The Spurs’ company line after two games in Miami could have easily been this: “We got the split we wanted going back to San Antonio.” That’s normally the default for road underdogs who wrestle away home-court advantage.
Instead, company man Manu Ginobili delivered a considerably more blunt assessment after a 103-84 slaughter in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The Spurs wanted more than a split. Instead, they were embarrassed.
“If you would have asked me before heading to Miami, I would say OK, I’ll take it,” Ginobili said. “Winning one and losing the other by 20, not a big deal. I’ll take it. But once you win the first one, you forget about that. Odds are over, and you face a new game as if it’s a Game 7 and you want to win it, too.
“Knowing full well that they were going to come hard, they were going to play a better game, but we were expecting to do better, so that’s the frustrating part. Of course, if you look at the result being 1-1, it’s not bad. But you don’t want to play like this in an NBA Finals. You don’t want to give them that much confidence, and you (are) feeling bad about yourself.”
The Spurs’ reasons for feeling bad are plentiful going into Tuesday night’s Game 3 back home at the AT&T Center. Ginobili, along with teammates Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, missed 23 of 33 shots in Game 2. Was it good defense or bad shooting that doomed San Antonio’s Big Three?
Probably a good bit of both. Whatever the reason, the Spurs know deep down they can’t beat this version of LeBron James and the defending champion Heat without full participation from the most successful playoff trio of this NBA generation.
“Tim, Tony and me, we have to step up and play much better,” Ginobili said. “We have basically no shot winning a game against them if none of us played good, so we definitely got to step up and do better.”
The issues from Game 2 go beyond the Big Three’s 10 of 33 shooting. San Antonio’s turnovers jumped from four in Game 1 to 17. Heat role players Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Mike Miller came to play. Chris Bosh decided to join the fun. James came to life.
Add that up and it equals a 33-5 debilitating run, turning a one-point game in the third quarter into laugher. The Spurs hadn’t experienced a beatdown of this magnitude in the championship round in eight years, when Detroit beat San Antonio by 31 (102-71) in Game 4 of the 2005 NBA Finals. The Spurs won that series in seven games.
Let the adjustments against the Heat begin.
“There are some tweaks after every game,” Ginobili said. “I don’t think their system changed or their general ideas. We are who we are, and they are who they are. They’re not going to start changing completely who they are, because they are so successful. They’re good. They just didn’t play a great game in Game 1, and we did.
“So I think they just did better. Maybe some little adjustments, but they did it with more aggressiveness, better hands, more active. And they forced us to turn the ball over. They ran more, so they did much better.”
After what happened Sunday night, many doubt whether the series will even get back to Miami. The Heat own the momentum now, and the Spurs understand what they’re facing as The Finals shift to South Texas.
“We get to go back home,” Duncan reminded after Game 2. “We got a game here. We have three at home, so we’re excited about that. But if we play like we did (in Game 2) that’s not going to matter.”