NBA Finals: 5 Major X-Factors for the Rest of the Heat-Spurs Series
After two games in Miami, the 2013 NBA Finals is still very much up for grabs.
Game 1 will be remembered for Tony Parker's incredible double-clutch shot that dropped in as the shot clock expired. Game 2 will forever live on through the replays of LeBron James' emphatic block of Tiago Splitter that put an exclamation mark on their dominant second-half performance.
History shows that Game 3 of a tied series in a 2-3-2 format is the turning point as 12 out of 13 teams that won Game 3 went on to win the series since the format started in 1985. Needless to say, the next game is huge.
It would be hard to give either team an advantage at this point as the Miami Heat took back all the momentum with their blowout victory Sunday night, but the San Antonio Spurs stole home-court advantage in what is now a best-of-five series.
This series looks like it could go deep and at a minimum come back to AmericanAirlines Arena for a Game 6. The Spurs are too disciplined and battle-tested to lose three games in a row at home and the Heat are just too talented to fall three consecutive times.
Here are five of the major X-factors that are going to play important factors in determining who will hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy a few weeks from now.
Love it or hate it, the 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals is a major factor now that San Antonio stole one of the first two games on the road.
As Miami did last year after winning Game 2 in Oklahoma City, all the Spurs need to do is win out at home and the series will be over. San Antonio was 35-6 at home in the regular season, and it is 6-1 in this postseason and 9-2 all-time at home in the NBA Finals (all of which Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan were a part of).
Since the format started in 1985, the only other two teams besides last year's Heat to sweep Games 3, 4 and 5 were the 2004 Pistons and 2006 Heat. While it is certainly a possibility for either team to come away as champions in San Antonio, it is highly unlikely.
But due to the fact that the NBA still uses this out-of-date, unfair format for the finals, San Antonio is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to win three in a row at home and end this series early.
One thing that is certain to happen for the rest of the series is that the role players for both the Heat and the Spurs are going to be jacking up a lot of threes.
Both teams were in the top 10 in three-point attempts and in the top three in three-point percentage in the regular season. Due to the attention that both defenses have to pay to the plethora of superstars on the opposing team, the other players on the floor often find themselves with wide-open shots from long distance.
Whichever set of role players steps up more is going to give its team a big advantage. Mike Miller and Ray Allen have both knocked down at least two threes in both games so far and have provided a huge spark off the bench.
Danny Green has been absolutely unconscious, hitting nine threes, including a perfect 5-of-5 in Game 2, and apparently is trying to establish himself as the new Robert Horry in San Antonio.
Other players like Mario Chalmers, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal will also be important pieces to the three-point puzzle. If Shane Battier ever finds himself back in Erik Spoelstra's rotation, his ability to shoot outside could became a factor as well.
Points Off Turnovers
It isn't a coincidence that the team that has won the battle in points off turnovers has walked away victorious in both Games 1 and 2.
Both the Heat and Spurs love to turn their opponent over and get into the fast break, and it is one of the Heat's biggest strengths and often an indicator of their success.
In Game 1, Tony Parker and the San Antonio offense took unbelievable care of the basketball and had a 19-2 edge in points off turnovers. Miami's defense came out in attack mode in Game 2 as it was blitzing pick-and-rolls and sending double-teams at Parker to earn a 15-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
This factor is especially key for the Heat, who pride themselves on the fast break and led the league with 1.22 points per transition possession. If Miami is able to consistently force around 16 turnovers as it did in Game 2, it is going to be incredibly tough for San Antonio to win this series.
How in the world did Manu Ginobili age faster than Tim Duncan?
It doesn't seem that long ago when Ginobili averaged 17.8 points per game in the 2007 NBA Finals, but the Argentinian is far from that player today. If the Spurs are going to win this series, they are going to need their third star to play much, much better than he has so far.
Ginobili did have a hand in their Game 1 victory with 13 points, but he did so on a rough 4-of-11 shooting night. In Game 2, he was a complete non-factor. Ginobili only scored five points on 2-of-6 from the floor and took an ugly minus-23 plus/minus rating in only 18 minutes.
The Spurs do not need Manu Ginobili to be the same player he was in 2007, but they do need him to at least score in double figures on a nightly basis. When Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are getting their rest, he needs to be the guy that leads the offense.
Ginobili had flashes against the Warriors and Grizzlies that proved he still has the ability to take over in a game, and he needs to bring that out on the game's biggest stage if San Antonio wants to have any shot at winning this title.
Manu Ginobili is the most dynamic bench player in this entire series; he just has yet to show it through the first two games.
LeBron Cleveland Mode
One of the best parts of LeBron James' game is that he has an incredible ability to sense exactly what his team needs him to do to win, and then go and do exactly what that is.
At first glance, it may look like James has been a little bit off through two games as he went back-to-back games without scoring 20 points, something he only did once the entire season. But what that statistic fails to show is how big of an impact he is having on other parts of the game.
LeBron's rebounding in Game 1 was incredible and he has served as both a distributor to his teammates and enforcer on defense very well. It truly is amazing how well-rounded of a player he has become.
The guy doesn't have a single flaw.
One thing that we have not seen yet in the 2013 NBA Finals is LeBron go into his Cleveland mode where he takes over the offense completely and pretty much says to the defense, "Have fun trying to stop me."
The two most standout games of this version of LeBron are without a doubt Game 5 against Detroit in 2007 and Game 6 against Boston in 2012. He turned it on multiple times against Indiana, and he will do it again against San Antonio if he needs to.
This is the Heat's biggest hidden card up their sleeve that they can pull out if all else is going wrong. If Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh struggle as they often have in these playoffs and the role players are not knocking down threes, LeBron James may decide that it is time to go back to the Cleveland days.
If it does indeed happen at any point in this series, there might not be anything that Gregg Popovich and his mastermind will be able to do to counter.