June 11, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: Game 3 notes

After the Heat's Game 2 eruption, tonight's Game 3 in San Antonio will require adjustments and responses on both rosters.

The dynamics of the first two games of this year's NBA Finals have panned out inversely from my expectations. Though I suspected San Antonio would leave Miami with one victory, I felt the Spurs would find themselves having to adjust to the Heat's speed after a Game 1 loss. Instead, we saw a rested and fresh Spurs team execute a nearly mistake-free 92-88 victory in the initial "feel out game". 

Dwayne Wade's post-game comments, consistent with general speculation following the Eastern Conference Finals, alluded to the assured fatigue from Miami's seven-game series with the Indiana Pacers. Game 2 seemed replicant of Game 1 until the Heat closed the third quarter on a 14-3 run and a 10-point lead, which carried over to the dismantling 33-5 run by the defending champs and their 103-84 victory.

You'll see more about the historic implications of Game 3 tiebreakers in the NBA Finals below, but something must be said of the brilliant chess match between these two coaches. Gregg Popovich struck first blood with a dedicated defensive strategy and fluent execution in Game 1 (plus heroics from Tony Parker). Erik Spoelstra responded in Game 2 with more concerted double teams on Parker in ball screen situations, forcing the issue with their switching defense and forcing 13 more turnovers than in Game 1. 

Aside from Tony Parker's Game 1 performance, neither of these teams have really seen their stars dominate. One could argue that these Finals have been a story line of role players thus far. Mario Chalmers' 19 points and timely playmaking really sparked the Heat's run in Game 2, while Danny Green's perfection from three (5-5) was the only offensive lift for the Spurs (Parker, Ginobili, Duncan combined 10-33 in Game 2). As San Antonio looks to respond tonight for Game 3, here are some final notes and what I'll be particularly watching for:

- Of the 12 times the NBA Finals has been tied at 1-1, the team who wins Game 3 has won the series 11 times.

- The San Antonio Spurs have never trailed in an NBA Finals series, let alone lost one.

- The Miami Heat have not lost consecutive games since January.

- Turnovers: The broken record plays on for opponent's of Miami. The Spurs committed 17 turnovers in Game 2 to just 4 in Game 1. Both games their turnovers came early. Watch for the Spurs' early execution and ball security, and if Miami can find ways to make them uncomfortable on their home floor.

- Manu Ginobili's frantic style seems to have met it's finite match with a defense as fast and active as Miami's. The cost for effective play from Manu might simply be slowing down and making the low-risk plays to keep San Antonio's offense as fluid as possible.

- Shot takers and shot makers: Both teams depend on three point shooting to keep their offense spaced. For the Spurs- Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Gary Neal. For the Heat- Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, and Chris Bosh.

- Dwayne Wade went for 0 points in the second half of Game 2 and even expressed his sincere fatigue at halftime to Doris Burke. Miami might need more from Wade long term if it goes blow-for-blow these next three games in San Antonio.

- LeBron James: If his teammates don't make shots on the road, another scoring outing under 20 points likely won't cut it for the MVP. James is the almighty catalyst for the Heat, omnipotently making his presence felt. Expect it to magnify on the road, where stars truly must be stars.

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