Miami Heat Index: Tony Parker

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.'"

Heat explore adjustments for Tony Parker

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
11:40
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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Tony Parker
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Tony Parker caused the Heat problems late in Game 1.

MIAMI -- The Miami Heat obviously knew that containing point guard Tony Parker would be a huge headache entering the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

There might not be enough time to find a remedy by Sunday for Game 2.

But after seeing him carve through their defense during San Antonio's mistake-free fourth quarter, the Heat now face the challenge of addressing their Parker problem while also managing to limit multiple side effects.

As it prepares for Game 2, Miami -- having lost 92-88 Thursday -- is dealing with the same sort of pick-your-poison predicament that its opponents usually face against the Heat, and is desperately scrambling for answers.

Parker scored 10 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, and had a counter for every defensive wrinkle the Heat threw at him -- including a shot clock-beating jumper in the final seconds to help secure the win.

Not even shifting LeBron James onto Parker in the final minutes seemed to disrupt the Spurs' late-game execution. Even as the Heat honed in on Parker, San Antonio's ball movement and spacing created opportunities for all five starters to score during a period in which the Spurs outscored Miami 23-16 and didn't commit a turnover.

“Against a very good basketball team, you hold them to 42 percent shooting, you hold them to 92 points, normally with our offense, we think we're in the driver's seat,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But there's a small margin of error both ways. You have to make plays every single possession. When you don't, and you don't concentrate on things you need to, you pay the price. We have to regroup.”

Among those adjustments for the Heat will involve finding a way to get a better handle on Parker without losing a grip on Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and floor-spacing shooters Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. It's almost exactly the same dynamic teams deal with when they try to stop James while also keeping close track of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and deep threats in Ray Allen and Shane Battier when the Heat's offense is clicking at its peak late in games.

The Spurs said they expected the Heat to try to slow Parker late in the game by eventually handing the defensive assignment to James. They were ready when James arrived.

Instead of Parker trying to force his own offense, he continued to run pick-and-roll sets that occupied James with the screener. When the Heat trapped Parker, he moved the ball to teammates for the first in a series of swing passes that eventually found an open spot-up shooter.

That balance led to a jumper from Parker with 3:30 left that put the Spurs ahead by four. A minute later, Parker was forced to give up the ball in a sequence that ultimately led to Ginobili swinging it to Green for a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 88-81 with 2:13 remaining.

The offense was far from flawless in a quarter that saw the Spurs miss 14 of 23 shots. But Parker's execution against the Heat's defense in key stages made it seem that way.

“Tony made some great calls to get some switches in the right places,” Duncan said. “We understand that when it comes down to it, LeBron is going to be their best defender. They are going to put him on Tony. We have to continue to execute, continue to attack and just try to get [Parker] as much space as possible.”

Parker said he's grown accustomed to teams using bigger players to defend him late in games. Miami has used James in a similar capacity in past playoff series on point guards such as Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. During the second-round series against Chicago this postseason, James even spent a few shifts on 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson after he torched the Heat for 27 points in the Bulls' Game 1 victory in Miami.

Parker said he watched film with coach Gregg Popovich of the Heat's tendencies when James changes assignments. The key was to avoid being rattled by the pressure.

“I knew he was coming,” Parker said of James. “I think the key for me in this series is to be patient and choose my moments when to be aggressive. If LeBron is on me, I just have to try to keep playing the same way. I have to trust everybody. We're a team. Everybody has to contribute.”

Containing Parker might prove to be as difficult a task as trying to limit James, who had 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists in the losing effort. The Heat have had problems all season with quick, efficient and aggressive point guards. Parker has averaged 22.6 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range in the postseason.

He's shown an ability to beat opponents with his shooting, by penetrating or strictly facilitating for his teammates. In Game 1, he was at the peak of his game. Parker played a team-high 40 minutes, had six assists and did not commit a turnover. It was the most minutes he's played in a postseason game in his career without a turnover.

With Parker knocking down 9 of 18 shots in Game 1, the Spurs improved to 8-0 this postseason when he shoots at least 50 percent from the field. Moving forward, the Heat might look to use multiple defenders and schemes earlier in games to push Parker out of his offensive comfort zone.

“Obviously, Tony is the engine behind everything, so we just have to do a better job,” Wade said. “As the series goes on, we'll make adjustments. We'll get to see where we can be better at defensively. Give them credit. They came in and didn't shoot the ball very well, but they stuck with it.”

The Heat head into Sunday's game believing that their own offensive ineptness in the fourth quarter created even more problems for them than Parker. Miami shot 27 percent and committed five of their nine turnovers in the fourth quarter, a period when Wade and Bosh combined for two points.

