Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.
> After Game 3 … what strikes you most about this series? Who or what disappoints you so far? What’s exactly what you figured? What’s this thing going to turn on?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll be honest, I get a little preoccupied with how the whistles are going from game to game, because they play such a huge factor in the outcomes. If Kawhi Leonard gets in foul trouble again for a third straight game, who knows how differently Game 3 plays out? I found myself cringing a little as Tim Duncan got stripped of the ball time and again – I don’t want to see him get old overnight and look like Manu Ginobili last year or, dare I say it, Willie Mays falling down at the plate in ’73. Guess I mostly fret my way through these things that we see stellar basketball, that the big names play well and it gets determined by best vs. best. My biggest hunch going forward: We’re going to put the 2-2-1-1-1 changeover to its test.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s the series that a lot of us wanted, needed and deserved. After going the full seven games a year ago, the only thing we could ask was to do it again. These are the best two teams in the league by a long measure and that’s exactly what anybody who’d been paying attention all season long should have known. Disappointed? Are you kidding? Let them play best of 17 or 27 or till training camps open in October. It’s about the Spurs having the will and the ability to move the ball on offense and the Heat being disruptive on defense, getting into the passing lanes, creating turnovers and scoring off them. If Miami can make it the LeBron Show, the Heat three-peat. If San Antonio keeps getting open shots, it’s the Spurs. I’m still picking the latter.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Spurs’ depth and ability to get scoring outbursts from multiple players on any given night is a big, big factor. The Big 3 have each had big games. Kawhi Leonard busted out in Game 3. Tiago Splitter had 14 points in Game 1. Danny Green has played big. Boris Diaw has been a high rebound and assist man, and has the ability to score 18 in the next game. The only real disappointment has been the play of Heat point guard Mario Chalmers. He’s really hurting his team. He’s managed to stay on the floor for only 70 minutes because of this: 3-for-12 shooting, 1-for-5 on 3s, nine assists and nine turnovers. Exactly what I figured is the Spurs would be up 2-1, although, truth be told, I figured they’d take both games at home and then win Game 4 in Miami to go back home up 3-1. What’s this thing going to turn on? All I know is the team that plays the best defense the longest probably has the best chance to win.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No matter how much we’ve seen it over the last 17 years, the Spurs’ offensive brilliance is always striking. The Heat’s trap-help-and-recover scheme can be suffocating when it’s at its best, but Miami just hasn’t been able to keep up. Most disappointing has been the play of Miami’s point guards, who are a combined 7-for-27 (2-for-11 from 3-point range) and haven’t made an impact defensively. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have shot a combined 59 percent (62 percent from 3-point range), and their team has been outscored by 32 points over three games. That means that they need more help from their supporting cast and/or better defense. I still think that this series come down to the Spurs’ end of the floor and the Heat’s ability to stop them from getting the shots they want to get. There’s a reason why only three NBA champions in the last 35 years have ranked outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season like the Heat did this year. You need to get stops to get a championship.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Through three games we’ve seen so much of what I expected from these two NBA titans. But as I (and several others) pointed out before The Finals started, Kawhi Leonard was the one player who could change the temperature of this series in his team’s favor with his play. It took three games for my prediction to look good, but Leonard came through like a champ in Game 3. Leonard and Danny Green continuing to provide the boost they have swings this seriies in the Spurs The thing that surprises me most is that the Spurs have basically handed out two beat downs in this series so far. I know LeBron’s cramps impacted the finish of Game 1. But there was no doubt in Game 3. I didn’t see either one of these teams dominating the other in the fashion we’ve seen the Spurs dominate the Heat, twice already. The biggest disappointment for the Heat has to be the disappearance of Mario Chalmers, who has had his moments in The Finals before but has been disastrous so far this time around.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What strikes me is just how even these games are. There aren’t any huge lessons to learn from game to game — both teams defend well, both teams move the ball on offense, both teams have players who create for each other. To me this series will hinge on the little things, like which team will have bench players who can produce consistently. And maybe that’s the key: consistency. We know what each team does. It may be excellence of execution (shoutout to Bret Hart) that separates the ultimate winner from the loser.