Here's a look at these role players and what they need to do for their respective teams.
Boris Diaw. He simply needs to show up. He averaged 18.0 minutes per game in the Memphis series and 17.8 minutes per game in the Golden State series. But, so far this series he has only averaged 10.0 minutes a game.
And speaking of showing up, one made basket will do for Diaw and the Spurs. The Spurs are 9-0 this playoffs when he scores just two points or more.
A close counterpart to Diaw is the Heat's Shane Battier. Battier's minutes have decreased rapidly since a game four loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. Battier is a player who needs to start pulling his weight.
In playoff games that Battier plays 20 minutes or more, the Heat are 9-0. They are 4-5 in all other playoff games. For a guy who has averaged 18.9 playoff minutes per game leading up to the finals, 5.5 is not going to get it done.
Battier's minutes must come with an increased physical presence. Battier is usually the player who enters for Chris Bosh, but as of late, Chris Andersen and his tenacity have been first off the bench for Bosh.
As the sixth man for the Spurs, Manu Ginobili spells Kawhi Leonard. So far this series, Leonard's defense on LeBron James has been outstanding. When Ginobili comes in, his offense must be a dominating presence for the Spurs.
With fresh legs off the bench, Ginobili can run up and down the court wearing down James. On offense, Ginobili needs to frequently run off screens and drive the lane, making James work more on defense. Another game with five points won't get it done.
On the other side, Norris Cole is a player that can get out on a fast break and not look back. In the second half of Game 2, the Heat ran their offense through the fast break. This strategy contributed to their beatdown of the Spurs.
More fast breaks by LeBron and the Heat will run down the older Spurs. With so much speed and quickness, Cole and the Heat must run them out of the gym every game.
Now as Game 3 heads back to San Antonio, where the Spurs have only lost six games all year, these bench players must step up for their teams respectively. Could Boris Diaw score two points in each of the next three games and intangibly win the Spurs a championship?
Possibly, but he'll still need to pick up his minutes.
Look for the key of this series to be the wear and tear on each team. Can Ginobili wear down LeBron? Can Cole tear down the Spurs? If both happen, the shutting down of James will outweigh the fast breaks of Cole.
I expect Ginobili and the Spurs in six.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!