“In the fourth quarter, we had some mental mistakes,” James said. “And it's only a couple of teams you can't have mistakes against, especially in the fourth [quarter]. And San Antonio is definitely the No. 1 team.”

An oral history of the Tony Parker shot

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
2:36
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Tony Parker
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The San Antonio Spurs took Game 1 of the NBA Finals thanks to Tony Parker's late heroics.

Tony Parker made a shot at the end of the shot clock to put the San Antonio Spurs up 92-88 with 5.2 seconds remaining to help ice the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Here's how it happened ...

... in their own words.


MIASAS1



Erik Spoelstra: That seemed like a 26-second possession.

LeBron James: You're going to make me go back to that play?

Manu Ginobili: He had LeBron on him.

Tony Parker: I knew he was coming. Obviously a lot of NBA teams, they put bigger guys on me.

Tim Duncan: I think at this point my mind was just blank. I just wanted him to get a shot up in the air.

MIASAS2



Parker: If LeBron is on me, I just have to try to keep playing the same way, pick-and-rolls.

Ginobili: I think we waited too long for him to play that pick-and-roll, and they are so good guarding that and helping and rotating and long arms on the ball.

MIASAS3



Duncan: I was trying to get position on the board, trying to work Bosh up the lane a little bit, so I could get back to the board.

Spoelstra: We played it all the way through. That's probably what this series is about.

Parker: It felt forever. It didn't work out like I wanted it to.

MIASAS4



James: He stumbled two or three times.

Spoelstra: There were a couple of loose balls where it might have been an opportunity to make it a jump ball, and then he just broke through.

Gregg Popovich: It looked like he lost it two or three times.

MIASAS7



Ginobili: He lost it twice, so I was trying to just [chase] him around to get him an outlet.

Danny Green: That wasn’t drawn up, but he made it look like it was.

MIASAS8



James: He fell over, and when he fell over, I was like, 'OK, I’m going to have to tie this ball up.'

Duncan: I see him go down and I'm just praying he gets a shot off. He does just about everything in the book that he had.

MIASAS9



Parker: I thought I lost the ball three or four times.

Popovich: He stuck with it. He kept competing.

Spoelstra: It's going to go down to the last 10th of a second.

MIASAS10


James: He got up and went under my arm. I got a great contest, and he even double-pumped it and barely got it off.

Spoelstra: You can't leave it to chance, even if it's right there at the end of the clock, a body in front. Hopefully you try to make him shoot over the top, but he made a tough play.

Parker: At the end, I was just trying to get a shot up. It felt good when it left my hand.

Popovich: He got it up there on the rim.

Ginobili When he turned to the other side and threw it up, I thought it was late. But going back in the timeout, they told me it was good.

MIASAS12



Parker: I was happy it went in.

Duncan: It was just amazing.

Ginobili: And of course Tony's shot is one of those things that happens sometimes. We got lucky today. One of those things that could have been either way. It was just so close, but it was an unbelievable shot. That was the game winner.

Green: That last one wasn’t executed the way we wanted, but Tony made a big play.

Popovich: We were very fortunate. Great effort by Tony, and as I said, we were fortunate.

Spoelstra: He made a tough play, and you have to give him credit for that.

James: Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession. That was the longest 24 seconds that I’ve been a part of.

Paths of Heat, Spurs finally intersect

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
1:32
PM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Eventually, it was inevitable.

So what in the world took so long?

All things considered, the only surprising element to the NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs is the amount of time it has taken for them to finally cross paths with a championship at stake.

But when the teams play Game 1 on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, it won't be a clash of bitter rivals who despise one another. Instead, there are so many top-down connections the Heat and Spurs share -- from the heads of their organizations to the veteran voices at the end of their benches -- they'll enter the Finals far more like mirror images than mortal basketball enemies.

“The only thing I've known since I've come in the league is the Spurs have been run by [Gregg] Popovich and the Miami Heat have been run by Pat Riley,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday. “Because of that mutual respect and the consistency of culture, I think probably both franchises thought at some point in the last 18 years that we would have met in the Finals. And we haven't.”

Until now.

Those parallel paths trace back to 1995, when Riley took over the Heat a year before Popovich transitioned from the front office in San Antonio to the Spurs' bench. Since then, the two have served as either executives or coaches -- or in both capacities -- to established standards of excellence that render seasons a failure if they don't end in the Finals.

By the time this Heat-Spurs series is over, the teams will have combined to win seven titles in a 14-year span.

