Prized Possession: Spurs-HEAT

The following is part of an ongoing series that features a single HEAT possession, one which may not result in points but gives the team the best chance to win. It is impossible to duplicate an individual shot, but it is possible to re-create the same opportunities, and the effort that went into earning them.

The idea, from the start, has been to build off of defense. From those first training-camp practices at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, the foundation was always defense. Since the first inclination was to fantasize about the offensive possibilities as this team was assembled, it was difficult for some observers to acclimate to the counter-attacking style, where every fast break was born of a stop, a steal or a block.

But that is Miami’s identity, and however enjoyable it is to watch Dwyane Wade and LeBron James streaking down the court at angles others can only imagine, the score is worthless without the stop. And though there may have been more technically proficient offensive sets in last night’s 30-point win over the San Antonio Spurs, in terms of one sequence perfectly encapsulating just what a team is about, there can only be one:

First, the defense. Mike Miller fights through two picks to track Manu Ginobili, and Joel Anthony correctly slides out to trap Ginobili in the corner. This gives DeJuan Blair a path to the rim, but Chris Bosh is there to meet him with his arms straight up (and Dwyane Wade ready to block from behind). Textbook.

Then, the reward. Wade grabs the rebound and speeds down the center lane, with Mike Miller ahead on the right and LeBron James trailing on the left. With the only two defenders in the way drawn to the forward-most HEAT players, nobody is there to stop James.

Hubie Brown’s call, “Oh…”, is perfect. It’s not easy to earn a, “Now that is as good as it gets,” from a man who has seen so many great plays and players, but here it’s entirely appropriate.

Brown barely has time to finish his thought before Wade jumps the passing lane – the HEAT were sitting on these passes all night – and forced Gregg Popovich to call timeout after the dunk in transition. These moments are why we watch basketball, a true moment for the team, and putting aside further analysis, one to simply enjoy.

And when the playoffs roll along and the pace of every game grinds down, remember that this will always be possible because of the defense.

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