By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
There’s a time in every playoff series when you’ve seen enough from both teams and you can figure out which team is simply better and will win the series. That time has come in the NBA Finals.
The Spurs are a better basketball team than the Miami Heat. At this point, it might not even be that close, either. San Anotnio’s three wins have come by 15, 19 and 21 points. They lost Game 2 by only two. That’s a +/- of +53 through three games. Obviously, LeBron James’ absence for much of the fourth quarter in Game 1 might skew the numbers a bit, but that’s still dominant.
In many ways, there’s no defense for what the Spurs do. Erik Spoelstra said as much in Thursday night’s press conference.
“Like I said, I’ve got to do a better job,” he said. “We’ve got a couple days to figure it out, but we’ll lay everything out, look under the hood and see what we need to do. We have made some adjustments, and like I said, they’ve been able to get into their game, their rhythm and flow regardless of what scheme we’ve been able to put out there. And you do have to credit them for that.”
In other words, the Heat have made their adjustments and it hasn’t mattered. The Spurs have done whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted against the Heat for the majority of the series. The Spurs’ offense has been unstoppable, and Miami’s own hot shooting is the only reason they were even in some of the games. That ended on Thursday night when Rashard Lewis, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were too cold from the field to be of much help to James.
Sure, there are other things the Heat could do defensively to try to make a difference, like blitzing pick-and-rolls far less frequently, or playing Udonis Haslem. But there’s no evidence that that would make any difference, either. Ball movement will always beat a rotating defense. The best solution for Miami is to play more straight up man-to-man defense, but that’s hard to do against a Spurs team that sets so many screens and has so much movement away from the ball. Help eventually has to come, and the Spurs seem to always make the right pass whenever it does.
You know what that means? Even though the Heat have the best player, the Spurs are the better team. The way they are playing now, they are the best team in the NBA and it isn’t very close. Even more impressive is their ability to be versatile. They can bang with a big lineup featuring Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard in the frontcourt. They can play small with Boris Diaw. They can run and shoot the three. They can go to the post with Duncan and dominate the paint. They always have an answer. It is the sign of a great team.
It is also the sign of a great coach. Being a coach seems to make people stubborn, but Gregg Popovich has shown himself to be extremely flexible over the course of his career. The Spurs’ offense is much different now than it was 10 years ago. He adopted many tenants of Mike D’Antoni’s system and integrated them into the things that he has done in the past. He cut the minutes of his older players so they would be fresh come playoff time. He is the best coach in the NBA.
Of course, all this is not meant to imply that the Heat are dead. Everyone has seen stranger things in the NBA. The Spurs’ shooting could go ice-cold for three games. James could put up three straight 40-point games to go along with top performances from his lieutenants.
But if both these teams play their best basketball, the Spurs are going to win. And with two of the final three games at home, odds are that will happen at least once over the next three games. The Spurs will be rightfully recognized for sustaining excellence over such a long period of time, something that has shown to be nearly impossible in the history of the NBA. They have the rings to show for it. It might not be a dynasty, but it’s something that’s just as good. It has been a pleasure to watch.
Follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories