A witness to beauty and wonder
06/13/2014 2:15 AM
06/13/2014 2:21 AM
Miami, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - It's commonly accepted that there has been one case in history where the sequel has been either as good or better than the original.
The San Antonio Spurs in Games 3 and 4 of the 2014 NBA Finals have been "The Godfather" and "The Godfather: Part II."
Games 3 and 4 of these NBA Finals should go down as two of the best performances by a team playing for the highest honor the sport has to offer. .
This was a piece of art that moves you in unspeakable ways.
This was Julia Child preparing Beef Wellington.
This was some form of exquisite ballet, if such a thing exists.
What the world witnessed for two games spanning three days was a stupefying display of technical basketball brilliance. It's hard to imagine a team playing better over the course of two games.
Consider first that these two performances came on the road, at a building the Miami Heat, the two-time reigning champions, hadn't lost at in the playoffs all season.
Consider that these two games weren't ever close against that same Miami team, which boasts the best player of this generation, who is already an all-time luminary.
Consider that this same Heat group ripped the Spurs' still-beating hearts out of their chest this time one year ago.
And what the Spurs have done, is from top-to-bottom, dismantled that group. They have crushed the best team in the last 10 years in the NBA.
How they've done it is almost as brilliant to appreciate as the end result.
Gregg Popovich, one of the five best NBA head coaches of all time, made the shrewd move of inserting Boris Diaw into the starting lineup after a Game 2 loss. (After watching Games 3 and 4, you have to wonder how that happened.)
Since, the Spurs' offense has scored 218 points on 78-for-134 shooting. That's a sultry 58 percent from the field. San Antonio has also handed out 46 assists on those 78 made field goals.
This offense moves in a dizzying manner. The ball movement is pristine and crisp. The Spurs change direction on the floor, weakside to strong side. They have dissected the Heat's defense, which was not bad coming into this Finals, like a helpless frog in biology class.
Diaw is a major reason. In Thursday's 107-86 drubbing, Diaw only finished with eight points, but handed out nine assists and grabbed nine rebounds. Those numbers seem low for a possible Finals MVP, right?
"He hasn't really even scored that much, but he's found a way to be really effective getting in the paint and finding people and making plays for us," said Tim Duncan. "Yeah, he's been amazing, especially this series."
The other amazing performer for the Spurs has been Kawhi Leonard. After enjoying a coming-out party in last year's Finals, Leonard struggled with foul trouble in Games 1 and 2. After a talking-to from Popovich and Duncan, Leonard has scored 29, a career high in Game 3, and 20 in Game 4.
Who had Diaw and Leonard battling for MVP honors before this series?
That's the beauty of the Spurs' offense. It's a system-based structure that happens to feature three future Hall of Famers.
When the Spurs pulled ahead by double-figures on Thursday, Duncan and Tony Parker were on the bench. Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner were carving up the Heat like a Christmas ham.
The team-based philosophy of the Spurs is something to behold. In a league that has become almost exclusively isolations and pick-and-rolls, the Spurs change direction on the court and always have at least two players who could handle point guard duties, if not more.
"Implementing Diaw into the lineup has given them another point guard on the floor," noted LeBron James. "So Manu, Tony, and Diaw and Patty Mills on the floor at once, they've got four point guards basically on the floor at once. So all of them are live and they all can make plays. So it's a challenge for us all."
Truer words have never been spoken.
San Antonio's brilliance over these last two games hasn't been limited to the offensive side.
After the best shooting half in NBA Finals history on Tuesday (75.6 percent), Popovich felt the defense was poor in Game 3.
"That's what we spent all of our time on was the defense, because I thought we did a pretty mediocre job," Popovich said of Wednesday's practice prior to Game 4.
And after Game 4, where the Spurs allowed the Heat 86 points, a postseason- low, and 45 percent shooting?
"I thought we did a better job tonight than we did in Game 3 at the defensive end," said Popovich.
This team has taken the Heat to the edge of the cliff. Most likely, they'll push them off Sunday night in San Antonio. No team has ever come back down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
And the best part of it is the way each team has looked at the Spurs the last two games.
"They smashed us," said James. "They're a high-oil machine."
"I just think we're playing Spurs basketball," said Parker.
They're both right.
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