Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Here's Looking At You, Coach (Heat's on Erik Spolestra)

Somewhere right now, the Miami Heat are stewing. Dealing with the aftermath of a revenge blowout they got in Game 3. Good.

Many folks have said that this is exactly what LeBron James needs. A reminder that he can't table set anymore. Oh it's nice that he's averaging a double-double and leading Miami in assists. But folks don't appreciate that when you haven't scored 20 in any of the Finals games. It's time to go to Darth James. The killer of last year.

Me? I feel that way too but I'm aiming my biggest cannon at a guy who has been skating by most of my criticism. A guy losing a matchup I glossed over in my preview but I knew would be just as crucial as anybody on the court.

Erik Spolestra has been getting outcoached. Somewhere after Game 3, I realized that he's the one who needs to be plotting and stewing the most because Gregg Popovich has tactically mastered him so far.

27 points in Game 3 for Gary Neal should be the final straw for business as usual for the Heat.
The past two games, I've noticed that Miami's slow defensive rotations have led to open shots. The Spurs are passing around them masterfully and while the shots didn't fall in Game 1, they did in Game 2 for 2 1/2 quarters. Game 3? A record-setting shootout.

LeBron is trying to think his way to beat the Spurs instead of reacting. He knows he can pick his spots but he's losing that instinct to go with it as his FG% drops. He hasn't been able to get to the post because Kawhi Leonard is stronger but at the same time, the Spurs are giving him the perimeter knowing Dwyane Wade is the invisible man.

That's where Spolestra needs to step in.

1) Stay at home on San Antonio's shooters. That's harder with Tony Parker creating havoc but that's what he has to plan out. Make Tim Duncan - he of the 13.7 PPG/37 FG% average this series - beat you on offense and focus on limiting everybody else. The Spurs are giving you the perimeter, you take it away. Don't let Danny Green shoot his way into the Finals MVP conversation or Gary Neal have a game like that.

2) Find ways to space the floor. The Spurs are packing the paint to make it hard for LeBron to score. Mike Miller's shooting in Game 3 was a great sign but they need more of it. Remind Mario Chalmers he has to be aggressive. If LeBron's going into killer mode, remind him to react instead of over-think the game. Challenge Chris Bosh to make more of an impact, especially against guys like Tiago Splitter.

Folks can say this series has been an indictment on LeBron. Blaming him has become easier instead of crediting the Spurs for making him think too much and rely on his jump shot. They've shut down Dwyane Wade and made him look like 2006 Finals Shaq. The Spurs have been making all the right moves more than the Heat making the wrong ones.

It's time for Miami to adjust. That's not on their players. That's on their coach, who actually has some advantages to work with as we saw in Game 2. I still think the Heat win Game 4 but it's going to depend on what Erik Spolestra does. LeBron has to score more but it's up to his coach to make it easier for him as well.

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