Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What worries you if you’re a Spurs’ fan? A Heat fan?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The first one’s simple: Tony Parker’s hamstring. It’s hard to envision them beating Miami two more times if they don’t have their MVP. It’s one thing for Neal and Cory Joseph to thrive out of the bullpen but if each moves up a mighty big notch on the depth chart, who’s to say they continue? On the Heat side, I’d be worried about San Antonio being plus-10 in free-throw attempts. No, not because of any conspiracy theory but because Miami is facing a team with players whose reputations are as big as their own. Any “star” calls likely will cut both ways. That’s an advantage for the Heat almost all the time, but it doesn’t appear it will be here.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If I’m a San Antonio fan, the results of that MRI on Tony Parker’s hamstring. It will be very tough — if not impossible — sledding to close out the Heat if their best player can’t play at all, or even if he’s limited in his movement. If I’m a Heat fan, the fact that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have not yet pulled their acts together in a single game, yet the Spurs have a 2-1 lead in the series.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Tony Parker’s hamstring makes me very nervous, although word from the San Antonio reporting crew suggests that his ailment during Game 3 was more of a cramping situation so that’s good news. Manu Ginobili’s continued struggling — both shooting the ball and turning it over — is a major concern. So far Danny Green and Gary Neal have bailed him out. For the Heat, my concern is simply LeBron. Is he going to assert his will and be the dominant force everyone wants him to be a la Jordan, or is the Spurs’ defense and the pressure to perform brilliantly each game as his supporting superstar cast wanes going to be too much?
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: If I’m a Spurs fan, I’m nervous about Tony Parker’s injury and LeBron James’ ability. Maybe James is fatigued (see his Finals shooting stats in my answer to the other question) or maybe he’s got a couple more huge games in him. And if I’m a Heat fan, I’m worried that nobody other than Mike Miller can shoot. When you’re not hitting shots, you become much easier to defend.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Simple. Tony Parker’s hamstring frightens me if I’m a San Antonio fan, because that means Manu Ginobili becomes the primary ballhandler far too often without TP in the mix. The Spurs are too close to title No. 5 for this to happen. The premise of finishing this series in five games has to be on your mind right now and that would be hard enough to do with a healthy Parker. It becomes nearly impossible with him wounded. If I’m a Miami fan, the ghosts of Dallas and The Finals from 2011 have to be on your mind. LeBron and Wade looking shaky like they did then doesn’t help you sleep any better at night. And the supporting cast, as valiant as they were in Miami, don’t operate independently from their stars the way the Spurs’ role players did in Game 3. So there is cause for concern right now for Heat fans.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If I’m a San Antonio fan, I don’t think you can overlook that the Spurs shot 32 3-pointers in Game 3. That’s a Mike D’Antoni team, not a Gregg Popovich team. For a team that’s so reliant on Tim Duncan, they’ve gotten a combined 21 points in the last two games from him. Sure, they won one, but they have to figure out a way to get Timmy going. If I’m Miami, I worry not that the Spurs attempted 32 threes, but that they made 16 of them. Too often Green and Neal looked like they were in a 3-point shootout, firing up wide-open threes. The Heat have to improve their perimeter defense. Wonder if we’ll see a Battier appearance before long?
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: San Antonio fans are all worried about Tony Parker’s health. If he doesn’t play, or even if he doesn’t play up to his standards, it will be a great setback for the Spurs. They don’t have the depth in the point guard spot or many different solutions in terms of half-court creation if Parker is not 100 percent ready. Patty Mills has seen limited action from the floor and Cory Joseph has the energy, but not the experience to fill the Frenchman’s shoes. The Heat fans, on the other hand, should be worried about the fact that their big-Three aren’t clicking right now. They’re just not clicking right now, and have yet to showcase their usual chemistry.
Karan Madhok, NBA India: If I’m a San Antonio fan, I’m worried most about Tony Parker’s hamstring. He will have an MRI on Wednesday, and if it’s serious, than the Spurs have reason to panic. Duncan and the support crew can do a good job against lesser teams; but to win two more Finals games against the almighty Heat, they need Parker at full strength to keep their offense chugging. If I’m a Heat fan, I’m of course worried about LeBron’s passive play, but more about the prospects of Wade and Bosh. The ‘Big Three’ project can only work if all three play their role. Right now, Miami is a ‘Big One’, and even that one is playing below his high standards. Wade and Bosh have to step up — on both ends of the floor — to save Miami in these Finals.
Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: It would seem simple, but for the Spurs you have to be nervous that LeBron will find his groove and make things happen by attacking the basket. It would be scary for the Spurs, but right now, the Heat fans don’t know if the LeBron they’re accustomed to will ever show up in this series.