- Heat-Pacers: Finals Hub
SAN ANTONIO – Tony Parker or no Tony Parker, meh. That’s about how the Miami Heat’s opinions went on the availability of San Antonio’s All-Star point guard in Game 4 of The Finals Thursday night.
Word that Parker, who suffered a mild hamstring strain in Game 3 Tuesday, was feeling well enough to play had made the leap via social media and other Internet options from the Spurs’ practice facility to the Miami shootaround, held at The Episcopal School of Texas on the northern outskirts of San Antonio because it’s closer to the Heat’s resort hotel than the AT&T Center.
Emotional impact on the visitors? Stronger than a yawn, milder than a swoon. Somewhere in shrug territory maybe.
“If he’s out there, we expect him to be 100 percent,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Much like they expect our guys to be 100 percent. Hopefully he does play, hopefully he’s healthy – we don’t want any excuses either way in this series.”
Whoa on that beat-them-at-their-best stuff, said forward Chris Bosh.
“I don’t care. If he’s playing that’s fine,” Bosh said. “That doesn’t change what we’re doing. That doesn’t change how we feel. No matter who plays, it’s Game 4 of The Finals. It’s something where we really don’t mind who’s out there. It’s just all about us.”
First, of course, it’s about them and him, how the Heat will respond to the blowout loss and whether LeBron James‘ repeated statements about playing better than in Game 3 – the 113-77 smashing, James called it – will pan out.
“I can’t say he’s going to score a lot of points, I can’t say he’s going to get a lot of rebounds,” Bosh said. “You never know how the game is going to go. But he is going to play a lot better, no matter what happens.
“He just needs to be himself. Play the game. I know everybody wants him to score 58 points a game and just go 1-on-5 every time. It doesn’t work like that. This is a team sport. He has to be aggressive. But he has to play basketball and just let the game come to him.”
Surely one score sheet stat in which James can improve is free-throw attempts. He shot none in Game 3, the first time that has happened since 2009 in any game and since 2007 in a playoff game. As big as he is, as aggressive as he can be and as frequently as the ball is in his hands, surely he can dictate some trips to the foul line, right?
Not necessarily, Bosh said (and stop calling him Shirley).
“Against this group, I think he’s had to figure out how to do that,” the Heat power forward said. “They’re ‘helping’ [with extra defenders] quite a bit. And they’re near the top of the league in least-fouls-committed.”
Bosh is right: San Antonio ranked fourth in fewest free throws allowed with 1,617. The league average was 1,818 this season.
“They do a good job of not fouling, but they send a lot of guys to the ball,” Bosh said. “So he’s going to have to make the right basketball plays, and those small windows of opportunity he gets to maybe draw a foul, that’s when he’s got to [think], ‘This is my chance right here. It’s the 20th possession we’ve had, but I’ve got a chance to go now.’ “
Even if James doesn’t pile up free points from the line, he can get various Spurs players into foul trouble, perhaps thinning their rotation or altering the aggressiveness with which they can defend.
“It changes things a lot,” Bosh said. “But it’s easier said than done. They’re trained well. It’s something we’re continuing to get the timing for, but if we change our mentality, we change what we’re supposed to do, we’ll get there.”
Spoelstra brushed off a few questions about boosting Mike Miller‘s role, despite at least one report suggesting the Heat sharpshooter might be moved into the starting lineup for power forward Udonis Haslem. That could stretch San Antonio’s defense, providing room for James to maneuver. Spoelstra said he hoped Miller’s minutes, however they come and how many, could be efficient and impactful.