The San Antonio Spurs put on another dominating performance in Game 4. Their 107-86 victory over the two-time defending champions Miami Heat underscored a glaring and obvious fact – team play and an effective system always trumps talent. At times, the Heat looked like the junior varsity as the Spurs toyed with them in several sequences. This is the first time the Heat have lost consecutive playoffs games since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals versus the Boston Celtics.
Looking at the box score, the Spurs had more assists (25-13); more rebounds (44-27), and shot a scorching 57 percent from the field and 43 percent from the three-point range. Amazingly, all 13 Spurs players scored at least 2 points. Before garbage time, 9 Spurs players already scored and contributed, underscoring their depth and bench strength. The Heat, meanwhile, had another superstar performance from LeBron James who finished the game with 28 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. Problem is, he didn’t get any help from his teammates and the Spurs exploited this daring James to beat them single-handedly.
Trailing 1-3 in the series, the Miami Heat now find themselves in an unenviable position. No team in NBA Finals history has come back from this kind of deficit. The Heat need to win 3 straight games to win the championship, a seemingly impossible task given that the Spurs are running high on all cylinders. Two of these games will be at the Spurs’ home court (Games 5 and 7) where they are nearly unbeatable.
Just to put some perspective, in the 3 games that the Spurs won, they have done so convincingly with an average margin of 18 points. The Heat’s only win so far came by a 2-point margin. Make no mistake but the Spurs are simply dictating the series.
If the Heat are going to make this series at least somewhat competitive, they may need to shake up their roster some. For instance, starting guard Mario Chalmers has been a non-factor and is undergoing a crisis of confidence. In these Finals, he has only scored 14 points in 4 games, a far cry from his regular season average of at least 10 points. He hasn’t been able to slowdown Tony Parker who is playing with an ankle injury. Back-up center Chris Andersen has also been ineffective which leads one to think that veteran power forward Udonis Haslem should get more minutes. In this battle of benches and wits, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is on the losing end.
Despite their vaunted athleticism and defense, the Heat have been hard-pressed to cover all the Spurs’ shooters especially with the latter’s superb ball movement. There is simply no way to guard against this unless you have a legitimate shot blocker acting as the last line of defense on penetrations. The Spurs have been simply getting too many open shots from outside and within the three-point arc.
Miami’s Big Three look really tired and they are desperately seeking help and finding none. The wear-and-tear of being in the last 4 NBA Finals series is fast catching up. The Spurs despite their age look fresher, since their own Big Three get rested at key periods due to their depth. It will take a miracle for the Heat to pull this one out, a miracle that the Spurs will not give them.