Miami Heat Index: Tiago Splitter

Finals hinge on 'Tale of The Others'

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
5:07
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- As the Miami Heat were in the midst of a dominant second-half run on the way to a Game 2 victory in the Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, point guard Mario Chalmers approached LeBron James near midcourt with a message.

“I felt like we had them on the ropes,” Chalmers said of the powerful and brief conversation with James. “I told [James], 'Let's go for the kill.' He said, 'I'm with you.'”

Actually, it probably should have been the other way around. With Chalmers leading a group of Heat role players who sparked a 33-5 run to put Sunday's game away, it was James' supporting cast that served notice its presence would be felt as the Heat tied the series 1-1.

While much of the focus in the Finals will be on the respective Big Three members of the Heat and Spurs, the outcome of the games will likely continue to hinge on which team gets the biggest boost from its supporting cast.

That developing trend continued in Game 2 of the Finals, when Chalmers and Miami's role players stepped up in the decisive moments of the game. James got off to a sluggish start and didn't get going until late in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a rather pedestrian, yet productive outing from Miami's Big Three unit.

But it was the next four players in the Heat's rotation that made the difference. Chalmers had 19 points and didn't commit a turnover; Ray Allen continued his shooting resurgence with 13 points off the bench; and Mike Miller and Chris Andersen combined to make all six of their shots for 18 points to spark Miami's 103-84 victory.

“Obviously, there are going to be certain games where guys will have to be special,” Wade said. “But we like to have games like this, where everyone is involved and the ball is moving around and guys are feeling like they're involved and they're comfortable and confident.”

The most impressive aspect of the Heat's 33-5 run was that the damage was done with Wade and Bosh enjoying all but a combined two minutes of it from the bench. Chalmers, Allen, Miller and Andersen scored 22 of the 33 points and made seven of eight shots during the run. James scored the other 11 points as Miami went from trailing 62-61 late in the third to leading 94-67 midway through the fourth.

“It's the key,” James said of role players swinging the series in either team's favor. “The Big Three on both sides, you know you can kind of rely on them at all times. But I think the supporting cast is really why both teams are here. They've been making an impact all year long. [The Spurs] feel like their supporting cast is better. We feel like our supporting cast is better. It's who goes out and does it each and every night to help seal the wins.”

Miami's answer Sunday came in response to big plays made by role players in support of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio's Game 1 win. Parker's miraculous bank shot in the final seconds provided the biggest highlight from Thursday's series opener. But it was Danny Green's 3-pointer with 2:29 left that gave the Spurs enough of a cushion to hold on for a 92-88 win.

Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal accounted for 36 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1 to help make the difference. The Heat had the edge in Game 2 as Chalmers, Miller, Allen and Andersen combined for 50 points on 65.3 percent shooting, along with nine rebounds.

“This series probably is defined by all the little things,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Small things will make a major difference because the talent level is pretty equivalent. So it's going to be loose balls, rebounds, execution, guys coming in with confidence, being aggressive and that type of thing. Everybody's fine with it.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the outcome of Sunday's game was determined by the struggles of his future Hall of Famers and not a lack of support from others.

Parker, Duncan and Ginobili missed 23 of their 33 combined shots in Game 2 against a Heat defense that was more aggressive and disruptive than it was the previous game. After forcing just four turnovers in Game 1, the Heat scored 19 points off 17 San Antonio turnovers Sunday.

“Tony, Manu and Timmy were the ones that were 10 for 33,” Popovich said. “I'm not going to put that [responsibility for the loss] on the bench. That's when every team is at their best, when the perimeter is making shots, when the bench is playing well, when you have a lot of contributions. That helps you win basketball games.”

Despite the sloppy play, the Spurs got 14 rebounds from Leonard and a perfect shooting night from Green, who made all six of his shots, five of which were 3-pointers. But even with Leonard, Green, Splitter and Neal contributing 40 points and 18 rebounds Sunday, it wasn't nearly enough.

The Spurs expect to regroup as the series moves to San Antonio for the next three games, starting Tuesday night.

“We know one of the main reasons why we are here [in the Finals] is because they had a terrific season,” Ginobili said of the Spurs' role players. “Kawhi grabbing 14 rebounds, Danny shooting 5-for-5 [on 3-pointers], that really helped us. So Tim, Tony and me, we have to step up. We have basically no shot winning a game against [Miami] if none of us played good. So we definitely have to step up.”

Meanwhile, Chalmers looks for those he refers to as Miami's “others” to maintain their impact moving forward.

“It's very important,” Chalmers said. “Their second unit had a big game in Game 1. Our second unit had a big game [Sunday]. So it's going to be the tale of 'The Others.'"

Time for Heat and Spurs to get acquainted

March, 31, 2013
3/31/13
12:27
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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What would a potential Finals matchup between the teams with the two best records in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, look like? What would be the strategy of the coaches? How would the individual defensive assignments work out?

No one knows.

In a league that thrives on rivalry development with regular-season meetings leading to a crescendo in the postseason, the Heat and Spurs might as well play on different continents. Because of scheduling quirks and Gregg Popovich’s expensive decision on player rest earlier this season, the Spurs and Heat have only staged one legitimate game in the past 25 months.

All of which makes Sunday’s Heat visit to the Spurs all the more interesting. There’s an absence of data and an absence of feel between these two teams that could play for the title in June. Not to mention there’s the race for the No. 1 overall seed. The Heat come in with a two-game lead in the loss column, and a victory would clinch the tiebreaker.

Dwyane Wade has never played a regular-season game against Kawhi Leonard. The Heat’s small-ball strategy has yet to deal with the Tim Duncan-Tiago Splitter front line.

If not for a meaningless preseason game that LeBron James didn’t even play in last October, the Heat might not know that Manu Ginobili is still in the league. Ginobili hasn’t played a regular-season game against the Heat since March 4, 2011, and he’s dealing with a hamstring injury that will likely keep him out Sunday.

The past two games the teams played in which they put out their real lineups have been lopsided blowouts because of unusual hot shooting. The Heat won the only meeting in a lockout-shortened 2011-12 season when they set several records in shooting 68 percent in the second half. The Spurs won the Heat’s last visit to San Antonio more than two years ago by 30 points when Miami was totally flat playing on the second night of a back-to-back that saw San Antonio take a 24-point lead … in the first quarter.

In December, Popovich famously sent Ginobili, Duncan, Tony Parker and Danny Green home on a commercial flight instead of playing them in the fourth game in five nights in a nationally-televised game in their only visit to Miami. Leonard and Stephen Jackson were injured at the time as well and did not play.

The Spurs' backups made it an interesting game with a gutty performance -- commissioner David Stern was not impressed and fined the Spurs $250,000 for Popovich's decision -- and the Heat barely pulled out a five-point win. But that game was as worthless as the preseason game when he comes to judging the two teams’ relative strength against each other.

Schematically, the Spurs have the ingredients and the system to give the Heat plenty of problems. Parker’s quickness is an antidote to the Heat’s pressure defense, as is the Spurs’ longstanding offensive style of moving the ball around the perimeter to set up 3-point shooters. The Spurs also have the ability to go small because of versatile big man Boris Diaw and Leonard’s ability to guard so many different players.

San Antonio has also perfected a defensive trick that would be very useful against the Heat: avoiding fouls. The Spurs have given up the third fewest free throws in the league this season. The Heat are in the top 10 in free throws taken and fouls drawn.

In theory, and that’s about all we have, the Spurs also have strong wing defenders in Leonard and Jackson, who at least give them a chance at making James and Wade earn their points.

Of course, the Heat own advantages over every opponent. Their athleticism and speed in transition would be a big issue for the Spurs, especially over a long series. Even with Duncan and Parker having terrific seasons, there is some doubt that San Antonio can overcome the troubles the Oklahoma City Thunder’s young legs gave them in the playoffs last season. The Spurs are 2-1 against the Thunder this season with one more game coming in Oklahoma City.

The Spurs’ defensive style of protecting the middle -- very successful over the past decade -- is the sort of system the Heat have been constructed to defeat. Miami’s 3-point shooters are a tough cover for any team, and the Spurs would be no different. And wouldn’t it be interesting to see James possibly defending Parker in the stretch run or even Duncan -- both are possible -- and give the Heat a lot of matchup flexibility?

The hope is some of those situations unfold in a real sample on Sunday. The game has real stakes and could, at last, give a real look at how these two juggernauts compare.

Then again, nothing with the Spurs and Heat has gone according to plan for awhile.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Chris Bosh
PTS AST STL MIN
21.4 2.5 1.1 35.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Bosh 8.8
AssistsD. Wade 6.4
StealsM. Chalmers 1.5
BlocksC. Bosh 0.7