Because there was so much talk about Danny Green and his three-point assault, you knew the Heat couldn’t let Green get off yet again. Talk radio has been exploding with “Danny Green for Series MVP” conjecture. “How can Miami give him such open shots?” shouted callers (and hosts). Last night the Heat gave special attention to Green (and Neal) - and Tim Duncan had 25 in the first half. Coincidence? Maybe now people will understand that, early in the series, the Heat knew Duncan was nearly unstoppable on the block. So that’s why Green went off.
The Heat had been switching on pick & rolls with Tony Parker. Last night they decided to double team him. They would play the “roll man” by sliding over the opposite defender - the guy who was defending the three-point shooter in the opposite corner. With the double team on Parker, it became difficult for him to see the open three-point shooter diagonally opposite the ball handler. In one instance the viewers got to see a replay, with Jeff Van Gundy explaining exactly what had happened. On this play, the opposite shooter happened to be Danny Green and what he did when his defender, Shane Battier, left to play the roll man, was run along the baseline to the ball side corner - where Parker hit him for one of his signature wide open threes (his only one).
Two talking points from all this: one is when fans ask, “How can the Heat leave him so open? Don’t they know he’s a great shooter?” the answer is now known, i.e. the callers aren’t nearly as smart as they think (and the Heat staff isn’t so stupid as callers make them out to be); the other is, I wonder if the Spurs will integrate Green’s move into their Game 7 game plan because Van Gundy’s comment made it sound like it was a read by Green as opposed to a set play.
Possibly the biggest gamble came from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at the beginning of the fourth quarter, up 10, when he rested both Duncan and Parker. In the ESPN post-game remarks, Magic Johnson revealed he said at that time, the Spurs were making a mistake by having no one on the floor who could score. It turned out to be a wise thought as the Heat erased the lead. Mainly it was wise because he said it at the time, i.e. he didn’t jot it down and wait until after the game to reveal it - just in case it turned out not to be a factor.
One of the worst statements was made by Magic but we can let him slide because of the enthusiasm of the moment. He said, “In my 35 years in the NBA, this was one of the five best playoff games I’ve been a part of.” Bill Simmons asked him if that included games in which he played and he said yes. Then, the other three guys on the show rattled off about six others - in 15 or so seconds. If they had time to research it (what Simmons role should be limited to as he’s an encyclopedia of basketball information, but as has been stated before in this site, he’s nothing more than a representative of the “never-played-although-I-wish-I-would-have-been-good-enough-to-fan”), last night’s game might not be in the top 20. Maybe he meant one of the five best Game 6’s - of a finals series.
All the second guessers sound so smart after the game but think of what people would be saying if the opposite moves were made and they didn’t work? Here’s one: Ginobli started Game 5 and just went off. Dennis Scott of NBA TV said starting Game 5 got him going, so it probably would have been a good move to send him back to his sixth man role so he could be more comfortable. Since he had eight turnovers, saying Pop shouldn’t have played him at all so he could retire after a great game would have sounded like a solid strategy. If he hadn’t started and had 8 TO’s, people would have said Pop had messed with his psyche - and that’s why they lost.
Flip side: with absolutely nobody agreeing with Erik Spoelstra’s decision to start Mike Miller (and everybody thinking a different guy should start e.g. I heard Haslem, Birdman, Battier), how bad do think some (most?) of the media would have roasted him if the Heat had lost?
In the loyalty category, Ginobli’s response to an interviewer asking him if he thought Pop made a mistake taking out Parker at the end and Duncan on the two possessions the Spurs gave up offensive rebounds (both resulting in threes, one by LeBron, the other by Ray Allen), was wonderful. Paraphrasing he said, “I’m sure Pop had thought a lot about what he did. He took out Tony because he wanted to have more size and he took out TD because he wanted us to be able to switch on all three-point shooters. He had many more reasons than for you to question him.” The last sentence was a polite way of saying, “You’re a sportswriter and he’s a coach. How can you question what he does for a living - and happens to be considered pretty good at it? Can you imagine how indignant you’d feel if he questioned how or what you wrote?” As a follow up on that thought, he could have said, “Are you thought of as highly in your profession as he is in his?”
Ginobli is remarkable. One guy asked him a question to the effect, “After you played a great game last game and had 8 turnovers in this game (all but insinuating he’d singlehandedly lost the game), how do you feel?” Part of his answer was, “Terrible,” which is, I hope, how the guy felt for asking him that insensitive question after such a devastating loss. I mean, what the hell did you expect him to say?
Much is made of Pop’s disdain for pre- and post-game media sessions. Here are a few (once again, paraphrased questions that back up his view: 1) “Pop” (after you basically gave the game away), “how do you get your guys into Game 7?” Do you mean as opposed to forfeiting?
2) (to Spo) “With 30 seconds to go, down 5, some people started heading for the exits and seeing the yellow rope lining the court for a trophy presentation, how did you keep your guys focused?” At least he laughed.
3) (to Spo) “Do you think this will go down as one of the greatest playoff games ever?” Give Spoelstra credit for saying, “That’s for you guys to decide.”
4) (to Pop) “How angry will your guys be because you had this one in the bag?” Wow!
The comment of the night was by Van Gundy (it ought to be, that’s what they’re paying him for) when he said in the fourth quarter:
“With James on Parker and the Heat doubling Duncan, Ginobli has to be good.”