Fast Breaks: Parker, defense lead Spurs over Miami in Game 1
Rust? San Antonio didn't show much after a nine-day layoff. Fatigue? Miami looked pretty strong coming off a grueling seven-game series against Indiana. If we learned anything from the back-and-forth, 92-88 San Antonio win on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals it's that this will be a back-and-forth series between two very evenly matched teams.
• Tony Parker was masterful. LeBron James posted an eye-popping 18-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist night but it was Parker who stole the show, piling up 21 points and six assists -- against zero turnovers -- while putting the game away in the closing seconds with a leaning bank shot that just beat the shot clock buzzer. As expected, Miami deployed James on Parker in the fourth quarter. But San Antonio did a superior job of freeing Parker up with screens, and Parker, using a variety of spins, crossover dribbles and step-backs, managed to continue to get clean looks. Many forget that before Parker was injured in the final month of the season, he was a legitimate MVP candidate. This kind of play is exactly why.
• Spurs turn up the D. One of the biggest differences between this Spurs team and the ones that failed to make the Finals the last few years is the defense. The development of Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green has given San Antonio young, versatile defenders. Miami held a slim 72-69 lead after three quarters but in the fourth, the Spurs defense locked up, holding Miami to just 16 points and limiting James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to just eight points. Couple that with timely shooting and largely error-free ball -- four turnovers in the game -- and San Antonio (surprise!) was able to pick up an efficient win.
• Paging Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole. Forgotten during Miami's run through the Eastern Conference was the Heat's struggles with dynamic point guards. They don't get more dynamic than Parker, who probed the paint at will in Game 1. No one expects Chalmers or Cole to be able to keep Parker in check -- it's going to take multiple defenders to do that -- but they are expected to make shots. Chalmers and Cole combined for 13 points on a dreadful 5-13 shooting.
The Heat need one of the two to step up in this series, because sticking James on Parker for extended minutes -- sapping him of much needed energy on the offensive end -- is not a preferred option.
• Bosh the bomber? It was easy to understand why Bosh camped out around the three-point line during the conference finals. Indiana's Roy Hibbert was a menace in the paint and the Heat wanted to force him to step out of it. But against San Antonio, Bosh continued to shoot from deep. Bosh made 48.4 percent of his three-point attempts in the Eastern Conference playoffs but missed all four of his attempts in Game 1. Bosh is an excellent perimeter shooter, but is at his best playing pick-and-pop, not catching and shooting from beyond the arc. As good as Bosh is, San Antonio will live with those shots.