When the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs take the court for Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals on Tuesday night, there are a few players that you need to pay extra attention to.
Who wins Game 3?
Why? Because these three players are going to determine who goes up 2-1.
Games 1 and 2 were completely different from one another. Game 1 was a balanced attack by the Spurs that was just enough to get by the Heat. Game 2 was also won collectively and not because of a monster game from one or two players, but it was Miami on top, and now the Heat come to San Antonio looking to win a game or two—or potentially three—on the road.
Which conference champion is going to take Game 3? It’s up to these three players to determine whether the Heat or Spurs are just a pair of victories away from being NBA champions entering Game 4.
Tim Duncan, F, San Antonio Spurs
We’ve seen two completely different Tim Duncans through the opening two games of the NBA Finals. In Game 1, Duncan was great, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while also adding three assists and a trio of blocks. He was one of the main reasons the Spurs were able to take a 1-0 series lead over the Heat.
But in Game 2, Duncan was one of the main reasons why the Heat managed to tie up the series. Duncan was terrible offensively, and if it weren’t for the 11 rebounds he had, it would’ve been one of his worst games of the playoffs. He shot 3-of-13 from the field and finished with nine points, his lowest total since Game 1 against Memphis.
Game 2 was Tim Duncan's worst shooting performance in an NBA Finals game: 3-13, 23.1%.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 10, 2013
So which Duncan should we expect to see in Game 3? Here’s what the forward told Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick of USA Today regarding the third game of the NBA Finals:
“We have three at home, so we’re excited about that,” Spurs power forward Tim Duncan said. “But if we play like we did [Sunday], that’s not going to matter.
“It’s about getting refocused, playing a much better game, ending quarters and hopefully shooting better.”
At home this postseason, Duncan has actually shot worse and averaged fewer points per game than on the road. During the regular season, though, things were the other way around—but not by a wide margin. A lot is riding on Game 3 and without a strong performance from Duncan, the Spurs could be in trouble going forward.
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat
If Miami is going to win Game 3 on the road, Dwyane Wade is going to have to play considerably better than he has so far in the NBA Finals and in the entire postseason. Wade—as well as Chris Bosh—has been non-existent for most of the playoffs, and the Heat need their star guard now more than ever.
After a poor Game 7 performance in the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade looked alive in the first game of the Finals. He went 7-of-15 from the field and finished with 17 points, three points higher than his postseason average—he averaged 29 points per game during the regular season.
Wade was back in his recent ways in Game 2, though. He was 5-of-13 from the field, missed both attempts at the free-throw line and had six assists and two rebounds. Luckily the Heat played well enough collectively where he didn’t need more than the 10 points he ended up scoring.
The Heat aren’t going to win three more games this series if Wade isn’t scoring at least 20 points per game. Miami can’t expect Mario Chalmers to score 19 points. It also can’t expect the bench to play as well as it did in Game 2.
Miami needs a monster game from Wade. He’s capable of it, but just hasn’t been able to show it yet.
Kawhi Leonard, F, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard is easily one of the most important Spurs players this series. It’s not because of whatever offense he can contribute, though. It’s all about limiting LeBron James to as few opportunities to score as possible. That’s not an easy job for any defender in the league, but he’s been good so far.
If there's a manual for how to defend LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard is the author— J.A. Adande (@jadande) June 10, 2013
Through the first two games of the series, James hasn’t scored more than 20 points in either, and most of the credit has to go in Leonard’s direction.
LeBron James was 2-8 with avg FG distance of 16.4 ft when guarded by Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 (5-8 FG, 8.9 distance vs other defenders)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 10, 2013
Here’s what Leonard told Alex Kennedy of USA Today about his big job in the NBA Finals after Game 1:
“I just try to stay in contact with him, making him take tough shots and making him score over me,” Leonard said. “I just try to stay in front of him. There are some things that we still need to cut off. He had a lot of points at the basket. And it was just one game. He could come out here and have a better game than that [in Game 2].”
James didn’t have a better game in Game 2. He scored fewer points than he did in Game 1, shot worse from the field and wasn’t close to a second straight triple-double. Leonard has stayed strong against the NBA’s best player, and if San Antonio ends up winning the title, it’ll be partly because of his defense.