SAN ANTONIO – The Finals are back in San Antonio for the first time in six years, and Game 3 could be the most important 48 minutes of the season. The Spurs took home-court advantage away in Game 1, but the Heat looked much more dominant in Game 2.
|Home team record, Finals since 1985|
Game 3 tips off Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
This is the 14th (and fourth straight) time that The Finals have been tied 1-1 since going to the 2-3-2 format in 1985. The winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the title in 12 of the previous 13 instances, with the 2011 Heat being the lone exception. Miami won Game 3 in Dallas, but then lost the next three games. Last year, they won Game 3 at home and finished off the Thunder in five.
Game 3 is the only game in which the home team does not have a winning record in the 28 Finals since ’85 (see table). And with the series tied 1-1, nine of the 13 Game 3 winners (including the ’11 Heat) have been the team playing on the road.
The Heat are 5-2 on the road in the playoffs (having lost their last two in Indiana), while the Spurs are 6-1 at home.
The Spurs got the split they wanted when they went to Miami for Games 1 and 2, but the Heat clearly found their groove in the second half on Sunday. This may be another example of where the champs just needed a game to figure things out, or we could be in store for a long and memorable championship series.
If Miami can continue to play defense like they did over an eight-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters on Game 2 (and in Game 7 against the Pacers), they will get enough offense to win the series. But the Spurs are home for the next three games and the Heat haven’t really put two championship-caliber games together all postseason.
You don’t have to look much further than the Spurs’ turnover numbers to find the biggest difference between Games 1 and 2. After committing the fewest turnovers (4) any team had committed against the Heat in over 20 years in Game 1, San Antonio had 17 in Game 2.
Those turnovers didn’t necessarily kill the Spurs on the other end of the floor; The Heat scored just nine points off San Antonio’s nine live-ball turnovers. But they damaged their chances of maintaining the offensive rhythm they had in Game 1. If they’re going to win the series, they’ll need to take care of the ball, while also moving it quickly to their open shooters.
If the Spurs continue to swarm LeBron James and the Heat do the same to Tony Parker, every game could come down to which star has a teammate to step up and make plays. In Game 1, it was Tim Duncan (20 points and four assists). In Game 2, it was Mario Chalmers (19 points and two assists).
Xs and Os:
Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have done well defending James, so well that the Spurs probably don’t need to bring as much help on the MVP as they brought in Games 1 and 2. If the other Spurs can stay at home on the shooters, they can keep Miami’s 3-point game in check. Mario Chalmers (2), Ray Allen (3) and Mike Miller (3) each had multiple threes in Game 2 and are a combined 14-for-24 from beyond the arc in the series. The Heat are 32-1 when they hit 10 or more threes as a team.
The Spurs can’t get caught overplaying pick-and-rolls like they were on multiple occasions in the corner in Game 2. And they must be ready for another wrinkle or two in the Heat’s pick-and-roll game.
Offensively, the Spurs must counter Miami’s aggressive defense on their own pick-and-rolls. The San Antonio bigs have to create a passing lane for Parker to quickly get them the ball. If he can do that, there will be an open shot, an open teammate, or an open lane to the basket.
For more variety in their offense, the Heat can look to get James in the post, where he had only a handful of touches in the first two games.
The aforementioned Allen (6-for-9) and Miller (4-for-5) have found their rhythm from beyond the arc, making the Heat so much more dangerous offensively. Chalmers is 4-for-6 on corner threes, but 0-for-4 from above the break. And though he was the goat for his 3-point misses in Game 1, Chris Bosh is 8-for-14 from mid-range in the series.
On the other end of the floor, Green is 9-for-14 from 3-point range, taking advantage of the attention Miami has been paying to Parker. If the Spurs can get Leonard (1-for-7) also shooting well, they’ll be in good shape.
Whatever happened to…
Manu Ginobili? The Spurs’ third star is 7-for-23 over his last three games and had a hard time just holding onto the ball on Sunday. He was looking to attack Allen off the dribble (a valid game plan), but was moving too fast for his own good. San Antonio needs him back in control for Game 3.