Le Shot By Le Parker Under LeBron
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It will forevermore be known as, "Le Shot By Le Parker Under LeBron."
With le little time le left on the 24-second shot clock, Parker hit le big 16-footer to put San Antonio up, 92-88, over the Miami Heat with five seconds remaining in regulation, essentially clinching NBA Finals Game 1 for the Spurs.
It was a masterpiece of a shot--part Harlem Globetrotter, part Jerry Lewis and part Michael Jordan.
But that shot, framed oh-so-right, was set in motion a week-and-a-half ago by the 10 extra prep days Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich and his staff had in game-planning for the defending champion Miami Heat.
In retrospect, it really was a picture-perfect plan that enabled San Antonio to overcome a couple obstacles, such as only making 7 of 23 three-pointers, while also allowing LeBron to put up a trip le doub le--okay, enough of the French theme--of 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
Here are four things Pop did--or Popo (pronounced Poppo), as he's called by his longtime friends--that helped put the Spurs in this favorable position.
Just call Popovich Popo Picasso for painting a picture-perfect game plan to beat the Heat in their own arena.
1. BODYPAINTING: By putting so many Spurs defenders in the paint, Popo Picasso was able to take away LeBron's 10-to-15-foot game, where the four-time MVP went 0-for-5 in Game 1. Sure, LeBron had his six buckets at the basket (you cannot stop a train). But Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan--after both picked up two fouls in the first quarter--were able to avoid fatal foul trouble, playing 35 and 37 minutes, respectively, while helping hold LeBron to 18 points--8 below under his 2013 playoff average--on 6-of-11 shooting on 2s and 1-of-5 shooting on 3s, while keeping him off the line for most of the game (he was 3-for-4 there). The Spurs' team effort of packing bodies in the paint led to many of LeBron's 10 assists, but San Antonio was able to survive the trey onslaught later on, when the Heat legs grew weary in the fourth quarter. As Dwyane Wade himself said at the post-game press conference, "I thought we were a little fatigued honestly in the fourth quarter. Looking around, we looked like a team that came off a seven-game series."
2. PAINTING INSIDE THE LINES: This was not the time or place for turnovers. The Heat double-teaming defense feasts on backcourt-steals-that-lead-to-dunks. Just ask the Indiana Pacers who committed 60 turnovers that led to 54 points in the last three Heat-Pacers games. In contrast, San Antonio only had 4 turnovers that led to 8 Heat points in Game 1. That was HUUUGE. Tim Duncan said in the post-game presser, "It was a key coming in here, that we need to take care of the ball. Their pressure defense is what they do. The way they get in the open court, it was a nightmare the very first play. I make a turnover, they run it back and they dunk it right down the middle. That's what we want to stay away from, obviously."
3. PANTING: When you give a coaching artist like Popo 10 days to design a game plan, he is going to come up with a pretty good work of art. Now give another coach like Erik Spoelstra a.k.a. Spo only three days, and his work will appear rushed. Such was the Popo vs. Spo dynamic at work here; sometimes life just isn't fair when geniuses get seven extra days to study for the Finals. Consequently, Coach Spo's Heat indeed looked a bit beat at the end, according to LeBron James, who said at the post-game press conference, "Fourth quarter was the difference. I could see it in a few of our guys' faces. The Spurs looked like they were rested in the fourth quarter, and they took advantage of that. We had some mental mistakes." Those miscues led to five Heat turnovers and the fourth-quarter weariness led to a 23-16 final-period edge for the Spurs. You have to credit Pop for playing his starters substantial minutes--anywhere from 25 to 40--but not overdoing it this early in the series. The Spurs' smart end-of-game decision-making, for the most part (I see you, Danny Green), was a direct result of San Antonio's rest overcoming rust in due time. Said LeBron: "There's only a couple teams that you can't have mistakes against, especially in the fourth, and San Antonio is the No. 1 team."
4. PAINTING PALETTE: As big a win as this was for San Antonio--going up 1-0 in Miami--the Spurs didn't use all their tricks. Or as Manu Ginobili said at the presser, "I think we played an okay game. We didn't play great." The uncharacteristically poor three-point shooting (7-for-23) was the best evidence of that, with the Spurs getting many open looks (Kawhi Leonard was 0-for-4 and Gary Neal was 1-for-5) they simply did not convert. Those will surely fall in future games, so expect Pop to not change a thing with the Spurs' attack. But one wrinkle he definitely noted, figuratively stuffing into his back pocket for later, was seeing Duncan's dominant post-up display in the second quarter. With the Spurs trailing by 9 and 7:54 to go 'til halftime, Pop started calling Duncan's number time and time again. The 37-year-old All-NBA center responded by lighting up the Heat for 12 second-quarter points on 5-for-7 shooting, with 8 points coming in the paint and 2-of-2 at the line, as he started to put Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris "Birdman" Andersen all in foul trouble. Pop didn't go so much to those sets again, but you know he will in an upcoming game, especially if he needs to close the gap from 9 to 3 like he did here in Game 1.
It was indeed fine work by Popo, but it's not picture perfect just yet.
That said, you can be certain LeBron knows his career playoff record versus Pop's Spurs now stands at 0-5.
Yessir. Back to the drawing board for King James: Game 2, Sunday.