Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals is in the books and while the Spurs took care of home court to little surprise, the circumstances were somewhat interesting.
Will Strickland and Duane Watson from TSN 1050's 1 On 1 With Will & Duane are joined on the Three Man Weave this week by On Point's Drew Ebanks. On Point is a series of basketball films featuring prominent basketball personalities from across Canada. The trio look at what happened and what needs to happen for Game 2.
The heat or The Heat couldn't slow the Spurs. Who and what can?
Strickland: The HVAC Havoc in the AT&T Center is another in a long line of arena mishaps and strange occurrences in the history of San Antonio professional hoops, be it snakes in a locker, bats on the court or having the old Boston Garden heat trap trick in play. Whether you believe or not weather was the biggest culprit here, when history is at stake on both sides, you do what is necessary to improve your chances for victory. That said, Miami has to have better contributions from their bench or it's One For The Thumb deep in the heart of Texas soon!
Ebanks: Only the Spurs can truly stop the Spurs in these playoffs. When this collection of future Hall of Famers and highly productive role players and veterans are moving the ball, spreading the court and creating havoc for rotations they are almost impossible to slow down, never mind stop. If their 3 pointers are falling the only thing left to do is pray. San Antonio plays a beautiful style of basketball, making the game looks so easy and effortless, which in turn causes problems for opposing defenses.
Watson: I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich was behind the AC "failure" in the arena. I'm sure it will come to light in an ESPN 30 For 30 one day. Despite Miami forcing 22 turnovers, it was the smaller stars for San Antonio that shined bright in Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Boris Diaw. If the Heat expect to compete in this series, it can't be solely on the backs of the Big Three who scored 62 of their 95 points.
LeBron James: Can't Stand The Heat... Or Human?
Strickland: I loved the analysis of instant athletic trainers and non-athletes on social media who spent days pontificating on what they or someone else whose name rhymes with Michael Jordan would have done in that situation, but… There will always be a difference between fans and fanatics. Did LeBron shrink in the moment? No. Miami lost the game once James went down. Be sure that preventative maintenance will be the goal to keep James on the court for the rest of the Finals.
Ebanks: Of course LeBron James is human. Look, this man is one of the most incredible physical specimens/athletes in the history of sports. 6'9", 265 lbs. who can play and defend all 5 positions, has the speed of a sprinter and the strength of a power lifter. He's been pretty much an ironman throughout his career despite being hammered by defenders consistently in his career on his forays to tin. Plenty of players have succumbed to cramps. Heck, if you've played sports and haven't had cramps you probably weren't playing as hard as you should have.
Watson: He cramped up, it happens and has happened in the past. It was a hotbox in the AT&T Center; that much was obvious. The only thing I found interesting was that he didn't seem to be taking any fluids while agonizing on the bench.
How vital were bench contributions to Game 1?
Strickland: It's no secret that the Spurs may have one of the most productive and diverse benches in NBA Finals history. It was surely an advantage in Game 1, where Manu Ginobili almost outscored the entire Miami bench alone and Boris Diaw combined with him to dish out 17 of the Spurs 30 assists off the pine. Vital? No question. The Heat's subs not named Ray Allen have to show up for Game 2 to give Miami a chance to take their talents back to South Beach with a split.
Ebanks: For any basketball team, especially at the NBA level, benches are extremely important. The less drop off a team has from its starters to their subs means more success, generally speaking. In this series, the Spurs clearly have a definite advantage. In Game 1, San Antonio's bench of super-sub Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Marco Bellinelli and Patty Mills outscored the Heat's bench of Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Chris Anderson and Shane Battier, 34-20. The Spurs margin of victory was 15, so there you go. One other point: San Antonio's bench is also more crucial for them because their main players are older and have more mileage than Miami's.
Watson: There hasn't been a more obvious stat disparity between these two teams and it was clear in Game 1. The depth of the Spurs bench has never been secret, outscoring the Heat 34-20. Yet, the rebounding (20-10), assists (17-9) were both overwhelmingly in San Antonio's favour.
What does Miami need to do to win Game 2?
Strickland: No wholesale changes by the Heat are necessary except preventing 36 point 4th quarter explosions. Other than that, continue to impose their defensive identity on the game, crafting live ball turnovers that they convert into fast break points and fouls for the Spurs and getting multiple Triple Singles off the bench from players other than Walter Ray Allen.
Ebanks: They need to LEBRON! How's that for an answer? As King James goes, so do the Miami Heat. Before LeBron James went down in Game 1, the Heat were actually right in the ball game. LeBron has to bounce back and lead Miami to victory in Game 2. If I were the Heat, I'd bring in some Miami Air Conditioning specialists of their own, just in case. I mean who knows more about air conditioning than Floridians?!?
Watson: The Heat were only down by 94-92 when James left the game for the final time with 3:59 left and then effectively choked on a Spurs 14-3 run to close out the game. They were very much in Game 1 and the defensive pressure on the ball clearly worked. They need contributions from the supporting cast not named Ray Allen.
What does San Antonio need to do to hold serve in Game 2?
Strickland: They won Game 1, which they did in Miami last year, only to lose the Finals in 7. It will be a long series and this veteran Spurs team knows it. Popovich will implore his charges to protect the pumpkin better despite shooting almost 60 per cent vs the Heat because 22 turnovers are never good. When players 1-12 contribute as they did in Game 1, Game 2 should be no problem because Teamwork Makes The Dream Work!
Ebanks: The Spurs I think have to be smelling blood and it's only Game 2. Their opponent's best player (LBJ) is hobbling, meanwhile San Antonio's leader and floor general, Tony Parker, coming off ankle issues, played well and says he feels great and is ready to go for the next game.
Watson: More of the same, their game plan was effective. While only five players can play on the court at a given time, everyone gave them something; whether, scoring, defense, ball movement, three-point shooting, or rebounds. That balanced approach has been the cornerstone to the franchise's success.
The Three-Man Weave contributors are co-hosts of TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) and Duane Watson (@byDuaneWatson) and guest air conditioning and 3-point specialist Drew Ebanks (@DrewEbanks)