San Antonio Spurs Show Miami Heat How Endurance Can Breed Serendipity

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2011

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat  looks on during a game against the New York Knicks at American Airlines Arena on February 27, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Karma can indeed resemble a female dog.

For LeBron James in San Antonio, it looked like the Medusa brandishing machine guns and machetes. It refused to exit center stage a la the Octomom. Karma, on this night, packed a more painful punch than Hilary Swank's character in Million Dollar Baby.

It inflicted more psychological adulteration than a Kate Gosselin parenting class. It defiled. It caused embarrassment. It stained. It felt like a Rosie O'Donnell body slam.

James, it seems, picked the wrong artist when searching for a proper comparison to his star-crossed, star-studded basketball team. Forget the Beatles. Enter Elton John.

The bitch is back.

When Erik Spoelstra's crew assesses the wreckage after a humiliating 125-95 defeat at the AT&T Center, many of the players will curse misfortune.

Opponents do not often deliver such stirring shooting clinics on consecutive nights. Less than 24 hours after the Orlando Magic erased a 24-point deficit with a barrage of eight second-half treys, 16 in all to impel a 99-96 victory, the Spurs torched the Heat for 17 downtown hits.

Like the ones from John, Paul, George and Ringo, they just kept coming.

Tony Parker, expected to miss two to four weeks after suffering a left calf contusion, made a stunning return to the starting lineup after a two-game absence.

Miami brunted the consequences and the bummer of the alacritous point guard's surprise comeback. The injury was not as serious as San Antonio's medical staff had suspected last weekend.

The famous commercial says "beef" is what's for dinner. Parker must have missed that memo. Instead, he feasted on Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers.

As his 15 efficient points and eight assists will attest, it was a delicious meal. Even four turnovers could not sink the Parisian paint piranha.

Difficult circumstances suggested the South Beach Superteam would falter.

The Heat would have preferred to face the team sporting the league's best record with equal rest. The Spurs know all about a Florida eyesore on the second night of a back-to-back.

Ask Gregg Popovich how much he likes playing in Orlando after a tight affair the previous evening.

Those gruesome final scores in March and December last year confirm Popovich's misery.

It also figures that Spoelstra would have preferred to enter such a battle with Udonis Haslem, the Heat's best interior defender and its often unrequited soul.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh remained in a fog after Thursday's devastating, neck-wringing collapse.

Blowing a 24-point cushion at home tends to injure egos for more than one sleepless night. Miami's All-Star anchors, for those unaware, do not lack in the swagger department.

The Heat's precise arrival time in the Alamo City approaches irrelevancy. It was late and did not afford the players or coaches optimal rest.

Popovich should say "boo hoo" to those excuses. He would never do that. He exudes class. A hoops writer who sometimes discharges the opposite will.

The disparagement thunderstorm that will drench the Heat serves James and his buddies right.

He proclaimed his squad, "the Heatles." He compared the road atmospheres he had experienced through late December to the Fab Four's scream-filled reception at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees cap he wore at Cleveland sporting events during his tenure there fit that perhaps clumsy attempt at a metaphor.

He might consider adding this irresistible Beatles ditty to his iPod playlist: "Help!"

The Heat need plenty after falling to 1-8 against the league's top teams. More than that, everyone from Pat Riley to James to Bosh to Spoelstra needs to embrace what has allowed the Spurs to roar to an NBA-best 51-11 record.

San Antonio's breezy 109-99 victory in Cleveland secured the franchise's 12th consecutive 50-win season, a phenomenal accomplishment many fans met with a collective yawn. That ties the mark set by Riley's Showtime Lakers.

The slam-dunk Executive of the Year selection constructed a staggering roster in less than a month with a chance to challenge that consistent success.

Wade, Bosh and James are too talented not to cruise to a conga line of 50-win long as they stay together and healthy.

The Spurs are an appropriate model for that first key. GM R.C. will earn votes for the award because he listened to the team's Italian scouts when they advised Gary Neal was worth a workout or two.

Signing Tiago Splitter to a cap-friendly deal will net him consideration.

He deserves mention in that conversation, though, because his greatest risk involved reconvening a core many thought too geriatric, sluggish and injury-prone to content for a fifth title.

Just as the summer hyperbole envelops the Heat after losses, it blesses the Spurs after victories.

Popovich and Buford knew Parker and Ginobili had missed significant daylight with various, troublesome injuries in the previous three years. Ginobili's ankles almost broke him.

Parker succumbed in the 2009-2010 campaign to everything from tainted food to a hip that wasn't in vogue.

