What went right
: The San Antonio Spurs pushed the ball often — off makes, misses and free throws. Each transition possessions starts with the
Spurs bigs. They have to make effective outlet passes to their guards, and more than a few transition buckets were generated by a couple of three pass sequences in which the ball barely (if at all) touched the hardwood. Boom, boom, boom, bang. The ball whirred from each destination to the next with little dribbling in between, giving Miami's defense little time to adjust.
Tim Duncan beat his man to the spot often, and had plenty of shot clock to utilize because San Antonio transitioned to their offense quickly. A deadly combination. And even when the Heat plugged their first few options, the Spurs scored 18 points on 14 possessions in which they took at least 20 seconds off the shot clock (hat-tip to Couper Moorhead of Heat.com). Miami just had no chance.
What went wrong: Turnovers. San Antonio made a concerted effort to dictate the pace, which also means they had more chances to screw up. The byproduct was 18 turnovers, which the Heat turned into 16 points. It could've been much worse though; Miami missed seven transition attempts, and LeBron James in particular butchered a few of these prime opportunities. These turnovers almost mired an otherwise excellent offensive game so cleaning up these mistakes should be a point of emphasis.
Game changing sequence: Though Miami never held a lead, they were dangerously close to doing so late in the third quarter. With 3:05 remaining, Dwyane Wade made a wide-open mid-range look after Danny Green and Manu Ginobili were tangled by a Shane Battier pick. Ginobili was also whistled for a loose ball foul on the play, sending Battier to the line for just the third time this series. Battier knocked down the freebie, cutting the Spurs lead to one.
But that was all she wrote. San Antonio responded on the very next possession. Miami defended the initial action well, Ray Allen denied the passing angle to Manu Ginobili on the left wing, so Boris Diaw just executed a simple dribble hand-off sequence with Green. Diaw floated into the paint, and Green lined a deep 3-pointer from the top of the arc. He was at least three feet away from the line. Wade and Battier both contested the shot but the shot went in anyway.
Green's fifth 3-pointer of the night (he finished with six) spurred a 21-5 run that effectively clinched the game. Ginobili tacked on a couple of acrobatic finishes in this stretch, including the final bucket of the third quarter — a delightful free run to the rim, where he drove right by Norris Cole and uncorked a right-handed running lay up over the outstretched arms of Udonis Haslem. In this same span, Miami's three-headed attack (Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh) combined for 1-of-7 shooting from the field. The Heat made a half-hearted comeback in the fourth quarter, too, but Green's final long ball, giving the Spurs a 13-point lead with 1:06 to play, put the finishing touches on their 15th victory of the postseason.
Lineup of the night: Tony Parker | Danny Green | Manu Ginobili | Kawhi Leonard | Tim Duncan
Minutes played: 17
Offensive rating: 121.7 points per 100 possessions
Defensive rating: 125.0 points per 100 possessions
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's daring decision to replace Tiago Splitter (minus-11 in Game 4) with Ginobili, shooting just 34.4 percent from the field prior to last night, may give the Spurs an invaluable tactical advantage for the remainder of the series. It was a calculated gamble since the quintet was outscored by 40 points in their previous 85 minutes together, including the postseason. The gambit ultimately paid off; the Spurs starters combined for 107 points, shooting 39-of-61 (63.9 percent) from the field.
Ginobili appeared especially rejuvenated; he barreled to the rim consistently and fearlessly, drawing eight free throws, while also feeding his teammates on the perimeter. It was only his third double-double of the season (24 points and 10 assists), and the second time in his playoff career with at least 20 points and 10 assists. The lineup was outscored by a point in the 17 minutes they shared the floor, but we shouldn't be surprised if Popovich sticks with this lineup often in Game 6, especially in high-leverage situations.
Player of the game: Manu Ginobili. He took his usual diet of shots — leaners, step back 3-pointers, right-handed flip shots, left-handed floaters — and they finally went in. Miami also fouled him in the rare instances that he couldn't convert, which explains why he scored 24 points on just 14 shots.
Stat of the night #1: Green tacked on another six 3-pointers to his illustrious NBA Finals game log. He now has a Finals record 25 3-pointers, and there is still at least one game remaining. Miami should probably guard this guy … Though that hasn't necessarily worked either. He's made 18-of-24 (75 percent) on "open" 3-point tries and a still unreal 7-of-14 (50 percent) on "contested" 3-pointers according to ESPN Stats and Information video review.
Stat of the night #2: Tony Parker wasn't afraid to attack from the perimeter, even if meant forgoing the Spurs' typical ball movement. He slid by Cole numerous times, decimated Miami bigs when they switched the pick-and-roll, and forced the issue whenever they gave him ample space. Parker, despite a nagging hamstring injury, made each of his nine attempts in the paint.
Stat of the night #3: LeBron James, meanwhile, made just five of 11 shots in the restricted area. He missed an alley hoop attempt in the first quarter and Green, playing excellent transition defense in addition to his usual barrage of 3-pointers, snuffed out a couple transition buckets with excellent timing.
Stat of the night #4: The Spurs took 13 "guarded" jumpers, classified by MySynergySports, and scored 24 points on these attempts.
Stat of the night #5: San Antonio is 14-2 in potential series-clinching games played on the road since 2002-03, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The rest of NBA is 61-75.
Quote of the game: “He’s been unbelievable. I hope he doesn’t wake up, I hope he keeps playing this way.” — Tim Duncan on Green
Shot chart of the night: The new and improved Spurs starting lineup.