A team’s ability to hit three-pointers can be one of the biggest assets a basketball team can have at any level. In game seven of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat not only made plenty of three-point shots, but the majority of them were either uncontested or poorly guarded.
Shane Battier, a man who only attempted three-point shots during the series, was one of the men who benefited the best from the San Antonio Spurs‘ poor defense against three-pointers in game seven.
Every one of Battier’s made three-point shots (6) in the game came virtually the same way: embarrassingly wide open. Mostly it was Ray Allen going under the hoop and dishing the ball outside to Battier with nobody even close to him. The other way Battier was able to remain so unguarded and wide open outside was the Spurs’ sending two men to LeBron James or whoever for the Heat had the ball, leaving Battier wide open.
James was the other man who benefited from the three-point line for the Heat in game seven. The Spurs approach, it would seem, to guarding James made little if any sense: dare him to shoot when he isn’t driving to the hoop. The Spurs would dare James to shoot behind the three-point line by giving him enough room to take what was basically a wide open shot when behind the three-point line. Don’t give LeBron James easy opportunities with shots; that should just be known by all at this point in James’ career. This also happened for many shots by James that were inside the three-point line, but were still decently long shots.
James & Battier combined to go 11/18 from the three-point line in game seven. The two combined for 55 of the Heat’s 95 points in the game with Battier scoring 18 and James ending with 37.
In comparison, the Spurs went 6/19 in game seven from the three-point line as those woes continued. It seemed that the Spurs blew their wad so to speak in the first five games of the series when it came to their three-point shooting. The best example of this was Danny Green, who was on his way to being finals MVP before shooting a combined 2/10 from the three-point line in games six and seven.
The Battier/James tandem dominated the three-point line in game seven. What this did more than anything was keep the Spurs on their toes and almost in a “need to keep up” mode. This proved extremely important as the Heat had the youth and energy remaining to play this kind of game and stay close or hold the lead until their other scorers (like Allen, Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers) made an impact. When they did, and they did in game seven, it added support to what the Heat already had in the game with James and Battier.
It was an amazing visual to watch the Spurs play the kind of defense they played in game seven. Considering the stakes, the way this Spurs team has always been able to play effective defense and considering the massive basketball intelligence of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, it was simply amazing that this three-point problem for the Spurs on defense was one that persisted throughout the most important game of the season.
The Spurs didn’t seem to notice that it was a problem and were able to stay close in spite of it for the entire game. However, this problem was what ultimately prevented the Spurs from going over the top and building a really good lead at any point of the game. In the end, a better defensive performance could have meant a fifth NBA title for Popovich and Duncan.