The San Antonio Spurs lost a deciding Game 7 to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. The two teams would meet in a rematch for the 2014 NBA title. The Heat, led by LeBron James, could make history with a third consecutive championship.
That was not going to happen. Instead, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich would unleash “Summertime” and the rest of the NBA would soon follow.
One of the greatest of all-time, James was the ringleader of a Heat team that also featured Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For all of James’ offensive talents, the Heat were likely the best defensive team in the league. They were aggressive, jumping passing lanes, and closing out shooters. The result enabled Miami to force turnovers of a league-high 17.6 percent of opponent’s possessions.
Popovich decided to use the Heat’s defense against itself. It was “basketball-jitsu,” using an opponent’s strength to defeat it. Popovich wanted to force James and the rest of the Heat to move constantly to defend the basketball.
In Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals, the Spurs used Popovich’s idea to spread the floor and do something San Antonio did not do all that much during the regular season – shoot 3-pointers. In the regular season, the Spurs averaged 21.4 3-point attempts per game, 16th in the league.
In the 2014 playoffs, San Antonio let 3s fly from everywhere. It was as if the Spurs were a different team. It was “Summertime.”
San Antonio shot a record 75.8 percent from the field in the first half of Game 3 setting in motion what may be the most efficient three games of basketball in NBA history. “Summertime” saw the Spurs pass relentlessly – 472 times more than the Heat in the Finals – and shoot the lights out.
The Spurs true shooting percentage over the final three games of the series was an amazing 65.1 percent. What makes that number even more impressive is the number of 3-pointers the Spurs attempted.
After taking just 18.3 attempts from behind the arc in their first-round playoff defeat of Dallas, the Spurs launched nearly 24 3-pointers per game against the Heat. They made 44.8 percent of those attempts.
San Antonio went on to beat Miami in three straight games to take the NBA title four games to one. James would leave South Beach and head back to hometown Cleveland. The rest of the NBA would go on to emulate the 2014 Spurs.
Since the Spurs’ victory over the Heat that year, passing numbers are up in the NBA and teams continue to launch record numbers of 3s. It all started in the Summertime of 2014.