As efficiency in offense has become a greater necessity in the NBA during the past two decades, three key areas for finding optimum scoring opportunities have universally emerged. Getting points in the paint (more specifically at the rim), finding outside shooting from beyond the 3-point line, and getting free points at the charity stripe are generally the preferred scoring zones.
The San Antonio Spurs seem to manage offensive efficiency as well as any team in the league. With their selfless offensive system that emphasizes making the extra pass and discombobulating the opposing defense as they open up easy scores, they're often near the top of the league in offensive efficiency. In their 110-95 Game 1 victory against the Miami Heat to take a 1-0 NBA Finals lead, we saw every aspect of this efficiency maximized.
It started in the backcourt with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili cutting up the Heat's defense throughout the night. Ginobili set the tone early with nine points on three 3-pointers and three assists to get the Spurs going in the first quarter. Having Ginobili provide that spurt to his team allowed Parker to figure out the pace of the game and how he needed to attack. He bounced back from a neutral first quarter to give the Spurs eight points in the second. He had nine points and five assists in the second half to help round out a solid overall performance.
Of the Spurs' 110 points in Game 1, 48 of them came in the paint, 39 of them came from the 3-point line, and 17 points were off of free throws. That's 104 of their 110 points accounted for in really efficient ways. It's part of what helped them overcome 23 turnovers and the 28 points the Heat scored off of those turnovers.
"That's a great question," Gregg Popovich said when asked about overcoming their turnovers. "For us that's the Achilles' heel. When we have a game like that turnover-wise, invariably it's a loss for us. I haven't looked at any stats, I'm afraid to, but I guess we probably made threes. We made a decent number of threes. I think we rebounded pretty good from where I was sitting.
But the turnovers are usually a killer. We feel very fortunate to have won this game tonight."
The 3-point shooting was certainly a boon for the Spurs, and it was punctuated by Danny Green's 3-point explosion in the fourth quarter. His three 3-pointers turned the momentum in the game from the Heat possibly closing out a road victory in Game 1 to the Spurs surging ahead with a monster fourth quarter.
"We took care of the ball finally," Tim Duncan answered when asked what changed in the fourth quarter. "We had 20-some-odd turnovers for 28 points the last seven or eight minutes. We only turned the ball over once or twice. And getting them out of the passing lanes, keeping them in front of us, making them score over us, and we found something that worked on the offensive end. Started moving the ball and Danny Green got hot and hit a couple of shots and really opened it up for us."
Nine of the Spurs' 23 turnovers came in the third quarter, but they were able to overcome such a sloppy game at times by sharing the ball in a way nobody else can seem to do. San Antonio assisted on 30 of the 40 made baskets in this game, thanks to 11 assists from Ginobili, eight assists from Parker, and six assists from Boris Diaw off the bench. They trumped the Heat's "sharing" of the ball.
This has long been a staple of Popovich's offensive system and his teams that buy into the system. Move the ball and good things will happen. Keep pounding the rock and eventually it will crack. Find efficient ways to score and you'll usually come out on top. That's exactly what happened in Game 1, and they're now three victories away from their fifth NBA championship.