The 2013 NBA Finals have been full of great long-range shooting, stretches of suffocating defense and masses of turnovers. It has been one of the more complicated playoff series to analyze, because the lack tidal waves of offense and the lack of consistency among both teams from game to game. However, the easy sound-bites from the coaches blame the defensive effort (Spoelstra after Game 3 and 5) and talk relentlessly about turnovers (Popovich, since the day he was born). In a series where nobody knows what to expect, it’s harder to pinpoint praise and blame.
Sure, LeBron missed lots of shots in Games 1-3, but how much of that was on LeBron, how much of that was Kawhi’s defense, how much of that was Spoelstra not giving him room by stretching the floor with Allen and Miller, and how much of that was Popovich’s game plan of swarming the paint without fouling?
Danny Green (since May 14th) and Gary Neal (Game 3’s explosion) have both put on shooting displays for the ages. Green’s blistering display (25 of 38, for 65.8%) of 3-Pt shooting through the five games in the Finals is simply astonishing, but even more incredible is the stretch of consistently great shooting in playoff games extending back to Game 5 against Golden State. In his last eleven playoff games, Green is 38 of 64 (59.4%).
The modern NBA is a pick-and-roll and 3-point shooting league. As offensive and defensive schemes have become more advanced, and as analytically-based expertise has taken root, the long 2-point jump-shot becomes a relic of the past, as does the post-game (Roy Hibbert and Zach Randolph are doing their best to keep it alive, but it’s pulse is dim). What does an increased emphasis on the 3-pointer mean? A game of runs. This year’s NBA Finals is exhibit A.
The next step in examining the change is differentiating between the easier corner 3’s (wide-open corner 3’s of the Kawhi Leonard, Shane Battier variety), the somewhat difficult, but open attempts (ball rotation wing 3’s-Danny Green, Mike Miller) and low-percentage 3’s (shot-clock heaves, 28-footers that the league’s leading isolation players seem to specialize in). The buzzer-attempting heaves shouldn’t even count as attempts, in my opinion (fewer than 10% of attempts beyond 30 feet go in, though LeBron, J.R. Smith and Durant occasionally make these). There are only a few players that shoot a high-percentage off their own dribble from beyond 23-feet (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Danny Green).
One would assume the box score becomes more advanced as the three-pointer becomes increasingly important.
Game 1: Double-pump Parker and the Shot that Got It Started
Spurs score 9 straight in 1st quarter
Before: Heat 2, Spurs 0
After: Spurs 9, Heat 2
Heat score 11 of next 13 points in 1st quarter
Before: Spurs 9, Heat 2
After: Heat 13, Spurs 11
4th Quarter Defensive Clamps
Spurs take over with defense, scoring 7 of 8, midway through 4th quarter
Before: Heat 78, Spurs 77
After: Spurs 85, Heat 79
Final: Spurs 92, Heat 88
Game 2: What’s My Name, Fool?
Second half Torching
Run: Heat, 33-5 run, ending the 3rd quarter and lasting through the first 6 minutes of the 4th
Before: Spurs 62, Heat 61, 3:49 left in 3rd
During: Heat 75, Spurs 65, end of 3rd
After: Heat 94, Spurs 67, 7:13 left in 4th
Final: Heat 103, Spurs 84
Game 3: Danny Green and Gary Neal Find the Bottom of the Net
Run: Spurs, 21-6
Before: Spurs 52, Heat 46
After: Spurs 73, Heat 52
Final: Spurs 113, Heat 77
Game 4: Return of the Flashbeagle, Wade Takes Over In All Phases of Game
For Openers (Spurs, 15-5 run)
Spurs 15, Heat 5
And then the response (Heat, 20-6 run)
Heat 25, Spurs 21
Ending the Half (Spurs, 18-8 run)
Before: Heat 41, Spurs 31
After: Heat 49, Spurs 49
Finishing them Off (Heat, 21-9 run)
Before: Heat 79, Spurs 76, 0:54 left in 3rd
After: Heat 100, Spurs 85, 5:16 left in game
Wade’s six steals, rebounding and general defensive harassment were huge (painkillers or just indomitable will?).
Final: Heat 109, Spurs 93
Game 5: Resurrecting the Old Man-u
Ending the First (Spurs, 17-5 run)
Before: Spurs 15, Heat 14
After: Spurs 32, Heat 19
Manu to the Rescue (Spurs, 19-1 run)
Before: Spurs 75, Heat 74 with 3:07 left in 3rd
During, Spurs 87, Heat 75 end of 3rd
After: Spurs 94, Heat 75 with 9:32 left in game
Manu’s ability to penetrate (12 drives) to the hoop sparked everything.
Manu finished with 24 points on 14 attempts and 10 assists to 3 turnovers.
Vintage Ginobili, but what will he bring in Game 6?
Final: Spurs 114, Heat 104
From Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie…
Danny Green’s record-setting 25 (and counting) three-pointers made in these 5 NBA Finals games: