The NBA's in-game coach interviews are mostly worthless but took on a bit of intrigue in the Finals as ESPN's Doris Burke and the Spurs' Gregg Popovich staged a bit of haberdashery. Burke meticulously tried to come up with a question that Popovich might actually answer. Popovich clearly tried his best to not answer while not coming across as a thoroughbred's caboose. Sometimes with success.
Great theater. But the Pop/Doris waltz was upstaged in Games 6 and 7 this week. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra let us all in on the secret to the Heat's success.
Using different terms, Burke asked the same question of Spoelstra going into the fourth quarter of both games. “What will it take?” (down 13 in Game 6) and “What will the final 12 minutes come down to?” (up one in Game 7).
Same question. And same answer.
Game 6: “We need our best defensive quarter of the playoffs to take us home.”
Game 7: “We have to defend and finish our defense. We have a one-point lead in our building right now. The best defensive quarter of the series.”
You know the rest. The Heat rallied to win Game 6, held off the Spurs in Game 7 and next comes a victory parade Monday morning down Biscayne Boulevard.
But lost in the drama of those games that beefed the NBA brand, from LeBron's takeover to Popovich's curious substitutions to Ray Allen's shot for the ages, was Spoelstra's quick and ready television proclamations. And how they were dead on.
The Heat won those two games, and thus a second straight league championship, not just because LeBron is a South Beach Superman. The Heat won because it did what its coach wanted. Miami turned up the defensive Heat.
And that's very instructive for the Thunder, the Heat's victim in the 2012 Finals, when Miami did much the same thing to OKC.
In some ways, the Miami roster and the Thunder roster are similarly constructed. Two or three extraordinary offensive players, surrounded by role players, many of them defensive specialists. Focus on defense, let the offense take care of itself.
Isn't that what the Heat did down the Finals stretch? No elaborate offense. Let LeBron's transcendent skills and power carry the offense. Focus on stops. Don't let Tony Parker weave in the paint. Don't let Tim Duncan dominate the middle. Don't let Danny Green or Gary Neal shoot an open 3-pointer.
The last two fourth quarters of the season went stunningly as Spoelstra wanted. Against a Spur offense that shot 60 percent for the entirety of Game 5, Miami's defense completely took over.