The Spurs brass also knew what was possible when the backcourt mates were upright and energized. Trusting Richard Jefferson to make the second-year adjustment was another risk.

Through it all, the decade Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have shared should provide James and his AAU-CAA cohorts with a lesson: chemistry develops through tireless work, not mere talent.

Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony might want to listen after the Knicks stumbled against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers for the third time in three tries.

None of them have endured anything yet. The Spurs trio has been there and done it all. Popovich's Hall of Fame-worthy curriculum vitae is lined with mistakes and misguided calls.

He should have drawn up this play instead of that one. He should have developed a better game plan. He will admit all of this.

And, yes, there was a time when Duncan would have been barmy not to dismiss a puny French kid and a turnover-prone Argentine as dynasty cornerstones. They made this odd partnership work by frequenting the gym, not Twitter accounts or lavish July celebrations, though Parker had plenty of Hollywood in him when married to Eva Longoria.

Pat Riley propagated a premature, self-congratulatory, applause bath for his historic free agency coup. Yes, he did.

No one ever questioned the physical abilities of Bosh, James or Wade. They just wondered whether it was wise for the Three Me-Egos to bump chests, prance and predict "seven or eight championships" when they had not played a game.

How can Bosh now stomach his typical response to a question about media surveillance, "We have to play through it?" He willingly participated in the smoke-filled spectacle that brought on such perlustration.

It does not matter that some post-game comments about Spoelstra's practices being "too hard" may have been taken out of context.

It does not matter that every Tweet from James is explicated like a Shakespeare text in a college English course. What did he really mean there?

Boo hoo. These guys wanted the rock star treatment? They got it.

Even the sexiest rock bands can stop selling albums and get dropped from their record label. The Spurs drop-kicked the Heat by 30 points in a ball movement master class.

The route to a 51-11 mark was not forged in one summer. Matt Bonner, the redhead who burned Miami with four first-quarter triples, starred on the inactive list for most of his first two seasons in San Antonio.

Only when Robert Horry retired did he get a fair shot to carve out a rotation niche.

Splitter and Buford had to wait three years before they could make their desired marriage a reality. Parker once disappeared in playoff games and possessed all the confidence of a whipping-boy recluse.

The examples of perseverance throughout San Antonio's 12-year run seem endless. Humiliation? Duncan and David Robinson felt it when they vowed to respond to a blowout postseason defeat to the Lakers in the early 2000s. The Spurs lost the next game, the clincher in a sweep, by 39.

Duncan and Robinson came back that fall ready to work. San Antonio, even when it seemed primed to fail, never stopped coming back.

The Heat, in homage to the Beatles' downpour of smash singles, must do the same.

"We can work it out?" Friday sounded more like, "Bang, Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

Riley's maneuvers in future offseasons to tweak a flawed supporting cast (where's that Mike Miller guy who was supposed to provide knock-down shooting and slashing?) will make a difference.

The Heat's bench, running on poisonous fumes, is the lowest-scoring reserve unit in the league. Even Philadelphia's pine producers are good for 40 points per game.

Experience will also bridge some gaps. The championship validation Miami requires, though, will not arrive until James, Bosh and Wade demonstrate the same commitment the Spurs have in both triumph and discomposure.

Meshing three All-Star talents for 82 games and a playoff charge, as these three should have learned, does not compare to three weeks of makeshift harmony and routs in the Olympic tournament.

How Miami's core responds to these gut-wrenching stretches (and history says there will be many) will determine whether that July soothsaying was prophecy or pompous lunacy.

The L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics, Spurs and Dallas Mavericks do not plan to pass any torches. They all just want to torch the Heat.

Popovich was lucky to have Parker back in the starting lineup so soon after an awkward, frightening tumble against Memphis.

A joint decision by a coach-basketball operations president and GM to keep a 28-year-old, former Finals MVP off the 2011 free-agent market with a contract extension was not happenstance.

They inked Parker knowing he might miss one of these paramount dates with another injury.

The same goes for Ginobili.

There was not a better way, then, for the Spurs to begin this nationally-televised walloping. Ginobili gathered the tip and drove for a quick finger roll. Parker assisted on Ginobili's first of three triples three possessions later.

When Parker kicked the ball to Bonner for his second trey, with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, a capacity crowd exploded. So did the Heat's chances of atoning for Thursday's meltdown. Miami could not draw closer than nine the rest of the way.

Was that karma barking back at James, or just Sir Elton singing, "I'm a bitch, I'm a bitch, the bitch is back?"


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