By Lamar Battle
At last, balance has been restored to the galaxy. With their game five victory over the Miami Heat the San Antonio Spurs cemented themselves in the hearts of basketball purist and Heat haters world wide as the premier organization in the NBA.
The Spurs won the last three games over Miami by no less than 15 points per game and the 2014 championship more than made up for the heart breaking loss suffered at the hands of the Miami Heat in 2013.
San Antonio coach Greg Popovich used the entire regular season to prepare his team for this moment. No Spurs player averaged more than 30 mins a game as Popovich carefully developed a bench comprised mostly of cast offs and ex Developmental League players. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said it best. ” A lot of teams try to play like the Spurs but they can’t because they don’t have the players”. What Charles meant more than anything was that every player can’t play for San Antonio because first of all you have to be hard working, unselfish and highly coach-able.
It is no accident that 9 of Spurs players are foreign born. Interestingly enough these players are raised with out the inherent sense of entitlement displayed by most American born players; residue left over by the AAU/shoe culture so prevalent now a days in the states. The Spurs are coached hard by coach Popovich who has won their trust, especially that of future all time great Tim Duncan. Duncan’s willingness to sublimate his ego for the good of the team has helped maintain a culture that has led to a playoff birth in each of Duncan’s 15 years in the league.
The above mentioned culture allowed the Spurs to run a disciplined, highly organized offense that broke down the previously un-breach-able Miami defense… Over and over again.
Miami’s defensive focus was to swarm the ball after almost every pass, especially when the ball entered the paint area.
Consequently the Spurs would consistently bait the Heat with screen rolls and drives to the basket with the intent to catch the Heat defenders out of position and pass to an open shooter. In essence, what the Spurs did offensively was use the Heat’s greatest strength on defense against them.
On defense the Spurs played Heat superstar LeBron James one on one and stayed home on Miami’s shooters, most notably sharpshooter Ray Allen. This approach coupled with limited turnovers prevented the Heat from going on prolonged runs of fast breaks and three point shooting. It was a devastating display of precision that had Heat players admitting that they were spanked royally.
To their credit, the Heat players conducted themselves admirably in defeat knowing that roster adjustments will be needed going forward if they have any hopes of winning another title. LeBron James can opt out of his contract and leave if he so desires so the Heat’s brain trust will have to convince their star players to stay home while fortifying a thin and rapidly aging bench.
Changes to the Heat will have to be serious as the Spurs have broken their code and I’m certain other teams were paying attention.
It was instructive to observe the Spurs during their trophy acceptance ceremony. There was Timmy in the background and coach Popovich way in the back allowing his team to soak it all in.
This series was good for the game of basketball as it displayed what we teach our kids about sport and It’s numerous benefits.