By Rob Mahoney
SAN ANTONIO — Star players have seen defensive coverages of all kinds as the studious coaches around the league work themselves weary attempting to give their teams the slightest tactical advantage. Matchup possibilities are toggled, various approaches considered and most every option entertained — all for the fool’s errand of trying to keep the NBA’s most potent players in check. Even the best defensive teams fail regularly to prevent those standouts from scoring in bulk or controlling the game because, on some nights, even smart, well-employed coverage isn’t enough.
On other nights, though, a team can sneak away with an unexpected victory by working hard and playings its cards right over a full 48 minutes — as the Heat did to improbably beat the Spurs on Sunday without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Mario Chalmers
. One would think that without Chalmers’ ball pressure, James’ help and Wade’s selective gambles, containing Tony Parker might prove impossible. But the Heat were as aggressive as ever in contending with the Spurs’ point guard in pick-and-roll situations and opted to continue in their high-pressure coverage to great effect — even without superstar safety nets. Parker was held to 12 points (on 4-of-14 shooting) and eight assists, the kind of mark that an opponent can manage and overcome, as Miami did.
The Heat succeeded because of a communal effort to preempt Parker’s deadly work in the pick-and-roll. Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Shane Battier stepped up high and hard to repel Parker’s maneuvers around every potential ball screen, pushing the dynamic All-Star farther from the lane and all of the playmaking opportunities it provides.
“It’s tough, especially guarding TP [Tony Parker], man,” Bosh said. “It’s kind of like you have to attack him before he attacks you, because if he attacks you, you’re probably not going to win that battle too many times. He’s so low to the ground, so quick and so skilled. We just wanted to really affect him and make it a little tougher on him than what he usually sees.”
The Heat accomplished that and then some, as the pressure on Parker was balanced by hard, controlled close-outs on San Antonio’s perimeter shooters and smart placement of Miami’s interior defenders. Pledging one big man to trap Parker so aggressively puts a lot of pressure on the defensive back line, but the Heat bigs did a fantastic job of staying mobile and attentive while zoning up the lane or the weak side until the trapping big man could recover.
“We practice [those traps] all the time,” Bosh said. “We have big guys who can move their feet very well, and that’s a part of our defense. Sometimes, if we have to, we can affect the ball.” Rest of the story: Miami Heat show how to stop San Antonio Spurs' Tony Parker | The Point Forward - SI.com