heat are essentially forced to play 4-on-5 on offense.
Expect the Heat to play far more aggressively offensively in Game 2. Lebron will be motivated to attack the basket more assertively, Dwyane Wade will try to establish a better rhythm offensively and defensively, and Chris Bosh won’t linger outside the arc all game. The Heat lost the first game of last year’s finals and rallied to take the next 4. While the Spurs are off to an encouraging start, by no means should they let up off the gas pedal in Game 2. If they put forth a similar defensive effort and hit open jumpers, the Heat will be hard-pressed to stop the Spurs from taking control of the series.