MIAMI — Two games into the NBA Finals, the Spurs and Heat have split the difference and enter a two-game stand in Miami with the Heat now controlling home-court advantage. And the Heat now have the opportunity to change the story from cramps to champs.
Game 3 tips off Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Break out the white shirts and dos minutos cheers — the series has moved to Miami, where the Heat are an impressive 8-0 this postseason in the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Also, they have this LeBron James guy, who has been stopped thus far only by a buildup of lactic acid.
Through two games against the Heat, the Spurs have played well for the most part, though occasional lapses at important times have been costly. Worried about Tony Parker‘s ankle? Don’t be. Parker is averaging 20 points per game for the series and has driven the Spurs’ offense.
After being sidelined for the last 4 minutes of Game 1 with leg cramps, James came out for Game 2 like he had something to prove. While James had been the target of many doubters after his Game 1 injury, he squashed that storyline with a 35-point, 10-rebound tour de force in Miami’s 98-96 Game 2 win.
The Heat are now strapped firmly into the driver’s seat in this series, with the opportunity to win two homes games and leap ahead to a 3-1 series lead.
For the Spurs, they have to hope to repeat their start from the 2013 Finals. In that series, after winning Game 1 and losing Game 2, the Spurs blew out Miami in Game 3 113-87.
While the Spurs have seen big back-to-back games games from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the 38-year-old Tim Duncan has been arguably their best all-around performer. Duncan followed his 25 points and 6 boards in Game 1 with a terrific 18-point, 15-rebound Game 2.
Chris Bosh‘s consistency through the first two games has been crucial for the Heat. Bosh is not only averaging 18 points per game, but he’s shot a combined 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. Bosh’s ability to take (and make) those outside shots stretches the Spurs’ defense and opens driving lanes for James and Dwyane Wade.
What has made the Spurs so dangerous all season has been their depth and versatility. But in Game 2, no Spurs players other than their big three (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) managed to score in double figures.
X’s and O’s:
James spent the first half of Game 2 attacking the rim over and over and finding little resistance. But in the second half, James made a living with his jump shot, knocking down eight shots outside the paint and forcing the Spurs to run at him, which gave other Heat players plenty of opportunities to create and finish (it was a Bosh-to-Wade pass that sealed the game).
The Spurs racked up 23 turnovers in Game 1 and still managed to hang on for the win. They cut that down to just 11 turnovers in Game 2, but had no answer for James. Also worth noting, while Parker led the Spurs with seven assists in Game 2, big men Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter tied for runner-up status, as each contributed five assists.
Rashard Lewis has used the playoffs to play his way into Miami’s starting lineup. And while coach Erik Spoelstra likes mixing and matching supporting players, Lewis has been consistent, averaging 12 points per game in nearly 30 minutes a night.
After last year’s disastrous Finals performances when he tried to play through injury, through two games Ginobili is back to being the dynamic scoring playmaker that leads the Spurs’ bench.
Whatever happened to …
Matt Bonner went from starting Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Thunder to not playing Game 1 against Miami, and then playing just 1 minute in Game 2. Perhaps he’s a liability defensively, but Bonner’s shooting generally has value no matter the opponent.
Also worth noting is that Wade has averaged 16.5 points per game in The Finals, but also posted a combined -26 plus/minus rating.
Neither team seems to fear the other team. Now, holding home court advantage, the Heat have the chance to show us why they deserve a third straight title.