Burnin’ Up: Halftime in San Antonio

According to just about everyone currently at Game 1 of the NBA Finals, it is pushing 85 degrees on the court. Blazers are coming off, cold drinks are being chugged; people on media row and in the stands are doing everything they can to stay cool. But neither the Miami Heat nor the San Antonio Spurs seem to have lost focus due to the malfunctioning air-conditioner.

Currently up, 54-49, the Spurs came out with high energy, took smart shots and locked down on defense. At the end of the first half, they are 7-of-14 from beyond the arc and are shooting 50 percent from the field. However, they do have 10 turnovers under their belts.

The Heat stayed away from the slow start I warned against, and made sure they played at their own pace. All the members of the Big Three are currently in double-figures. LeBron James leads the pack with 13, and Ray Allen has been a key contributor too, with 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.

For the most part, it seems as though these two teams are playing equally; as of now anyways. The Big Three and the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are all doing their parts and leading their squads in numbers. On top of this, Miami is only shooting 2 percent less from the field than San Antonio and has one less turnover as well. With that said though, the Spurs’ bench is out-working that of the Heat by 12 points, and as a team have gotten to the line six more times. Miami also stands at 5-13 from the three-point line.

In order to take this one, the Heat need to cut back on the rushed shots, help their bench players find their rhythm and be a little tighter defensively. So far it seems as though they have found no answer for neither Duncan nor Ginobili, which could turn dangerous.

Here’s to an even better second half, and fingers crossed that the AC turns on soon…

Eastern Conference Finals Game 4: Halftime Notes

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are back in action right now for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami currently leads the series 2-1, and if things continue the way they have started tonight, it will soon be 3-1.

Things to Note:

*Chris Andersen is out due to a thigh contusion he sustained late in Game 3.

*Rashard Lewis started in place of Udonis Haslem.

*Chris Bosh finally found his rhythm, starting the game with eight straight points.

*The Heat had zero turnovers in the first quarter.

*This is the first time Miami has led in the first quarter.

*The Big Three have combined for 38 in the first half.

*At the end of two, the Heat are ahead 49-44, despite shooting 47 percent as compared to the Pacers’ 51 percent.

*Roy Hibbert is scoreless after two quarters.

Players to Watch:

*This is certainly Bosh’s game. After a combined 27 points in the first three games, he came out with 17 in the first half of this one. His energy is back, his shot selection is smart, and he is clearly confident; to say it is about time, would be an understatement.

*I am expecting Dwyane Wade to come out stronger during the second half, as right now he has six points, one rebound, and one assist. He has been playing killer basketball lately so it would make sense for him to be fatigued, but I still see some impressive plays (especially with LeBron James) coming our way.

Keys to Success:

*Turnovers need to be kept at a minimum. This will not only help by obviously allowing them to keep the ball, but will also let the Heat control the pace of the game, resulting in less forced shots.

*Bosh needs to keep doing what he is doing. I am not sure even he himself understands how much of a contribution he can make once he gets going, but Miami has certainly missed him.

*Tighten up the defense. Right now the half is once again low scoring but the second quarter was not as strong for the Heat as the first was. Making sure defense is always a priority is something that head coach Erik Spoelstra needs to drill into his players’ heads, regardless of how offensively solid they have been tonight.

Second half starts now.

Slow Starts and Furious Finishes: Halftime in Game 3

It is currently halftime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and I can only imagine what is being said in the Miami Heat locker room. Down by four as the Indiana Pacers lead 42-38, the Heat had a rough start to the matchup, only really finding their footing towards the end of each quarter.

The Heat went on 9-2 and 16-5 runs as the first and second quarters closed out, once again proving that their “clutch” label is there for a reason. However, relying on strong final minutes is not necessarily the best strategy. If Miami find themselves down by more than a handful, waiting until the last minute to really give it their all, will not be enough.

It took two minutes for anything to drop for the Heat, and they never held a lead. The closest they got was being tied, 2-2, with 10:22 left on the clock in the first quarter. To say it was a slow start, would be an understatement.

And frustration definitely showed; CJ Watson and Norris Cole got into it with a little over a minute left in the first, and received double-technicals for their poor behavior.

But after some back and forth aggression between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson, James finally got started, motivating teammates Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole to also kick into high-gear, combining for 23 points and a healthy amount of ball movement.

In order for the Heat to get this series to 2-1, the second half needs to consist of a faster start, better defense, and less confrontation.

Closing out quarters is a valuable skill, even a necessity. However, nothing compares to consistent play, through and through. Slow starts cannot become a habit for the Heat, if they wish to not only make it out of this round, but win a third championship.

Defensively (and otherwise), the Pacers need to be stopped, period. Roy Hibbert is showing nothing but offensive aggression so far tonight, with 10 points at the half. Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson has taken care of the other end with nine rebounds (comparing to the 11 total that the Heat currently possess).

It is no secret that these two teams do not get along. And Stephenson’s comment on his desire to reinjure Wade’s knee is probably just the tip of the iceberg. But winning a championship should be more important than mouthing off to an opponent. Both Miami and Indiana need to focus on the journey ahead and stop letting emotions (and nerves) get the best of them.

One half left. Time to start strong and finish stronger.