MIAMI – Familiarity breeds…
“Another game,” Chris Bosh said, blowing the old saying but offering perspective all the same on the Miami Heat’s ongoing clash with the San Antonio Spurs. With Game 3 of The 2014 Finals Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat and the Spurs will have played their 10th consecutive Finals game against each other.
That’s something that hasn’t happened since 1997 and 1998, when the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz played 12 straight head-to-head. The Bulls and the Jazz had seen more than enough of each other by that point, thank you. And though Bosh didn’t complete the saying with “contempt,” it would seem that after nine games against the same guys, two Junes running, the Heat and the Spurs might be getting their bellies full of each other.
“Hell yeah,” the Miami forward said after his team’s morning shootaround Tuesday. “I know we’re on their nerves. They’re on ours. So it’s part of the game. Going through shootaround, you know every single play that they’re running – but you still have to go over it. It’s a part of the grind. But we’re building confidence in our defensive coverages as we go, so that’s really helping us.”
It’s too soon to say if the Spurs and the Heat are working up a good dislike of each other. LeBron James said the other day a rivalry might exist if they faced each other four times in the regular season rather than two, as dictated by East vs. West scheduling. Still, this best-of-seven championship series did seem to gain some edginess Sunday.
That’s when Miami point guard Mario Chalmers jammed an elbow into Tony Parker as he drove to the basket for the series’ first flagrant foul. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard fouled out, limiting his time (31:32) and his impact.
That’s also when Tim Duncan and James were slapped with the series’ first technical fouls. Last year in their seven-game chess match, there was nothing more wayward than a defensive three-second call.
Also, Game 2 was only the third time in the nine games that San Antonio committed at least 20 fouls, and only the third time the Heat shot more than 20 free throws. And if you want to break it up this way – the Spurs have lost three of their last four against Miami, with James averaging 32.3 points – that’s the sort of stuff that starts to chafe. Ditto this: The winner of Game 3, when The Finals has been tied 1-1, has gone on to win the championship 30 of 36 times (83.3 percent).
So for all the mutual respect flowing between the clubs, each stands in the way of the other. Same guys over and over. Great competitors and irritating too, Chalmers admitted. “Definitely. Second time around,” the Miami guard said. “Both teams want it just as bad. Now they’re trying to leave everything out there to get it.”