Along the way, the teams have maintained a mutual respect and admiration. So it was no coincidence when Popovich was one of the only coaching or front-office peers to call and congratulate Riley in July 2010 after the Heat acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade in the biggest free-agency coup in NBA history.

Popovich reflected on that conversation with Riley on Wednesday as his Spurs prepared for perhaps the most formidable team they've faced in five trips to the Finals.

“He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster,” Popovich said Wednesday of a Heat team led by a four-time MVP in James, the 2006 Finals MVP in Wade and a perennial All-Star in Bosh. “So why wouldn't he get credit for that? Why wouldn't you congratulate him for that? He lets people do what they do, puts things together, and he put together a hell of a team. And so I called him to thank him because I respect him so much.”

Popovich paused, considered the task he has at hand in the coming days and immediately clarified his gratitude.

“Not to thank [Riley], but to congratulate him,” he said. “That's the last thing I'd do is thank him for doing that.”

In reality, all the Heat were doing was borrowing from the blueprint the Spurs had established years ago. Although the Boston Celtics tend to get much of the credit for reviving the Big Three era when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce in 2007, the Spurs had already perfected the formula to the tune of three titles with their core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

When Riley spoke to reporters near the end of the regular season in April about the future he envisions for the Heat, he mentioned the Spurs' model as the one he'd like to follow in designs to keep James, Wade and Bosh together for a decadelong run of Finals appearances and titles.

Normally, the Heat draw from some level of disdain or scorn to help inspire them to face a postseason rival. But this matchup is filled with far too much admiration to get outright nasty. And it's completely genuine.

The track record speaks for itself.

The Spurs have put together 14 consecutive 50-win seasons and are undefeated in their four previous trips to the Finals. Meanwhile, the Heat have had winning seasons in 14 of the 17 years Riley has been at the helm of the franchise.

San Antonio is built around a four-time champion in Duncan, who is regarded by many as the best power forward to ever play the game. Miami's catalyst is James, who at age 28 has won four MVP awards in the past five seasons and should be considered the greatest small forward -- if not best player overall -- by the time he's done.

The similarities also extend to the end of their benches, where Miami brought back Juwan Howard in the spring to be a veteran presence and leader in the locker room. San Antonio, on the other hand, reached out to former superstar Tracy McGrady for the same role and a shot at a ring.

But there are also a few approaches that make these franchises distinctively different. Although the Spurs have built their foundation through the draft, the Heat bought their major pieces in free agency. San Antonio has successfully mined foreign markets for players such as Parker, Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. Miami has strongly preferred players who have been groomed through domestic ranks.

Yet in the Finals, they've still landed on common ground.

James, whose Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs in the 2007 Finals, said he has applied some of San Antonio's basic concepts to teams he has played with the past few years.

“I think the one thing that you kind of always see, no matter what, they've always shared the basketball and played as a team,” James said. “That's winning basketball. You always see the Spurs doing that. They're in the Finals for a reason; for their experience, how well they're coached, how balanced they are and their championship DNA.”

Parker returned the sentiment Wednesday by saying the Heat would be the toughest team he has faced in the Finals. Parker and James also faced virtually the same line of questions about their overall development since the 2007 Finals.

“Against Miami, it's the last step,” Parker said. “It's going to be the hardest one, because winning a championship is very hard. LeBron is going to be very tough. But it's a great opportunity for us to try to beat them.”

That feeling is mutual. But at least one thing the teams don't have for one another is envy. The Heat love the spotlight and the attention that comes with being one of the most popular and polarizing teams in any major sport.

But with that comes a level of scrutiny and ridicule that has critics speculating on the possible breakup of Miami's core every time there's a rough patch. It happened in the days leading to Game 7 of the conference finals against Indiana.

On the other hand, there was hardly any national debate as to whether Duncan, Parker and Ginobili needed to part ways as the Spurs fell short of the Finals in recent years. The dynamic isn't lost on Wade entering Thursday's game.

“Their team was put together through the draft ... the way people feel is the right way, and ours was put together a little differently,” Wade said. “So the conversation is different. We understand. We're not trying to be the Spurs. We're not going to get the same treatment, same talk. I'm sure they don't want to be us. Our team has done pretty decent. In our three years together, we've been in the Finals three years in a row. So we're doing something right.”

So is San Antonio.

And Duncan completely agrees with Wade in that the Spurs want no part of the scrutiny Miami faces daily. They're fine with the notion that they're overlooked and under the radar.

“We play the same way, we do the same things, we've been blessed to win four championships, and we're blessed to be back and have a chance to win a fifth one,” Duncan said. “So that's all that matters to us. I'm definitely glad I don't have that kind of [media] pressure on me. Absolutely.”

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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