We Went There: Manu Reigns and Miami Sputters in Game 5
By Zach Lowe on June 17, 2013 10:28 AM ET
The Heat have talked openly about how facing three of the league’s top five defenses over the last three rounds has taken the fast-paced style out of their offense. Great defenses, with weeks to scout a single opponent, don’t fall for the whirring decoy actions all over the floor, or scramble themselves out of position, or forget for a second which shooters demand constant attention and which do not. Miami’s high-flying motion bogs down into stasis, both because the shot clock is dying, and because the Heat simply abandon it for simpler things in the face of a defense that renders the complex ineffective. Great defenses, the Heat will tell you, just take you out of your game for long stretches.
This Finals series is reminding us that the same is true on the other end — that a great offense, a relentlessly great offense, can take a defense out of its game. It can get in a defense’s head, forcing painful adjustments, lineup changes, fatal overthinking, and mental fatigue. The Spurs’ offense has imposed its will on this series, and they have the Heat reeling in ways no team has managed since the 2011 Mavericks. “Our defense tonight,” Shane Battier said after the game, “was unacceptable.”
And he’s right, in a way. Miami made mistakes we’d associate with an out-of-sorts team battling fatigue, frustration, and total bewilderment. In the second quarter, Mario Chalmers just stopped paying attention to his man, Danny Green, as Green trotted along the baseline and popped out the other side for a wide-open 3-pointer — at least the third or fourth such triple Green has hit in this series via that simple cut. About a minute later, Chris Bosh, worried about a possible pick-and-roll that hadn’t actually happened yet, just abandoned Tim Duncan to double-team Tony Parker — leaving a shocked Mike Miller to foul Duncan under the basket:
The Heat have been switching more in this series, an unwanted contortion they’ve made to keep things simpler against San Antonio’s endless merry-go-round of screens, passes, and handoffs. The Spurs have punished those switches — by having Manu Ginobili, a reborn savant last night, attack big men off the dribble, or by taking advantage of awful miscommunications that happen when one Miami defender thinks a switch is in order, but the other does not. (The result of such mishaps is a Keystone Kops sequence of two defenders chasing one guy.)
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