Spurs up 3-2, cue more LeBron hate!

What. A. Game. With only a few hiccups, San Antonio played 48 minutes of fantastic offensive basketball. From the opening tip, with Gregg Popovich starting Manu Ginobili over Tiago Splitter, the Spurs went small — and beat Erik Spoelstra’s Heat at their own game. The outcome: 114-104 and a 3-2 series lead for San Antonio.

The pace, on San Antonio’s end, was phenomenal. At one point, the ESPN telecast pointed out a possession where Tim Duncan received a pass in the paint with about 20.5 seconds left on the shot clock … after a made free throw. Tony Parker, 5 assists, and Manu, 10, facilitated with ease. The Spurs shot 60% from the field — against a defensive until that held teams to 44% shooting in the regular season and 43.2% thus far this postseason — compared to Miami’s 43%.

San Antonio’s ‘Big 3’ > Miami’s ‘Big 3’ … in Game 5

First, a quick recap of this series. Game 1 was the Tony-Parker-spinning-banker game, Game 2 the LeBron-James-block game, Game 3 the Gary-Neal-Danny-Green-go-nuts-from-3 game and Game 4 the Dwyane-Wade-travels-back-to-2006 game. Game 5 was Manu Ginobili’s game.

Once Pop inserted Manu into the starting lineup, you had the feeling he was due, especially after the intense media criticism in the 2 off days. Ginobili hit a step-back jumper on the game’s opening possession and then added 2 quick assists. Less than 5 minutes in, he had 8 points — though that was later knocked back to 7 with the opening shot ruled a 2, not a 3, after replay — right near his series average of 7.5.

Ginobili finished with 24 points on 8-14 FGs, Parker scored 26 on 10-14, and Duncan, in his best game since the series opener, chipped in 17 on 7-10 and 12 rebounds. Three days after his game-worst -22 +/- in 26 minutes, Manu netted a game-best +19 in 33 minutes. So, to recap, from San Antonio’s ‘Big 3.’

  1. 54 points, 21-48 FGs
  2. 27 points, 10-33 FGs
  3. 25 points, 10-23 FGs
  4. 40 points, 14-31 FGs
  5. 67 points, 25-38 FGs

On Miami’s end, I thought LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh came out with the necessary energy and, collectively, put together, for the most part, another solid outing. James faded a bit in the second half — I would’ve liked to see more offensive aggression, ala Game 4 — but still managed 25 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. Bosh was a very efficient 7-11 for 16; the Heat were +7 in his 38 minutes, a team-best. And Wade, once more, was perhaps the best of the three — 25 points on 10-22 and 10 assists. Their numbers this series:

  1. 48 points, 20-47 FGs
  2. 39 points, 18-40 FGs
  3. 43 points, 18-46 FGs
  4. 85 points, 37-64 FGs
  5. 66 points, 25-55 FGs

The stats say it was their second-best performance of the series, and I think the naked eye would agree. Wade’s mid-range inside-out game was working. My one critique of James was his inability to take advantage of mismatches against the much slower, less athletic Boris Diaw, who Pop played 27 minutes.

About those role guys…

Overlooked in this series is the effectiveness of Ray Allen — he’s scored at least 13 in every game but one (a 4-point effort in San Antonio’s blowout Game 3 win). In Game 5, he scored 21 on 7-10 from the field and 4-4 from 3, and was the only reason Miami made it kind of interesting in the final minutes. (Who knows how much more interesting if another of his 3’s had not been negated by a LeBron moving screen.)

Right now, Ray Allen is the only non-‘Big 3’ player Spoelstra can trust. I mean, he converted 2 4-point plays in Game 5, which is, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via the ESPN telecast) the first time that’s been done in NBA Finals history. Allen played 63 minutes in Games 4 and 5; he logged 65 in Games 1-3.

Udonis Haslem, -20, was a 9-minute disaster; Mario Chalmers was again in foul trouble and mostly ineffective, save for a pair of 3-balls; Norris Cole was held scoreless in 7 minutes and destroyed by Tony Parker in the paint in the second quarter; and Mike Miller, after making 9-10 3’s in Games 1-3, has not scored a point since Spo inserted him in the starting lineup for Game 4. In fact, he’s only attempted 2 shots in 46 minutes.

Spo might have found his mojo late — LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Allen and Miller/Battier. Aside from LeBron, Bosh, Wade and Allen, the Heat scored 17 points, and 7 of those came from Battier. I would expect to see more of this lineup in Game 6 (and potentially 7), with some Chris Andersen, potentially in place of Haslem; Andersen was a DNP – Coach’s Decision in Games 4 and 5.

For the Spurs, Pop cut his bench minutes, leaving Cory Joseph and Matt Bonner (each 1 minute of garbage time) out of the rotation and Splitter, just removed from the starting lineup, 10. Diaw’s crafty play-making was an asset, especially in the first half, and he surprisingly held his own defensively. Gary Neal only scored 2 points, but gave San Antonio 21 quality minutes, enough to keep Manu, 33, and Parker, 36, fresh.

Oh, and it’s almost an afterthought at this point, but Danny Green dumped in 24 more points, hit 6 3’s to break Ray Allen’s Finals record for most 3’s in a series and played terrific transition defense (3 blocks).

On to Miami for Game 6 on Tuesday. A bit of history: the Lakers won Games 6 and 7 at the Staples Center over the Boston Celtics in 2010 to overcome a 3-2 hole. In 2011, Miami went home, losers of Games 4 and 5 in Dallas, down 3-2 and lost by double digits in Game 6.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

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