After watching Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals, any major critique on how either the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs performed would be pedantic.
Both game plans were effective and, for the most part, both teams executed their coach's instructions fairly well considering the opposition.
LeBron James was otherworldly at times, while Tony Parker (game-winning shot and all) stacked yet another hypnotic finals performance onto his Hall of Fame resume.
Neither team should have anything serious to worry about heading into Game 2, but that's far from saying things were perfect. Here are a few areas where both the Spurs and Heat will look to improve in Game 2.
Defending the Post
How well each team defends the other's star in the post (San Antonio against LeBron James, Miami against Tim Duncan) could end up deciding the series. Both teams made adjustments as Game 1 went on, and both defenses faltered in the wake of minor offensive tweaks.
The Heat spent parts of the game treating Tim Duncan like they just did Roy Hibbert—aggressively fronting him in the post and preventing any easy entry passes. How did the Spurs counter? With brilliance, as they tend to do.
Here's a clip of Kawhi Leonard trying to make an entry pass into Duncan, who's being fronted by Udonis Haslem. Instead of forcing something over the top or swinging the ball around the perimeter to reset the offense, Leonard chooses to put his head down and drive toward Duncan.
San Antonio did this later in the game with Danny Green as the ball-handler. It's a clever way to combat Miami's pugnaciousness, and it's an uplifting sign for Spurs fans to see their important role players accept a major challenge.
On the other end, James was phenomenal working in the post, whether it was with Green or Leonard as his primary defender. He either set up teammates with open looks behind the three-point line or looked to put the ball in the basket himself.
Here he is dealing with a triple team by San Antonio's help defenders.
For whatever reason, James went away from the post during the latter stages of Game 1. Had he been there for three or four more possessions, there's a great chance Miami pulls away with the victory. Look for more of this in Game 2.
Guarding Tony Parker
On San Antonio's second offensive possession of the game, it ran Tony Parker across the baseline and through two screens to receive a pass on the other side of the court.
It's a common set the Spurs run to get their point guard involved away from the ball, in motion and in position to score. Miami defended this first play indecisively, and indecisive action against the Spurs will get you killed.
Instead of darting away from his man (Tiago Splitter), coming up and forcing the ball out of Parker's hands, Chris Bosh wandered near the elbow in no-man's land between Splitter and Parker.
With his man (Mario Chalmers) still trailing him on the catch, Parker drives straight toward Bosh in the paint and sinks a floater. It's a difficult shot, but Miami's defense isn't tight enough to make it an impossible one.
The Heat immediately scaled up their pressure from that point on, trapping Parker on the catch and forcing quick-release passes.
Against the pick-and-roll, Miami mostly doubled Parker immediately, once again forcing the ball out of his hands. But on a few instances, the Heat failed to properly execute their plan.
Here's a quick screen-and-roll right at the end of the first half involving Parker and Duncan, with Chalmers and Joel Anthony (forced into action with Bosh having three personal fouls against him and Chris Andersen completely overmatched against Duncan in the post) providing coverage.
This defensive breakdown was either created by the Spurs, with Duncan's brick-wall screen on Chalmers blowing up what Miami wanted to do, or simply a mental lapse by Anthony, who should be a step or two higher to corral Parker before he can pick up any speed for a blow by.
Either way, the Heat will need to be more consistent with their pick-and-roll coverage on Parker if they're serious about bullying San Antonio's role players into grander roles. On several occasions in the fourth quarter, Miami allowed Parker to step into an easy mid-range jumper.
Those are now his bread and butter.
The Transition Game
With the pace of play slowing down each round for both teams, the Spurs and Heat will look to take advantage of any transition opportunity they can. And given how successful each team's offensive and defensive units can be in the half court, the extra five-to-seven points that are scored in transition could be the difference between a win and a loss.
In Game 1, the Heat had 10 scoring opportunities in transition to San Antonio's 11, per Synergy Sports. Here's one particular play that sums up the importance of hustling back on defense every single time a shot is missed, and why, conversely, pushing the ball off a defensive rebound is always a good idea.
In the clip above, Splitter shoots himself in the foot by unnecessarily lunging to steal an outlet pass from Andersen. Miami's big man then races rim to rim, forcing Manu Ginobili to stay in the paint while his man, Mike Miller, finds himself open for a three-pointer from the top of the key.
If Splitter simply runs back after his team's miss (what he's supposed to do), the Spurs aren't shorthanded in transition. It may not look like much, but easy baskets like this could be the difference between winning and losing.
Dwyane Wade's Defense
For the opening basket of the 2013 NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade soared through the air for a two-handed dunk in transition. It was the type of play he hasn't been able to make throughout these playoffs, and it was seen as a glorious sequence by those rooting for Miami.
Unfortunately for the Heat, for most of his 36 minutes on the court, Wade's defense was a notch below atrocious.
Here's Wade incorrectly feeling the need to help on a cut through the paint by Leonard, even though James (perhaps the quickest, smartest defender in the NBA) has more than enough time and space to recover and guard it on his own.
The result is a wide-open Ginobili at the top of the key and a poor closeout attempt by Wade that leads to a layup.
There are nearly half a dozen examples just like this where LeBron's right-hand man fails to stick with Ginobili, either fighting over off ball screens he should be able to weave through or simply watching the ball and losing track of where San Antonio's Hall of Fame guard is.
If Wade can clean up his act, Miami's already lightning-fast defense on the perimeter should get even better.
Both these teams are incredible, and smart money says the few technical mistakes they made in Game 1 will be corrected by Sunday. But a majority of what happened in Game 2 will mirror the events of Game 1.
For example, take one of the game's biggest plays.
James receives a screen from Ray Allen with his team trailing by four with about a minute left in the game. The Spurs basically panicked, with Parker and Leonard both choosing to stay on Allen, allowing the league's MVP a full head of steam toward the center of the floor, straight at the rim.
As he's darting toward the paint, James has a few options.
He can pull up for a wide-open jump shot at the free-throw line, or he can crash into Duncan (one of basketball's best defenders) and hope to draw a foul.
He can sling a bullet to Wade in the left corner (who would then have the option of either launching a contested three-pointer or taking Green, then Duncan, on with a drive toward the rim), or he can kick it out to Bosh, who's standing by himself just beyond the arc.
James chooses Bosh, and the possession ends with a missed shot. By no means is this the wrong decision, and if faced with the exact same sequence at the end of Game 2, there's a great chance all players involved do the same thing.
That's just who these two teams are. Both are great. Both are battling for a spot in history. Neither will consistently outsmart the other, and neither will consistently bludgeon the other with an athletic advantage.
When you get down to it, the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat are two evenly matched basketball teams striving for a championship. The difference between who wins and who loses will probably come down to who makes more open shots afforded to them by a defense choosing how it wants to be attacked.
Game 2 will be lots of fun.
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