Game-Winning Habits and Bosh's Three
The Miami HEAT have now beaten the San Antonio Spurs both as a full team taking one an opponent without its full complement of players and as a depleted squad on the road against a mostly-healthy team. This has to mean something, right? The HEAT must have San Antonio's number, or at the very least the upper hand should these franchises meet in the playoffs.
No. Not in any way, shape or form.
You know that thing Erik Spoelstra does where, in media scrums before games that have been labeled as important, he keeps bringing the focus back to the HEAT and away from the opponent? There's a method to this. It's not that Spoelstra doesn't care about who his team is playing, it's that he knows it doesn't do anyone good to react to the schedule until the postseason rolls around. Miami might play a playoff team on Friday and a lottery team on Sunday, but darn it if Spoelstra doesn't expect his team to get better over the weekend.
Oh my goodness gracious this is so boring why are you always droning on about process, the hypothetical you might say. Well, if you like watching the HEAT play basketball then you have that process to thank. Win or lose, Spoelstra has kept this team focused on improving for years, and as a result he's created an offense that is on the brink of setting the single-season high for effective field-goal percentage – which would top the Showtime Lakers and Steve Nash Suns in a statistic that accounts for the value of three-pointers.
That offense has more than a little to do with the talents of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the foundation was built over the years on the strength of good habits and an emphasis on manufacturing the most open, efficient shots possible. It might not lead to sustainable success without James, Wade and Mario Chalmers, but on Sunday night that foundation led the HEAT to take 14 corner threes – one of the tougher shots to consistently create – against not only one of the league's best defenses, but one that suffocates the corners in allowing only five attempts from that spot each game.
No, the Spurs weren't sharp defensively – let's just say there were more than a few missed or slow rotations in the middle of the floor – much in the same way Miami has struggled on that end against various opponents missing a primary playmakers, but without good habits the HEAT aren't in position to take advantage. Get a team to commit to ball movement with some of the best playmakers in the world on the floor and that team is going to be more likely to move the ball regardless of who is playing. And in the final seconds in San Antonio, all those good habits came in handy.
As we often end up saying about the HEAT's offensive expertise, there is nothing particularly complicated about anything they are doing. It's difficult to understand at first, but once you have the understanding of how every action causes a defensive reaction these things become instinctual – the same way you have to think less and less about when to play a trump card as you learn how to play a card game. It takes work, but once you understand the game it doesn't take an algorithm to tell you where to run, when to set a pick, when to cut, when to pass and when to shoot.
You just need commitment and the right process. That's always going to be a dry part of the legend of this HEAT team, but that's why this team is where it is, winning without two of the game's best players against one of the game's best teams.