Two systems, one goal for Finals foes


SAN ANTONIO -- Erik Spoelstra provided the understatement of the NBA Finals when he said the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs are "built a little bit different." Contrast also happens to be the undercurrent of this series, a tone that was set when that "Built vs. Bought" billboard went up in San Antonio. That brings to mind another Spoelstra quote: "It's the theater of the absurd."

The notion that the Spurs' approach to constructing a team is any better or worse than the Heat's is ridiculous. Both teams utilize the means they have available, and both teams are worthy adversaries to the degree that in nine NBA Finals games over the past two years the Heat now hold a 5-4 edge by virtue of a 98-96 victory Tuesday night.

Tied 1-1, this year's series is a long way from being decided. We also have yet to determine which way of NBA life is better. But for the record, a transcendent individual prevailed over the ultimate team squad in Game 2.

LeBron James scored 35 points, including 14 points in the third quarter when he hit his first six shots. He short-circuited the Spurs' defensive scheme -- which included excellent rotation and rim protection -- by pulling up for jumpers early, well before the Spurs could send a secondary defender his way. Then he made the pass to Chris Bosh for the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds of the game, after spending most of the fourth quarter guarding Tony Parker at the other end.

"I just try to impose my will in some kind of way, either scoring or rebounding or assisting or defending," James said nonchalantly.

In doing so, he also exposed a weakness in the Spurs' construction. Hey, even the Death Star had a flaw, right?

By incorporating so many players into their plan, the Spurs also rely on so many people to play well. That's a lot of variables to account for.

"We've got to be close to perfect to win," Manu Ginobili said.

In Game 2, the normally balanced Spurs couldn't even produce as many double-digit scorers as the Heat; Miami had four to San Antonio's three. The Heat also did a better job of boxing out and getting to missed shots, and outrebounded the Spurs for only the third time in the nine Finals meetings.

Gregg Popovich lamented that his team couldn't maintain its offensive flow -- and in the process provided his own view of the difference between the teams.

"I think it's a 48-minute game and we didn't move it enough of those minutes, basically," Popovich said. "It's how we have to score. We can't put it in somebody's hands and have them create everything for us. It's got to be a group effort and we didn't do that.

"That puts a lot of pressure on everything else. It means we're going to have to be perfect on defense. We can't miss four free throws in a row, those sorts of things. You move it or you die."

Funny, usually it's the Heat who are described in hyperbolic terms. They imported the vitriol that LeBron fostered with his move to Miami, turned up the temperature with their instant celebration and have spent the past four years soaking in the hatred that it now feels as comfortable as a warm bath.

Really though, built vs. bought?

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