AT&T Center – One part of being in the NBA Finals is that for players, it seems like there’s a lens dissecting each of their individual games. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh were the biggest targets under the lens before Game 4 because they hadn’t been producing like they promised they would two years ago when joining forces.
With Miami’s “Big 3” finally playing like the team that said it would win six championships on Thursday, the lens has now moved on the San Antonio Spurs who are tied with the Heat 2-2 in the NBA Finals. Their two players gaining attention for inconsistent play are two of their South Americans, Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter.
While much has been written about Ginobili’s disappearing act in these Finals over the last two days, Splitter’s name is also gaining attention, as he seems like a weak link against Miami on both sides of the ball.
Project Spurs’ Jose Grijalva broke down Splitter’s games in the Finals earlier today and gave his input on what the big man needs to do to improve. Today at the Spurs’ practice, where they held an open media session, Splitter too discussed how bad Thursday was for him and what he needs to do become effective in this series.
“It’s been in my head this last day,” said Splitter of Game 4. “I knew that I didn’t did well. I know what I’ve got to do. I know I’ve got to play stronger. I know sometimes I’m guarding a small, I know I’ve got to play smarter and stronger.”
For Splitter, the Heat’s active defense swiping the ball and blocking his shots might have worn on him mentally. “I got blocked three times and those plays were in my head,” said Splitter.
With Miami using a small-ball lineup, Splitter at times is a liability on defense, especially when he’s matched up with Wade. He says for the sake of winning, if the Spurs need to play small for the entire game, he’s willing to give up his minutes.
“I will do whatever I have to do to win the game,” said Splitter. “To be 48 minutes in the bench, I will.”
Splitter said regardless if he’s matched up with Wade intentionally or not, there are going to be possessions where he has to defend a smaller player. He said he and Boris Diaw discussed this prior to Game 4, but said they both have to be smarter and stronger when the situation arises in Game 5.
Asked if head coach Gregg Popovich is going to use a small ball lineup in Game 5, Splitter said he didn’t know, but did hint that the Spurs might use a zone defense to limit Miami’s penetration.
“I don’t know what Pop wants here (in Game 5),” said Splitter. “I don’t know if we’re going to play zone,” continued Splitter before catching himself like he may have said too much.
As Game 5 approaches on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see if Popovich matches the Heat with small ball lineups, or if he prefers to keep using Splitter in hopes that Splitter can play as well as he did in the regular season, too help Tim Duncan control the paint.
Here’s an entertaining Splitter bit for you. Splitter was told that the Indiana Pacers were a team that was successfully able to play “big” against the Heat.
His rebuttal? “Well they lost.”