Chris Mannix: ‘Erik Spoelstra A Top-Five Coach’
This probably goes without saying, but Chris Mannix has never seen anything like the first half we saw in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, when San Antonio shot a Finals-record 75.8 percent from the floor.
Then again, none of us has.
“It was a pretty impressive offensive performance,” the Sports Illustrated NBA insider said on The John Feinstein Show. “San Antonio, after internally tying to figure out what happened with the ball movement in the second half in Game 2, just came out and (was) dynamic offensively. Everything was three and four passes. They got open looks. They spread the ball around.”
“San Antonio’s been a much-improved offensive team in the last two years,” Mannix continued. “One of the misnomers about them is they’re simply that defensive-minded team that wins so many (low-scoring) slugfests. They’re a very good offensive team when they’re on. They had everything going for them in the first half.”
The Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots and finished 25-for-33 in the first half. Overall, they had 21 assists on 38 baskets.
“That was an exemplary performance for San Antonio on the offensive end,” Mannix said.
And the game ball just might go to Gregg Popovich, who inserted Boris Diaw into the starting lineup and coaxed energetic play out of Kawhi Leonard, who finished with a game-high 29 points.
“They were small moves but obviously significant ones,” Mannix said. “Erik Spoelstra’s done a lot of it throughout the playoffs. His decision to insert Rashard Lewis into the starting lineup in the conference finals was a huge move for Miami. But Boris Diaw has been (very good) coming off the bench really since the middle of the Oklahoma City series. When he’s on the floor, the passing just improves. He’s an excellent passing big man. He’s unselfish. When he’s on the floor, he’s looking to make that extra pass – and that’s not to say a guy like Tiago Splitter isn’t necessarily. But he’s not the type of facilitator that Diaw is.”
Diaw finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists, while Splitter had six points, four rebounds and one assist off the bench.
Tim Duncan (14), Tony Parker (15), Danny Green (15) and Mani Ginobili (11), meanwhile, all scored double-figures.
Was this just a special night for San Antonio, or does Miami deserve some blame?
“I think where you blame Miami is that, to me, it looked like a team that was a little too overconfident early on,” Mannix said. “It just looked like a team, to me, that felt like they had earned more than they have in this series. When I say that, it seems like Miami felt that if they had not had the AC go off in Game 1, they would have won that game and by all rights they should be up 2-0 against San Antonio.”
“I think they rest on their laurels a little bit in the first half of Game 3. Now they turn it around in the third quarter, but they just didn’t have enough firepower to get back in the game (once) San Antonio built that insurmountable lead.”
“I thought strategically they weren’t bad. Execution-wise, they weren’t awful. But I didn’t see the same level of intensity from Miami that I’ve seen the first two games of this series – and really what I’ve seen throughout most of the playoffs.”
Mario Chalmers had another dreadful game (two points, 0-of-5 from the floor), Ray Allen and Norris Cole needed 17 shots to score 19 points, and Chris Bosh took just four shots and had three rebounds – despite playing 34 minutes.
“I think Miami has to look at themselves and say, ‘We’ve got to play better individually if we’re going to get back in this,’” Mannix said.
Now, the Heat must win three out of four to take the series. If they do, however, Spoelstra will have cemented his status as one of the top coaches in the game – if he hasn’t already.
“In my opinion, he’s a top-five coach,” Mannix said. “If coaching superstars were easy, Mike D’Antoni would have multiple championships right now. It’s as simple as that. When you have stars that have such big egos and you have to get them to buy into sharing the basketball and (being) lesser versions of themselves on the floor, that takes a lot of work. And with Erik Spoelstra – with his ability to stay the course . . . and win the trust of guys – I think that’s big.”
Indeed, Spoelstra, 43, could already be a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Speaking of head coaches, which new head coach – Derek Fisher in New York or Quin Snyder in Utah – has a better chance of being successful?
“It’s a good question,” Mannix said. “I would say Quin Snyder, personally. I just think the Knicks are such a massive rebuilding project, and I can’t figure out exactly what their long-term game plan is. Is it to run the triangle offense and build around Carmelo Anthony? Is it to let Carmelo go and build around somebody else? What happens to the roster in 2015? Can Derek Fisher turn into an effective coach? How invested is Phil Jackson in all this? Will he be invested in the long term? There’s just so many question marks surround the Knicks right now that even though they are in that big market and do have limitless resources, it makes them somewhat of a questionable job over the next three or four years.”