SAN ANTONIO — The games haven’t been close, but the series has gone back and forth. Now, The Finals and the 2012-13 NBA championship is down to a three-game series. And if you say you know what’s going to happen next, you’re lying.
Game 5 tips off Sunday night at 8 ET on ABC.
This is the 11th time that The Finals have been tied 2-2 since going to the 2-3-2 format in 1985 (see table below). The winner of Game 5 has gone on to win the title in seven of the previous 10 instances. The home team has won six of those 10 Game 5s and and gone on to close out the series on the road (in Game 6) three of the six times. Each of the four times the road team has won Game 5, they’ve gone on to win the series back at home.
To win two straight championships, the Heat need to win two straight games. But they haven’t done that since the conference semifinals. Since stepping up in competition, they’ve yet to put two championship-caliber performances together.
The inconsistency starts with starters Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers, who have averaged 43.0 points on 50 percent shooting in the Heat’s last six wins and just 34.2 points on 36 percent shooting in their last five losses. But there’s also been a lot more defensive energy in the wins. And for the Heat, stops often turn into better shots on the other end of the floor.
Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will be in Miami, but LeBron James believes the time is now for the Heat to finally back up a win with another.
When things get tight for the Spurs, Manu Ginobili is often the guy who comes up with big plays. But Ginobili has been out of sorts all series and is shooting 11-for-35 (31 percent) over his last five games, including 3-for-19 (16 percent) from 3-point range. He has more turnovers (13) than buckets in that stretch and has the worst plus-minus (minus-36) in The Finals.
Given the likelihood that their role players aren’t going to shoot as well as they did in Game 3, the Spurs need Ginobili as a secondary playmaker when Tony Parker is both on and off the floor. And if the sixth man doesn’t get out of his funk, the Spurs probably aren’t going to win the series.
The Heat’s ability to get into the paint and to the line will always be critical. They’ve averaged 61.0 points in the paint and at the line in their two wins and 42.5 in their two losses. Their jumpers were also falling in the two wins, but they must play inside-out and not settle for the perimeter shots that the Spurs are often begging them to take.
Xs and Os:
Neither team is going to make any serious tactical adjustments after four games. At this point, assuming that both teams will bring the proper energy for such a crucial game, it comes down to execution. The Spurs want to play like they did in Game 3 and the Heat want to play like they did in Game 4. And it’s really as simple as that.
The Spurs, who have totaled 36 turnovers in their two losses, must first take care of the ball. Getting Tim Duncan some low-post touches would be great, but they can’t force things against the Heat’s denial. On pick-and-rolls, their bigs must create passing lanes for Parker to get them the ball.
Defensively, San Antonio must get back in transition, keep James from getting to the basket, and find Mike Miller and Ray Allen before they get near the 3-point line.
Miami obviously needs to be active and aggressive defensively, force turnovers, and get out on the break. But their weak-side defense is just as important as their strong-side denials and traps, because the Spurs have the shooters to make them pay for double-teams. If their rotations aren’t crisp and organized, Game 5 might look a lot like Game 3.
Amazingly, the Heat didn’t need threes from Miller (0-for-1) or Allen (1-for-4) in Game 4. But that doesn’t mean that the Spurs can leave them open. Miller is still a scorching 9-for-11 from beyond the arc in the series, while Allen is 7-for-13. James has assisted on half of their 16 total threes.
Danny Green (19-for-28 on threes) and Gary Neal (12-for-22) continued their hot shooting on Thursday. They’ve been assisted by 10 different teammates on the 31 total threes.
Whatever happened to…
Mario Chalmers? The Heat’s point guard came up huge in their Game 2 win, leading all scorers with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Then he went 0-for-5 in Game 3 and missed his first two shots of Game 4. He did hit two big threes in the third quarter on Thursday and big performances from the big three meant that the Heat didn’t need much production from him, but Game 5 could be different.
If Wade or Bosh can’t put two straight All-Star performances together or if James doesn’t shoot well from the outside, Chalmers will need to step up.
Game 5 results with Finals tied 2-2, since 1985 (winner in CAPS)
|1985||Boston||111||L.A. LAKERS||120||L.A. in 6|
|1988||L.A. Lakers||94||DETROIT||104||L.A. in 7|
|1992||CHICAGO||119||Portland||106||Chicago in 6|
|1994||Houston||84||NEW YORK||91||Houston in 7|
|1997||CHICAGO||90||Utah||88||Chicago in 6|
|2003||SAN ANTONIO||93||New Jersey||83||San Antonio in 6|
|2005*||SAN ANTONIO||96||Detroit||95||San Antonio in 7|
|2006*||Dallas||100||MIAMI||101||Miami in 6|
|2010||L.A. Lakers||86||BOSTON||92||L.A. in 7|
|2011||Miami||103||DALLAS||112||Dallas in 6|
* Game 5 went to overtime