There have been several takeaways through the opening pair of games of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Game 3 will show which team prepared better, taking the first two into strong consideration.
The Spurs were the superior team in Game 1, but Miami destroyed San Antonio in Game 2 to even the series at one win apiece. Most players have been inconsistent, some have stepped up their game, and some need a wake-up call before their team gets eliminated.
So, which factors should we be looking for in Game 3, where the 1-1 tie will be broken?
Here are the three biggest factors for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, analyzing what happened in Game 2, what players and coaches were saying and what could happen in order for the Spurs or Heat to take a 2-1 series lead.
What’s the Deal With LeBron?
LeBron James was nonexistent for the majority of Game 2 against the Spurs. San Antonio limited him to fewer than 20 points for the second consecutive game—which is quite the achievement since he had only scored fewer than 20 twice before the NBA Finals started.
Whether it was the Spurs’ defense or James just taking poor shots, he failed to put the ball in the basket until the fourth quarter. He went 1-of-4 from the field in the first, 1-of-3 in the second and 1-of-6 in the third. Shooting 23.1 percent through the first three quarters certainly didn’t help Miami’s shot at winning.
But James finally started to figure things out in the fourth and made all four shots he took. James finished Game 2 with 17 points, his lowest point total of the postseason and the lowest since March 12 against Atlanta (15 points). Luckily for James and the Heat, other players stepped up while he was cold from the floor.
Here’s what Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today after the Game 2 win regarding James:
“LeBron couldn’t get into a rhythm early on, and other guys stepped up,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He showed great poise and trust in not getting caught up in feeling like he had to make the play or score, but rather either facilitate or let other guys make plays. And that’s what they did.
“Mario was able to make some plays. Ray and Mike both found open gaps for the shooting. Dwayne and CB were able to make plays in the first half, and LeBron was fine with that.”
The Heat still managed to blow out the Spurs despite James’ poor night shooting. While it’s important that Miami brings a balanced attack to San Antonio, the Heat won’t win Game 3 if LeBron doesn’t find his touch. Another 17- or 18-point game might not be enough.
How Do the Spurs Rebound Post-Shellacking?
The Spurs blew their opportunity to head home with a commanding 2-0 lead after an embarrassing loss to the Heat. Very little things went the way San Antonio had planned going into Game 2.
San Antonio’s Big Three, made up of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, didn’t look nearly as solid as they did in Game 1, shooting 10-of-33 combined. Parker had five turnovers, and Ginobili added another three off the bench. Duncan grabbed 11 rebounds but didn’t execute at many of the opportunities he was given.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich explained what went wrong from San Antonio in Game 2, per Sam Amick of USA Today:
“Defense has something to do with it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Just missing shots has something to do with it. No matter how you slice it, it’s 10-for-33. Missing shots and not shooting well and turning it over (17 in Game 2 compared to just four in Game 1) is a bad combination.”
The Spurs were in position to compete for the victory entering the second half but were quickly blown away by the Heat. Through the final pair of quarters, the Heat went on a 33-5 run, which ended any hope of San Antonio taking Game 2 from the hometown Heat.
The Heat are the most dangerous team in the NBA, and the Spurs found that out the hard way in Game 2. When they get just the slightest bit of momentum going, if it isn’t stopped quickly, it won’t stop. The Spurs were outscored by five points in the first half and 14 in the second.
San Antonio has yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason and hasn’t done so since a three-game losing streak toward the end of April. The Spurs can’t allow a huge run again. If they do, they don’t stand a chance. If they can prevent it, San Antonio has a good shot at taking a 2-1 lead.
Can Mario Chalmers Help Carry the Load?
If it weren’t for the play of Mario Chalmers in Game 2, the Heat might be going to San Antonio in a 2-0 hole. But Chalmers really stepped up his game on Sunday night and showed that he can help put points on the board when some of his teammates aren’t.
It’s no secret that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh haven’t been themselves for the majority of the postseason. Wade averaged 24.7 points per game during the regular season but is averaging just 14.1 through 17 playoff games. Bosh averaged 19.5 points per game during the year and now is averaging just 12.3.
Chalmers only contributed 8.4 points per game to the Heat during the year, but he has increased his point averages through each round of the postseason. Below is a breakdown of how he’s played thus far:
In Game 2, Chalmers led all scorers with 19 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown while going 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Ray Allen praised Chalmers for the way he played offensively in Miami’s 19-point victory, according to Alex Kennedy of USA Today:
“He attacked and in the pick-and-roll situation, they’re going under and he’s getting to the paint and making those shots,” Heat guard Ray Allen said. “That forces them to react. And when they have to react, someone else has to help and that’s when there’s a trickle-down effect and our offense starts to kick in. Then, myself, Mike, Bird and CB get shots and that’s really the cadence of how the offense should be.”
If Wade and Bosh are going to be scoring around 10 points per game in the Finals like they did in Game 2, someone else is going to have to pick up the slack. It seems that Chalmers is willing to be that guy, aiding James and the rest of the Heat players. If he can replicate his Game 2 performance, the Heat are in good shape.