Miami's minutes have taken a toll

Heat's star trio has played roughly five more seasons than Spurs' stars

Updated: June 13, 2014, 11:43 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider

Miami HeatBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsMiami's Big Three has logged a lot of minutes over the past four seasons.

MIAMI -- The San Antonio Spurs ran circles around the Miami Heat in Game 4. That phrasing is usually reserved for metaphors, but Thursday night, it described something closer to reality.

During the 107-86 loss, the Heat were habitually a step slow on defensive rotations and looked completely gassed by the end of the Spurs' assault. A team that features LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shouldn't look this powerless on the floor.

The question is how? How have the Spurs trailed for just 28 of the 192 minutes in this series? How are the Spurs completely dismantling the two-time defending champions?

The Spurs are hitting the Heat where it hurts by moving the ball at a ridiculous rate. The Spurs always have made a living by giving up a good shot for a better shot. This has been their modus operandi for more than a decade. But against the Heat, they've taken it to another level. Remember, a passed ball always moves faster than gassed feet. Always.

The fatigue factor

The Heat have made the Finals four seasons in a row. They're the only team to do that in the past 25 years. Hall of Fame careers have come and gone since the Boston Celtics last did it in 1987. Actually, it has been so long that the average NBA player, at 26½ years old, wasn't even alive to see it.

But rather than cower in the face of the Heat's accomplishment, the Spurs are doing something else: They're using it against them. The Spurs look like the fresher team in the Finals probably because Gregg Popovich designed it this way. He managed his team's minutes with the long haul in mind, probably more so than any other coach in the league. Not a single player on the Spurs' roster averaged more than 30 minutes per game. It's first time in NBA history that has ever happened.