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Keys To Game 3 of the NBA Finals

by Photo of Kenneth Teape

Here are some things to keep an eye on tonight in Game 3 of the NBA Finals

Keys To Game 3 of the NBA Finals

With the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs tied at one game apiece, the series will now flip to San Antonio for the next three games. Game 3 will be a big factor in who goes on to win the series; since 1985 when the 2-3-2 format was put into place, the winner of Game 3 in a series tied at one has gone on to win the series 12 out of 13 times. Whichever head coach, Gregg Popovich for the Spurs or Erik Spoelstra for the Heat, make the best adjustments will be the team that comes out on top not only tonight but most likely in the series.  Here are some things to watch for tonight.

Something Has to Give

One team will continue their trend of responding to bad losses while the other will see theirs end and be stuck in a 2-1 series deficit.

This season the Spurs are a perfect 3-0 after a loss of 19 or more points and are 28-11 in such games since 2002-2003 when Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili first played together. The Spurs are also one of only two teams in the NBA to have never trailed in an NBA Finals series with the Sacramento Kings being the other.

On the other hand, the Heat bounce back very well in their own right after losses. Since the “Big 3” of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh first playoffs together in 2011 the Heat have lost Game 1 of a playoff series four times; they have yet to lose another game in said series, going 13-0.

For either team to keep their success alive the right adjustments will need to be made by the coaching staffs and the players. By this time in a series each team pretty much knows what the other will try to do so winning will come down to which team can execute their changes more efficiently.

Defense Wins Championships

The Spurs will need to step up their efforts on the defensive end or else they could be in trouble. In Game 2 the Heat scored 103 points, moving their record to 21-1 when reaching the 100 point plateau in the postseason during the “Big 3” era. 

One person that the Spurs should continue holding down in the scoring department is James, who has scored under 20 points in both games thus far in the series. The last and only other time James scored under 20 points in three consecutive games was in the 2011 NBA Finals in Games 3-5; the Heat would eventually lose that series to the Dallas Mavericks, and that just so happened to be the last playoff series the Heat lost as well.

For the Heat, they need to continue playing good defense around the rim and on Parker pick-and-rolls. For the series the Heat are holding the Spurs to 48 percent shooting from five feet and closer, well below their playoff average of 63 percent previously in the postseason. Two players that have struggled the most from inside are Ginobili, who is two for seven and Tiago Splitter, who is one for five and has been on highlight reels since Sunday night after James blocked his dunk attempt at the rim.

As for the Parker pick-and-rolls, the Heat played them as well as they possibly could in the second half of Game 2. In Game 1 the Spurs scored 20 points off of Parker pick-and-rolls and followed that up with an even more impressive performance in the first half of Game 2, going for 16. But in the second half the Heat clamped down as they changed their scheme to hedge harder and be more aggressive to help on Parker, resulting in a 1-6 shooting performance in which the plays were ran through him. Parker himself struggled, missing all three of his second half shots off of the pick-and-roll as the Heat expanded their lead and blew the Heat out of the arena. On the postseason Parker is averaging 10.4 points per game off pick-and-rolls, second only to Chris Paul who averaged 12.0 points per game.

Whose Big 3 Shows Up?

In Game 1, the Spurs had their stars show up as Duncan scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while handing out four assists and blocking three shots.  Parker took over the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and ending the game with 21 and six assists. Ginobili chipped in 13 points of his own and a couple of highlight worthy assists that did not get the recognition they deserved. The supporting cast stepped up as well, as Danny Green knocked down 4-9 three point attempts for 12 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 10 points to give the Spurs five players in double figures.

For the Heat, it was a one man show as James recorded a triple-double, his third career one in the Finals scoring 18 points, grabbing 18 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. Bosh and Wade did not do much to support James as they registered the two worst +/- ratios in the game.  The bench did their part in scoring 30 points but the star players did not perform up to par.

Game 2 saw a role reversal as the Heat players gave James the support he needed and the end result was a rout of the Spurs. The bench and supporting players showed up just as much, some players even more like Mario Chalmers who scored a game high 19 points.  On the other side the Spurs got production again from Green and Leonard but their main players were nowhere to be found as Parker, Duncan and Ginobili combined to score only 27 points.

Game 3 very well could be decided by whose big time players show up more as the supporting casts for both teams have done their jobs in the two games of the series thus far; it is the “Big 3” for each team that needs to show up and perform.

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