The mind games have already started.
The NBA Finals do not begin until Thursday, but already it seems like the Heat is trying to soften up the revenge-hardened San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs have had a more difficult road to the Finals, Chris Bosh emphasized Monday at the Heats first practice since winning the Eastern Conference finals.
The 2013 Finals could have gone either way, other players said.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a great coach, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is simply a great up-and-coming coach, Dwyane Wade pointed out.
In other words, there will be no bulletin-board material for this rematch of last years classic seven-game series. The Spurs already have the home-court advantage, and the bitter taste of defeat to fuel their motivation. Spurs center Tim Duncan made that clear shortly after the Western Conference finals when he said, Weve got four more to win. Well do it this time.
For someone as understated as Duncan, that was a revelation into how badly the Spurs are still hurting from last years collapse in the Finals.
They dont like us, they dont, LeBron James said of Spurs. I can sense it from Timmys comments over the last couple of days. They wanted this, they wanted us and well be ready for the challenge.
That bit of pre-series promotion might play well for the TV cameras and Internet headlines, but the truth of this series is that raw emotion will have little to do with its outcome. The Eastern Conference finals might have been about trash talk and cheap shots, but this next chapter of the Heat and Spurs will be about respect, preparation, adjustments and, more specifically, simply making shots.
At least, thats the Heats hope.
This is the one Im sure everybody is happy for, Bosh said. I know theyve been eager to get back, and weve had that same feeling.
We could easily be saying how spiteful we are right now, but the series comes down to possessions. Thats how it goes.
As in, Bosh created that one extra possession in Game
Allens shot saved the Heat, but in the end the series came down to LeBron James making the proper adjustment against the defense Popovich designed for the series. In Games 1 through 3, James shot 38.9 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from three-point range and averaged 16.7 points.
In the final four games, James was almost twice as good offensively. He shot 47.9 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range and averaged 31.8 points per game.
What did the Spurs do defensively to limit James so thoroughly in the beginning?
They actually didnt focus on me last year, James said. They didnt guard me. I didnt make shots. It wasnt much of a game plan, they didnt guard me.
On every pick and roll I had, they dared me to shoot, and I didnt make shots the first couple of games, and I just tried to stay with it, watch film and figure out ways to help our team. I started to make shots, and that opened the floor for all of us.
To say the Spurs didnt defend James isnt completely accurate. Popovich actually chose to give James space defensively early in possessions to see if the reigning MVP would take low-percentage shots. It worked until Game
In Game3, a 113-77 loss for the Heat, James was 7-of-21 shooting overall and 2 of 14 from outside paint. In Game
What was the most significant change? James forced himself to be patient, according to Bosh, who said on Monday that the Heat would need a similar mind-set in this series.
Youre given the jump shot in the initial defense, and I know theyre a very smart team. They know about statistics, Bosh said of the Spurs. A mid-range two, theyd rather give that up, a late contest, rather than LeBron getting to the bucket, or an open three.
Bosh noted a lot of the same strategy in the recently completed Western Conference finals. The Spurs defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.
They feel like they do their job if they force you into quick shots, which we saw against OKC, Bosh said. [Oklahoma City] didnt have the discipline to continue to work their offense. They took a lot of those shots. Some of those went in, but when it got tough, a lot went out.
So, you just have to pick and choose your spots. Sometimes its a good shot, but most times youre just going to have to be patient.
The patient and necessary approach against the Spurs was a contributing source of motivation for Bosh to further develop his three-point shot. If he can pull the Spurs defenders out of the paint, then James and Wade can have easier driving lanes to the basket. If the defenders remain inside, Bosh can then backpedal outside for a wide-open corner three-pointer.
And thats the shot he was working on 30 minutes after practice Monday. He was the last player on the court. Bosh didnt score in Game
We can change up the looks a little bit, Bosh said. Well see how the series goes, but were going to pre-adjust just a little bit, and take our success and failures from last year and kind of really mix it into this series.
Because weve played this team before and because theyve played us, its kind of like picking right back up where we left off and this is Game 8.
James was named to the NBAs All-Defensive Second Team on Monday. Taking James annual place on the team was Indiana forward Paul George, who earned his first selection to the First Team. James was left off the first team despite leading the Heat in steals and rebounds.
Read more Miami Heat stories from the Miami Herald
As prosecutors and police continued investigating whether seven young adults committed a crime when they let themselves in to former Miami Heat star Ray Allen’s mansion in Tahiti Beach in Coral Gables, a fuller picture emerged of what happened in the early morning hours last Thursday.
The police and the state attorney’s office met with Ray Allen and his wife to discuss whether to file charges against the seven teens who entered their home.
The lawyer for the Miami Heat free agent criticized the police department for treating the trespassing as a ‘silly prank.’
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