The finely tuned Miami Heat team we saw in Game 4 is an unstoppable machine.
If they get that type of production from their Big Three, Game 5 may end in similar fashion—Miami decisively stealing another win on San Antonio’s home floor.
It’s incredible how quickly fortunes can change, though, and no team has had more of an up-and-down run lately than the Heat. That should be the paramount focus for the San Antonio Spurs as they head into Game 5.
Miami hasn’t been able to string together consecutive victories since its four straight wins over the Chicago Bulls in Round 2.
But what will the Spurs need, other than some time to think, to bounce back? Can the Heat take control of the series prior to returning to Miami to close out on their home court?
Take a look at a couple of keys for both teams prior to Sunday night’s pivotal Game 5.
Heat: Sustain Defensive Pressure
Miami’s swarming defensive pressure, both on the perimeter and in the paint, stymied the Spurs throughout Game 4. As a result, the Heat forced a series-high 18 turnovers and emphatically blocked seven shots in the paint.
Keeping the pressure on perimeter shooters is also a huge key for the Heat. In Game 4, the Spurs launched just 16 three-pointers after making of 16-of-32 during their record-setting Game 3 performance from beyond the arc.
The Heat used that embarrassing defensive performance to invigorate themselves defensively. They have to prove that they can sustain that energy on both ends of the court in order to avoid falling into a do-or-die scenario heading back to Miami.
Spurs: Conserve Tony Parker for the Second Half
There’s no doubt about it: Tony Parker is hurting. It’s showing on the box score too. He said his hamstring could tear “anytime now” following the team’s Game 4 loss, according to the Associated Press, via USA Today.
After a clutch Game 1 second-half performance, Parker has fallen off when his team has needed him the most: in the clutch.
Take a look at a breakdown of Parker’s first- and second-half scoring through the first four games of the series:
He was injured in the third quarter of Game 3, leading to him playing just six of his 27 minutes in the second half of that one. His inability to sustain his excellent start to Game 4 went hand-in-hand with his team’s downfall during that game.
With Parker playing through that hamstring injury, he is exerting tons of energy just to remain competent on the floor. From the looks of Game 4, he’s doing it too early.
If the Spurs hope to remain in this series by winning Game 5, they will need to try to conserve Parker for the second half by keeping him fresh instead of waiting to rest him later.
Heat: Get Dwyane Wade Involved Early
Professional athletes are fickle creatures. Sometimes getting in a groove early on will open up so many things for them later in games. That’s especially true with Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
Wade was inefficient and uninvolved throughout the first three games, especially in the second half as depicted by the chart below:
In Game 4, Wade got things going early by getting to the rim. He amped up his intensity throughout the game as a result, got in rhythm and suddenly couldn’t miss a shot.
Miami needs to ride Wade’s hot hand in Game 5 by getting him the ball early and often. If he gets rolling and can stay involved throughout, this series will drastically shift in the Heat’s favor.