Even though the Spurs have a 3-1 series lead, guard Manu Ginobili said the fact the Spurs squandered two chances to close out last year’s NBA Finals gives them pause for thought heading into Game 5 on Sunday.
“We were match point last year twice and they still beat us,” he said.
And forward Tim Duncan said that lessens the likelihood of the Spurs feeling comfortable.
“We go back to last year and we learn from that,” Duncan said. “We’re 30 seconds away [in Game 6]. We feel that we have it in the bag and it slips out of our fingers. We know that they’re back-to-back champs and they have all the confidence in the world that they can win these games.”
The Spurs ran nearly a mile more than the Heat during Game 4, according to SportVU data. And yet whereas the Spurs played efficiently and with great energy throughout, the Heat seemed a step slow at times.
Because Heat players have been beaten off the dribble so much the past two games, other defenders have needed to leave their man to help, leaving other Heat players scrambling to defend the shooter who often is left open as a result.
“Moving the ball, changing sides, anyone would struggle with that,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “And keeping that [fast] pace maybe hurts them.”
But are the Spurs a better conditioned team, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith insists? Ginobili and Green declined to answer directly, but Green suggested one difference in energy level probably is a result of how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has limited the minutes of his starters.
Consider: Over the past three regular seasons, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have combined for 20,888 regular season minutes. Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili have played 15,699.
“We have a very deep bench,” Green said. “All season we haven’t had to play anyone more than 30 minutes per game. Nobody has played crazy minutes.”
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