Tony Parker drives to the basket against Miami Heat big man Joel Anthony. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
MIAMI — The Miami Heat is at the point when it's too late to alter much of its defensive strategy.
Instead, the Heat just needs to play smarter when it comes to stopping San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. He scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter of the Spurs' Game 1 victory Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"We would like to get our hands active," said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. "He's a clever player. He's seen every coverage you possibly can. We hope our pressure has a cumulative effect. Last night he was making all the reads, and we were a count off on our normal activity."
The most disappointing aspect of Parker's strong finish is that the Heat defended well for three quarters. Problems arose when he beat Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for a couple of baskets. That prompted Spoelstra to turn to LeBron James.
Parker hit the game-clinching basket over James with the shot clock winding down, which made it a four-point game with 5.2 seconds remaining.
"I felt we did a great job on him in the first three quarters," Chalmers said. "In the fourth quarter, we kind of went to something different. He hit a tough shot over me; he hit a tough shot over LeBron. Tony Parker is a Hall of Fame player, but at the same time, we got to figure out another way to stop him."
Spoelstra ruled out the possibility of James' defending against Parker for longer than the final five minutes. It's been customary for James to spend the entire fourth quarter defending the point guard, most notably Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo in the 2011 and 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
"There will be times where I match up against him," James said.
Spoelstra added: "Whatever it takes. That's my deal with LeBron. He understands. It's one through five. Depending on the matchup, wherever we need it, we have 14 days left, whatever it takes. And at this point, you weigh the risk-reward. But whatever we feel is best at that appropriate time."
The other glaring stat for Parker is that he did not commit a turnover in 39 minutes. The Spurs as a team turned the ball over just four times. The Heat has forced 15.8 turnovers a game in the postseason, which ranks fourth best.
"That's one of the biggest keys in the series, because Miami feeds on that. They get a lot of, they create a lot of turnovers, and that builds their confidence. They get dunks and stuff like that," Parker said.
"We saw that in the first play. Timmy [Duncan] turned it over, and a dunk by D-Wade. We talked about turnovers 10 days, and the first play we had a turnover. After that we did good. We only had four. That's going to be a big key in this series. If we can keep it under 10, that will be pretty good. Because when you give them easy baskets, it's going to be a long night for us."
Or a long night for the Heat if Parker continues to have his way.
The Heat fell victim to the pick-and-roll on several occasions, which led to easy layups for Duncan and Tiago Splitter.
"He really turned up his motor late in the game," Heat forward Shane Battier said of Parker. "It's very difficult to guard when he puts his head down. He's so unselfish, you don't know what he's going to do. … It's not an easy job."