The expense account at TCC HQ is taking a battering this year, coughing up for All Star game appearances and now a trip to San Antonio to see game four of Spurs vs Heat in the 2013 NBA finals.
The atmosphere in San Antonio was predictably loud, the Spurs have one of the finest crowds in the NBA. The ATT Center defied the damp conditions to host a pre-game party, as it always does, on the western side of the arena. The eastern entrance hosts four replica championship trophies and fans queued to have their pictures taken next to them in the hope that the cabinet might need expansion by the end of next week.
As the teams came out for their final warm-ups, the boos for the Miami Heat quickly changed to cheers as the Spurs took the floor. Young Sebastian De La Cruz nailed the national anthem:
De La Cruz has been the topic of controversy among the narrow minded who objected to a Mexican-American signing the national anthem. No reasonable-minded person quite knows why of course.
The Spurs came out of the gate fastest, running into a 15-5 lead. The Heat pulled back, but some of the signs for San Antonio were good: Tony Parker played very well in the first half; Danny Green and Gary Neal were still hitting threes.
There were reasons to be cheerful for the Heat as well: LeBron clearly came to play. So did Wade. Wade was so good that LeBron could spend time on the bench and the Heat did not lose momentum. Challenged by the Spurs size at times, the Heat were helped by the fact that Thiago Splitter was so bad he was pulled for Matt Bonner early. Manu Ginobili did nothing to quell fears that he is past his sell-by date.
The second half was all about Miami and their big three, helped by a vintage Ray Allen performance. Vintage in the sense that it was all layups and cuts to the basket like Allen used to do all the time before he became best known as a deadly three point gunner. Mike Miller was blocking shots and the speedy guards were troubling Parker and his deputies. Chris Bosh hit outside shots but also spent time inside, drawing fouls and challenging for offensive rebounds. He was also highly effective defensively against the superior, but older, Tim Duncan.
The real vintage performance came from Dwyane Wade. The sports media has written him off before and he has responded. The Heat would perhaps prefer if he didn’t need to be written off to pull out a performance like last night. Stephen A. Smith put it on ESPN radio that if Wade plays like that for the remainder of the series, Miami will not lose another game and that seems to be a fair assessment. Wade was making jump shots, blocking shots and, crucially, stealing the ball – one notable play saw him grab a steal and go to the other end of the court, euro-stepping (whatever that is) round Gary Neal before flushing it like…um…Dwyane Wade circa 2006.
Game Five is Sunday in San Antonio. Miami has reclaimed the home court advantage it lost in game one, but the most important stat in this series seems to be the inability of either side to win consecutive games. You can pull out stats about the winner of game three or the winner of game five, but in this series, the winner of any game has not won the next game.
Just as the losers in each game so far have made adjustments to help them in the next game, expect San Antonio to make adjustments. They will hope that Tony Parker is able to go at something close to full speed on Sunday. They will also hope that Green and Neal can keep their hot streak from three going. Miami will hope that Wade can maintain his form from last night; Bosh too.
The only predictable thing in this series has been its unpredictability. On current form the Spurs will win in seven, so the onus is really on Miami to break their win-lose-win cycle at the weekend.