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NBA Finals: Defense Key for Miami HEAT
Posted By Alex Kennedy On June 10, 2013 @ 12:15 pm In NBA | No Comments
Because the Miami HEAT’s offense is so potent and features numerous scoring options, the focus always seems to be on that end of the court. Yes, Miami has the best offense in the NBA, as evidenced by their No. 1 ranking in offensive efficiency, true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage. However, because Miami’s offense is so good, their defense often gets overlooked.
In Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals, it wasn’t the HEAT’s offense that won the game against the San Antonio Spurs, but rather it was the team’s stifling defense. The biggest difference between the first and second game of the Finals was the amount of turnovers that the Spurs committed.
In Game 1, San Antonio had just four turnovers, which tied the NBA Finals record for fewest turnovers by a team. Because the Spurs did a terrific job protecting the ball, Miami wasn’t able to get out in transition and score easy baskets. Tony Parker had zero turnovers in his 40 minutes of action in Game 1.
In Game 2, the Spurs had four turnovers in the first quarter alone, and finished the game with 16 turnovers. Miami made them pay for their mistakes by scoring 19 points off of those turnovers, sinking transition threes and finishing at the basket. Parker had a team-high five turnovers in the game.
Miami’s defense was outstanding on Sunday evening because they were swarming to the ball and pressuring ball handlers, specifically Parker. Any time he came around a screen or drove the basket, he ran into a double team. The HEAT’s defense was much more aggressive and physical than in Game 1.
“Credit to Miami and their pressure,” Tim Duncan said after the loss. “I think they made some adjustments that were key, got their hands on a lot of stuff. Obviously, four [turnovers] is what we want to be ideally, but we knew we couldn’t stay there. Live-ball turnovers where it turns into transition is really what kind of hurt us.”
“Turnovers, that was the biggest thing, and it starts with me,” Parker added. “They were just more aggressive. We just have to make sure that we take care of the basketball. I’ve said the last two days if we can keep our turnovers under 10, it would be better against that team, because every time you have turnovers, it’s a quick fast break.”
San Antonio knew that Miami was capable of this kind of pressure, but still struggled against it. Throughout the season, the HEAT tormented teams with their trapping, which made up for some of their deficiencies such as rebounding (they average 38.61 boards per game, worst in the NBA).
“That’s what they’ve been doing all year,” Danny Green said. “They’re a great defensive team. They’re a championship team. Obviously, that’s why they won it last year. They’re long and athletic, and they get after it. They were just attacking Tony more and they made us make difficult plays. Tonight, they were just the team that came out with more energy.”
“They came out, brought the intensity and were able to get us to turn the ball over,” Gary Neal said. “We had 16 turnovers, and a lot of those turnovers led to them getting transition threes or getting LeBron at the rim. I think that’s the big thing, we have to cut down on the turnovers. They were more aggressive. They were able to get their hands on the ball and they were able to make it difficult for us. That’s what we kind of expected going into Game 2, but we didn’t handle it well. We’ll have to do better for Game 3.”
Even though Miami is a star-studded team that averages 102.88 points (fifth-best in the NBA), they consider themselves a defensive-oriented team. It’s clear that defense is their primary concern.
“My main focus is to stop Tony Parker,” Mario Chalmers said after Game 2. “That’s my job. That’s the key to the game, is not let him get going. And if the offense keeps going for me, I’m going to take it as it comes.”
“I thought our ball pressure was better, our attention to detail was better and we’re a team that needs to force turnovers,” Dwyane Wade said. “We prey on getting turnovers and last game we had four turnovers, so we had to make a difference. Obviously, they don’t turn the ball over that much, but being able to get more opportunities to be able to score the ball [is important]. We were the best [offensive team] in the NBA all season, so giving ourselves extra opportunities to score is key.”
During the Finals, there has been a lot of focus on offense, from LeBron James’ shot attempts to Dwyane Wade’s scoring struggles to Chris Bosh’s lack of involvement. While it’s true that Miami must put points on the board in order to win, their defense will largely determine how much success they have against the Spurs and whether they’ll get to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second year in a row.
Miller Wants to Continue Playing
Last offseason, Mike Miller seriously considered retirement. At the time, Miller was 32 years old and he had been limping up and down the court during the 2012 NBA Finals. While he did have the 23-point outburst in Game 5, it was clear that he was in pain and severely limited. However, Miller decided to return to the Miami HEAT this season, which is his 13th in the league.
While it seemed that Miller’s days in the NBA were numbered last summer, that’s no longer the case. After Game 2, in which Miller scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field, the swingman told reporters that he plans to keep playing for several more years. He said that he’s feeling the best he has felt in the last five years because he had so much time to rest during the regular season. He played just 59 games this season and averaged only 15.3 minutes.
One person who will be happy to hear that Miller isn’t going anywhere is LeBron James. After the Game 2 victory, James praised Miller’s game.
“We want him on the floor,” James said. “As teammates, we want him on the floor. We know what he brings. He’s a 6’8 two-guard/small forward that can shoot the ball from anywhere and can rebound at a high clip. With the lineup we had in the late third to the fourth, me, Rio, Ray, Bird and Mike, it spreads the floor. It spreads the floor for our attackers. When Mike gets the ball ‑‑ our shooters got the fluorescent light on our team. They’re not even allowed to pass. When Ray and Mike get the ball, they have to shoot it. No matter how close the defenders are, they have to shoot it. When you have that leeway and that confidence, you just have to let it go.”
Over the course of Miller’s 13-year career, he has averaged 12.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three-point range. Miller ranks 22nd all-time in three-point field goals with 1,424 treys in his career.
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