Miami Heat

Miami Heat players want more defensive intensity

Less than 15 hours after they were torched like no team ever has been in a first half of an NBA Finals game, Heat players returned to the scene of the Game 3 debacle on Wednesday and watched the disaster on the tape, analyzing and agonizing over every defensive miscue, every late rotation, every lazy close-out.

It was both excruciating and enlightening.

“Pretty brutal,” is how Shane Battier described Wednesday’s one-hour film session that exposed everything Miami did wrong in the Spurs’ 71-point first-half blitz, in which they shot an NBA Finals-record 75.8 percent.

“It sucks,” Ray Allen said of the film session. “But it’s probably the best time because there are so many small things that you see.”

Several players said coach Erik Spoelstra did all the talking.

“We don’t talk back to the coach,” LeBron James said. “Let him make his point, whether he’s right or wrong.”

“He gets up under us and we have to own our mistakes.”

Identifying their shortcomings isn’t the problem. Whether they can solve them will help determine whether they can win Game 4 on Thursday and tie this series.

“Probably the worst game we’ve played together,” Chris Bosh said Wednesday of the 111-92 drubbing.

“It’s disappointing to see the lack of effort. We just weren’t doing our jobs. It seemed like they were playing a home game. We’re supposed to have the momentum. We were at home! When we deviate from what we normally do, we get our [butt] kicked.”

Through three games, the Spurs are shooting 53.3 percent; the NBA Finals record is 52.7 by the 1991 Bulls. Also, the Spurs are shooting 47.9 percent on three-pointers, a smidgen below the Lakers’ all-time Finals record (48 percent in 2001).

This comes after a season in which the Heat finished an uncharacteristically low 15th in field goal percentage against during the regular season (45.7).

Amazingly, four Spurs players are shooting at least 59 percent in this series: Tiago Splitter (8 for 12, .667), Tim Duncan (20 for 31, 64.5), Danny Green (14 for 22, .636) and Kawhi Leonard (16 for 27, 59.3).

Dwyane Wade said the Heat simply cannot dismiss what happened Tuesday as an anomaly.

“No, no, no, no,” Wade said. “You don’t chalk it up to, ‘Oh, they just shot well. It was their night. It wasn’t our night.’ No, you have to do something about it. They shot well for a reason.

“Each person individually has to look at themselves in the mirror to see what you can do better…. They shot the ball well because of mistakes we made.”

Rashard Lewis said the Heat’s biggest defensive failing was “being beaten off the dribble. They got into the paint all night. Seems like we were a step slow on everything.”

There were other issues, too, many resulting from the Spurs’ exquisite ball movement.

“I thought we didn’t help as much,” Wade said. “When you get to a point in the game where you’re tired or just thinking it’s not going to be hard, that’s when you make a mistake.

“You have to help your teammates on the drive. You have to cover the shooter. You have to cover the cutter. They make you think. It’s hard.”

James said some of the Heat’s problems stemmed from “mental breakdowns. Against the Spurs, any little minor mistake you make, they’ll make you pay.”

Spoelstra would never discuss rotation changes, but Bosh — while not publicly advocating it — conceded, when asked, that Shane Battier (who was out of the rotation the past two games) and Udonis Haslem (who has played two minutes in the series) could offer something defensively.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan said Wednesday that Haslem has “always” played him effectively.

“Coach will have to make some decisions,” Bosh said. “Any time you have a game not putting out on defense, you do have to question who you are going to play.”

The Heat can take some solace in this: The Spurs also won Game 3 last year in a blowout, by 36 points, putting them ahead 2-1 in a series they would ultimately lose. And Miami has won 13 playoff games in a row after losses.

The Heat can also take solace in knowing Leonard is unlikely to repeat Tuesday’s 29-point eruption, considering he hadn’t before scored that many points in a game since high school.

Leonard became the first player in 62 years (since Slater Martin) to score more points than anybody else in an NBA Finals game after not doing it in any previous game in the playoffs or that regular season.

But Wednesday was not about seeking solace. It was about accountability and a realization that a loss Thursday would leave their three-peat bid in grave peril.

“We have to fix some things for sure, but I’m not too concerned… because we played some good basketball in the postseason,” James said.

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said what the Spurs achieved, from a shooting standpoint, in the first half of Game 3 “is almost unrepeatable. They’re not going to turn the ball over 20 times [again]. That’s for sure…. They’re going to be upset. It’s a tough, tough challenge.”

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