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We saw it hurt the Memphis Grizzlies throughout the Western Conference finals. With only sixth man Quincy Pondexter around to consistently space the floor, Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were smothered in the lane by the San Antonio Spurs, who held the Grizzlies to 88 points per game.Meanwhile, the Spurs spread out the second-ranked Memphis defense on the other end and kept their precision offense humming.
We're also seeing it in the Eastern Conference finals, which has turned into a cat-and-mouse game built around the Miami Heat's ability to draw Pacers center Roy Hibbert away from the basket. In Game 3, with Udonis Haslem -- who seems to have a jump shot calibrated to exactly 17 feet, 6 inches -- draining one corner jumper after another, LeBron James feasted on the low block. The formula propelled Miami to 114 points and 55 percent shooting against the NBA's best defensive team.
The conclusion is clear: Floor spacing is not only more important in the NBA than ever, it's essential for a team to win a title. The conference finals matchups have been mirror images of each other in that respect, with attempts to draw opposing bigs away from the paint largely determining the outcome of each series.
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