Heat looking to snap out of 4th-quarter funk
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI — Finishing games is becoming a concern for the Miami Heat.
They led the NBA this season in fourth-quarter field-goal percentage, and probably could have posted even bigger numbers if so many of their games hadn’t already been decided before the final 12 minutes of play.
But in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Heat managed only 16 points against the San Antonio Spurs, and lost by four. It was the seventh straight game where the Heat failed to score 25 in the fourth quarter, after doing so in eight of their first 10 playoff games. And while some of the credit goes to the level of defense Indiana and San Antonio played in those seven games, but it’s still a point of Miami emphasis heading into Game 2 of the finals on Sunday night.
“The competition is better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “If you’re playing against the best defenses, every single night, that’s what’s going to happen. But we need to do a better job of getting organized, making sure the ball gets to where it needs to go, and then the trust factor, and being able to do it efficiently without making mistakes.”
And if Dwyane Wade fights out of his fourth-quarter funk, the Heat numbers down the stretch might look a whole lot different.
Wade is averaging 2.3 points in the fourth quarters of this season’s playoff games. In 16 appearances during this postseason, he’s scored two points or less in the fourth quarter 11 times — with two points, total, in the final 12 minutes of his last three games.
“I don’t think I was as aggressive in the second half as I was in the first half last game, especially in the fourth,” Wade said. “Just be more aggressive. Take the opportunities that I have. But also go get a few myself.”
Wade has been dealing with a sore right knee for about three months, and his numbers would suggest that as a game goes along, the knee gets worse and therefore limits his productivity.
He isn’t buying into that thinking.
“I’ve been in this state for almost three months now,” Wade said. “I’ve adjusted to playing with it. You just got to do what you have to do.”
Miami shot just over 48 percent in the fourth quarter of regular-season games. In its last seven games, that clip has dropped to 40 percent. More than a few players — LeBron James included — said fighting fatigue, particularly after the seven-game grind that was needed to beat Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals, was part of the reason why the Heat shot just 5 for 18 in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Spurs.
San Antonio won the fourth quarter of Game 1 by seven points, 23-16 — turning a three-point deficit into a four-point win.
“We have to dig down,” James said. “It’s about will. We’re a team that expends a lot of energy on both sides of the floor. But we have to figure out a way to have some in the fourth quarter for sure, when it’s closing time.”
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are nearing yet another milestone.
San Antonio’s win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Miami marked the 99th time that the Spurs’ longtime trio of stars played in a postseason win together. Only one other threesome in NBA history — that being the Los Angeles Lakers’ Michael Cooper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson — have ever teamed up for 100 postseason victories.
Parker, Ginobili and Duncan are always quick to give someone else the credit for the Spurs’ amazing run of success, which is probably one of the biggest reasons why success is still coming their way.
“Well, we’ve never labeled it as someone’s team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s our team. It’s not my team or Tim’s team or Manu’s team or Tony’s team. It’s our team.”
The Spurs’ trio would have a shot next season to top the all-time mark. Cooper, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson won 110 playoff games together in their careers with the Lakers.
The last time Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Matt Bonner all went to a championship round together, none of them got a title.
At least one of them will this time around.
Haslem, Miller and Bonner all played for Florida in 1999-2000, the season where the Gators went to the NCAA championship game and lost to Michigan State. That was Miller’s final collegiate game; Haslem and Bonner played together with the Gators for two more seasons.
Haslem is a fan favorite in Miami for one obvious reason — it’s his hometown. And Miller has been embraced by Miami fans since his first game with the Heat, surely on some level because of his ties to the Gators.
Some former Gators play in Miami — Joakim Noah, for example — don’t exactly get the warmest reception from the crowds. But a handful of fans in Miami were directing Florida’s trademark “chomp” toward Bonner before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a sure sign that Gator diehards are still thankful for what the San Antonio reserve forward did while wearing the orange and blue.
“Anytime we play here and Orlando, there’s always a small Gator faction that even though I’m on the opposing team will give me a subtle ‘Go Gators’ or a Gator chomp, for sure,” Bonner said. “I think they just don’t want the home team to see them cheering for someone on the opposing team.”
But he appreciates it, subtle or otherwise. “Absolutely, yes,” Bonner said.