The 2014 NBA Finals head into game 3 as the Miami Heat, winners of the most recent encounter, begin their hosting duties with momentum on their side, hoping for another fantastic performance from LeBron James, while the San Antonio Spurs try to somehow get control of this series again.
The most criticized player coming out of the game 2 loss was Manu Ginobili. The Spurs had plenty of others under-perform: Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Boris Diaw and especially Kawhi Leonard, who was heralded before this series as the great LeBron stopper, but has proven to be nothing of the sort so far, and has struggled contributing on offense as well, not doing much but hitting the occasional open shot.
Ginobili has been playing well for most of the eight quarters, but his disastrous finish to game 2 brought everyone back to last year’s final, when Ginobili turned the ball over, missed free throws and generally crumbled under the pressure despite his reputation as a clutch player. Obviously, there’s a lot more to why the Spurs lost an 11 point lead and gave up home court advantage than just Ginobili missing shots late in the game, but his decision making was a big part of it.
The deciding factor to this series has been how well the Heat are handling the Spurs offense. For the most part, they’ve been able to slow it down. The Spurs are still getting open looks – it’s impossible not to when the ball moves so quickly on certain possessions, as the scrambling defense of the Heat can’t keep up. However, for the most part, the Heat are getting their favorable matchups on defense, which includes keeping someone bigger on Tony Parker and not double teaming too much in the paint.
The Heat are’t perfect, despite LeBron James’ impressive point-per-minute production, with 60 points in 71 total minutes of basketball. Dwyane Wade can do more on both ends of the floor and their two points guards haven’t been able to stand out on both ends of the floor as well. Mario Chalmers did elbow Tony Parker in the ribs which benefited the Heat, but that’s not what Erik Spoelstra is expecting to see from his starting point guard.
Miami are fine with Tim Duncan dominating. They’re at a disadvantage down low anyway, and Duncan, like most big men, can’t keep up scoring at an alarming rate for four complete quarters. It keeps the ball from moving to the 3-point line, and as long as the Heat remain disciplined when it comes to helping only after the first shot, they’re in a good position. Duncan is an excellent passer, and giving him that option isn’t a very wise course of action.
Home floor advantage means something, but not that much. The Spurs were excellent on the road all season, and the Heat, although not dropping a single home game in this postseason and are on a 11-game win streak in Miami including last season, aren’t that much better than the Spurs if at all. The pressure is on San Antonio, there’s no doubt about that. However, they’re proved in these playoffs on a number of opportunities that they’re perfectly equipped to handle it.