Erik Spoelstra

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.

The Heat cools down

 

The Miami Heat is not playing on full throttle. Coach Erik Spoelstra has come to a full understanding that the regular season is irrelevant. Sure, the team still wants home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but if that asset comes at the cost of Dwyane Wade’s longevity and the long term health of the team’s core players — Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Greg Oden — there is no chance Spoelstra goes all out during the regular season. We’ve already seen Spoelstra complacently benching Wade, a seemingly “Popovichian” method of keeping players fresh. 

 

Howard may have found his niche

 

Dwight Howard has finally found his home. Despite Mark Cuban’s claim that Howard made the wrong decision in his choice of destination, all signs show the contrary to be true. Under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale, while also playing alongside superstar guard James Harden, Howard has the tools he needs to transform the Houston Rockets into a perennial championship contender. 

 

Early Rookie of the Year favorites

 

It may be too early to crown the Rookie of the Year award, but Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams appear to be the early front-runners. Both have boasted riveting break-out games that illustrated their dynamic athletic ability to score, pass and defend so far this season. In the seemingly dull 2013 NBA draft, these two players appear to be the brightest gems so far. 

 

Inconsistency evident already

 

There is a massive disparity in the current quality of NBA teams. Innumerable teams appear to be contenders while even more teams appear to be terrible. But, there are very few teams in between. It’s been years since you could name so many potential championship contenders — Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers, Nets, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and the Warriors. The force driving this disparity in the NBA is the fact that mediocrity is unacceptable. Teams would rather be terrible and attain good draft picks next season than settle for second best. 

 

Iverson retires as NBA great

 

The retirement of one of the greatest guards to play the game, Allen Iverson, is a notable moment for the NBA’s legacy. Iverson made up for what he lacked in size with his big heart. Anywhere from Iverson’s infamous practice rant to him single-handedly carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson would be an unforgettable Hall of Famer. He will certainly go down as one of the most passionate and physically gifted men the NBA has ever seen.