There’s some cliché about game 3 being the one that usually decides the series, but it seems a lot of the conclusions in NBA Finals are determined by who is the team that is able to gather momentum while making adjustments on the fly quicker than their opponents, which leads to the very important question: Which team, the Miami Heat, or the San Antonio Spurs, have more reasons to feel confident heading in the third game?
One (or two, to be more exact) that tells us the Spurs are going to win game 3 and eventually the series is their perfect record in NBA finals, winning on their four previous visits, although that has nothing to do with here and now and especially not their opponents, although Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan have been there for all those four titles, while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili joined the winning machine a little bit later on, winning three NBA championship rings. They’ve also never trailed in the finals, which reassures those thinking the Spurs come away with the title.
When it comes to strictly looking at numbers and not the personnel, the Heat have the advantage. There have been 33 playoff series in which the first two games were split, with one team winning by less than 5 points and the other by more than 15. The team that enjoyed the bigger win went on to win 66.7% of the time. This occurrence has happened only five times in NBA finals (including now) for the first time since 1991. The team with the bigger win won 75% of the time.
But there are players and coaches at work here, not numbers from the past that have no effect on anyone, unless someone lets them go to their head, and the fact is that the San Antonio Spurs looked worse offensively when you look at the two games as one unit, trailing most of the way. While their plan of stopping LeBron James personally didn’t fail for two straight games as long as he wasn’t running the open court (which happened quite a lot in the second half of game 2), their offense is the real reason for concern.
Yes, the Spurs hit 50% of their three-point shots in game 2, including 5-of-5 from Danny Green. But their big three scored only 27 points, with Tony Parker incharge of 13 of them, and yet none of them had a good game. Manu Ginobili barely made a good decision all game long, while Tim Duncan couldn’t counter the aggression and intensity he faced while guarding the rim, affecting him severely in his shooting, taking too many tough shots and bad decisions, shooting 3-of-13 from the field.
And that’s where the Spurs have to improve, because their defense isn’t going to get much better. They created too many opportunities for Miami on the open court (17 turnovers), resulting in too many open shots for Miller, Allen, Bosh and Chalmers.
For the Heat? Defensively, they’ve been doing the right thing in the first two games, most of the time. Keep attacking the pick & rolls with Haslem and Bosh, which disorients Parker who looked very confused and in need of help each time his thought process was exposed by the Heat’s pressure, leading to 5 turnovers.
On offense, more of the same, while hoping Dwyane Wade starts getting involved, and for the Spurs’ discipline in keeping James from shooting as much as he’d like and from where he’d like to start deteriorating. The Heat did a very good job in attacking the basket and giving their shooters the spacing needed to make shots, finishing with 49.4% from the field and 52.6% from beyond the arc. These things usually don’t happen on the road too often, but smart basketball is smart basketball, regardless of the geographical location.
Predictions – Popovich didn’t make adjustments between the first game and the second, and now is forced to do so, but with limited tools, hoping that Tony Parker picks himself up. For the Heat, the confidence meter is running high, feeling like they’ve exposed more than one weakness for them to exploit for the rest of the series. It’s going to be much closer than in game 2, but the Heat probably do enough where it matters to go up 2-1.