With a convincing win in Miami on Sunday night, the Heat evened out the series against the San Antonio Spurs and put themselves in position to gain considerable momentum in San Antonio this week.
But winning on the road in the NBA Finals is no easy task, especially against arguably the most experienced team in the league.
The Spurs didn’t show that veteran experience in Game 2, though, as Miami ran away with a 103-84 blowout victory. On the shoulders of another terrific performance from LeBron James (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks), Miami trounced the Spurs en route to a 1-1 series tie as the matchup heads to San Antonio.
For all the extra rest the Spurs managed prior to the finals, it didn’t take long for the Heat to catch up. By all indications, the remainder of the series should be an extremely competitive affair.
With a 2-3-2 series format, Gregg Popovich’s squad has a chance to do some serious damage on its home floor, however. Splitting a pair on the road may have been enough to give the Spurs a decided edge in the series.
Let’s look ahead to the final games of the NBA Finals and make some predictions for what to expect as the series concludes.
Fixing the Fundamental
The “Big Fundamental” was fundamentally awful in Game 2 Sunday night. After posting 20 points and 14 rebounds on 8-of-19 shooting in Game 1, Tim Duncan shot just 3-of-13 from the floor in the ensuing contest, en route to perhaps the worst NBA Finals game of his 16-year career.
It was the kind of performance few would have expected from one of the league’s best big men, especially against a Heat squad that struggled mightily to combat the Indiana Pacers in the paint last round.
Don’t expect the same from Duncan in the next three games.
The 37-year-old’s shot selection wasn’t bad in either contest, but as quoted by Matt Moore of the CBS Sports, he just didn’t get the results he was hoping for:
I know I played awfully. Whatever it may be, they responded better than us. I look at my shots and they are the shots I want. Obviously, they're contested shots, but they're shots I feel I can make. So whether it be them or me or whatever it may be, I'm going to get back in the gym tomorrow and hopefully come out with a better stroke.
When Duncan says he’s going to work on something, expect him to work on it.
That’s not to say the Heat didn’t play Duncan perfectly in Game 2. But Duncan has been playing at an elite level for a long time, and he understands how to make adjustments on the fly.
Expect Duncan to turn things around at home and erase the memories of a putrid Game 2 performance in Miami.
Prediction for Duncan’s next three games: 18.7 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game
A D-Wade Resurgence
Winning Game 2 was a team effort predicated on balanced scoring and strong team defense, but the Heat can’t expect the same results going forward without a little more help from Dwyane Wade.
Hobbled by injuries throughout the playoffs, the 31-year-old hasn’t looked like the player many expected to see in the Heat’s pursuit of another title in the Big Three era.
In Game 2, Wade tallied just 10 points in 30 minutes on the floor, but he also added six assists and settled into a more facilitative role, with Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen picking up much of the offensive slack. As encouraging as those performances were, it’s unlikely we see the pair combine for 32 points every night.
As Wade proved in Game 7 of the conference finals, he still has the ability to turn it on with the game on the line. If Miami hopes to elude San Antonio on its home floor, that’s exactly what will have to happen.
Miami simply must take two of three from the Spurs at the AT&T Center in order to feel confident with its chances of winning the series. With his team’s back against the wall, expect Wade to step up with a couple quality performances, including one dominating showing in a Miami victory.
Game 4 Prediction: Miami 99-87 victory; Wade: 22 points, five assists, five rebounds
(Nearly) Over in Five
Miami is riding a ton of momentum after an impressive second-half showing against the Spurs in Game 2. But despite that performance, San Antonio isn’t a team to back down on the heels of an embarrassing loss.
For a team that went 35-6 at home during the regular season, the next three games will be a much-needed boost and a chance to silence Miami prior to its return to AmericanAirlines Arena—provided the two teams make it that far.
Home-court advantage is an overrated factor in uneven matchups, but this isn’t an uneven matchup. In a series that features the two best teams in the NBA, that particular factor will make all the difference.
Expect Miami to rebound from a Game 3 loss with a series-tying victory in Game 4, only to head back to Miami facing a difficult 3-2 series deficit.
Should the Heat fail to take two of three from the Spurs on the road, consider this series virtually over.
|3||San Antonio 101, Miami 95|
|4||Miami 99, San Antonio 87|
|5||San Antonio 94, Miami 84|
|6||San Antonio 88, Miami 86|
San Antonio wins series in six games.