Erik Spoelstra pleaded with his team at halftime of game three. “Just cut it down to 15,” Spoelstra said. “We’re built to play stretches like these. We’re built for this moment.”
The head coach was right, the Heat are at their very best when they are playing relentless trap defense and relying on quick rotations.
However, the level of energy required to sustain these bursts of play obviously isn’t sustainable for 48 minutes considering the lack of depth on the Heat roster. Therein lies Miami’s Achilles heel. Unless they’re clicking offensively with Lebron and a few shooters, their defense, which ranked 11th in the NBA regular season this year, cannot compete at the highest level for a full 48 minutes.
Moreover, their tendency to rely on these short bursts of high-energy play towards the end of games has affected their mindset coming into games. It isn’t possible for the Heat, who seem to believe that they can go down by whatever margin and always come back with a ferocious burst of defense, to play such a style against the Spurs. So far these Finals, they have been unable to play at their best unless they have their backs against the wall.
But, these Spurs won’t let a team get away with such a weakness. They have forced the Heat to pay for their lackluster effort in the opening quarter of games. The Spurs’ offensive clinic seems close to unstoppable at times and it is evident that Gregg Popovich’s bunch have come on to the court with a lot more energy and tenacity. Ultimately, the confidence that comes with having won two consecutive championships and the ability to play short bursts of suffocating defense and unstoppable offensive has carried the Heat all season long. But, that same strategy might cost them a championship against the fundamental Spurs.