During the Spurs’ postseason run, friend of Project Spurs, John Karalis of Reds Army, will be contributing here as the Spurs look for title No. 5. Here is his latest article.
The San Antonio Spurs could be a great science fair project for some kid in San Antonio looking to demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion.
And the Heat could use the lesson.
With all the talk surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s apparent departure from New York and ways Miami could shoehorn another star into their mix, it’s been San Antonio’s star-less ball movement that has dominated these Finals.
Rasheed Wallace had “ball don’t lie.” These Spurs have “ball don’t care.”
The ball don’t care if it’s being handled by Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, or Manu Ginobili. The ball don’t care if it’s being shot by Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, or Tony Parker. The ball don’t care if it’s being passed to Tim Duncan or Tiago Splitter. The ball just wants to move.
The Spurs move the ball like Dennis Hopper planted a bomb in it and threatened to blow up the AT&T Center if it stops.
The Spurs move the ball as if the kinetic energy is now needed to power the air conditioning.
The Spurs move the ball like, well, like it’s supposed to be move against what can be a killer defense.
And this is the dichotomy of these Finals. The Miami Heat are the vision of what is necessary for success in today’s NBA; three stars lifting the games of players filling very specific roles. In a nutshell, teams theoretically need three stars who are so individually unguardable that teams must sacrifice defensive assignments in hopes of lesser players making lesser plays.
The Spurs aren’t that, though. Yes, they have three star-level players in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, but that’s not the same. Miami doesn’t beat anybody by 21 in the Finals if Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combine for 17 points on 6-14 shooting.
But San Antonio just did that in Game 4 (Duncan and Ginobili combined for those stats), putting up 107 points in the process. And that was a step back from what they did in Game 3.
Let me put it this way: Imagine grabbing a wire hanger and bending it over and over and over and over. After a while, that hanger will break.
That is what the Spurs are doing to the Heat defense.
The constant driving, dishing, replacing, passing, and movement without the ball bends the Heat defense over, and over, and over. Eventually, the defense breaks under the pressure of that un-caring ball being passed, and dribbled, and handed off.
Once it breaks, it doesn’t matter who has the ball. The last man holding it has a very good chance at scoring.
“They put you in positions that no other team in this league does,” LeBron James said after the game. “It’s tough because you have to cover the ball first, but also those guys on the weak side can do multiple things. They can shoot the ball from outside, they can also penetrate. So our defense is geared towards running guys off the three‑point line, but at the same time those guys are getting full steam ahead and getting to the rim, too.”
The Spurs have constructed a team not based on a few mega-stars and a collection of guys who can do very specific things very well. The Spurs have constructed a team of a few stars, and a bunch of guys who can do a bunch of things pretty well.
Tony Parker has had some magnificent stretches. Manu Ginobili’s first half of Game 1 was worthy of his Hall of Fame highlight reel. Tim Duncan has been Tim Duncan. But these four games have been defined by what Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and others have done for the Spurs.
This is dominance by committee. Marco Belinelli could be the beneficiary tomorrow night and put up 20, and it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise. In this basketball version of musical chairs, the ball can be in his hands when the music stops, and he’ll be in as good a position to score as anyone else in silver and black.
The Spurs are an object in motion. If they stay in motion, there’s nothing the Heat can do to stop them.