After two enjoyable games in South Beach, the NBA Finals are headed to the great state of Texas all knotted up at one apiece. After San Antonio came away with an impressive Game 1 victory, Miami came roaring back in Game 2 with the blowout win.
The Spurs and Heat find themselves tied up with the next three games in San Antonio. Saying Game 3 is pivotal would be an understatement. In NBA Finals history, after a series is tied 1-1, the team that wins Game 3 has gone on to win 46 of the 54 series, per whowins.com. Therefore, the winner of Game 3 wins the series over 85 percent of the time.
Last season, Miami split the first two games in Oklahoma City against the Thunder, then won Game 3 and went on to win the Finals. In the 2003 Finals, the Spurs split the first two games against the New Jersey Nets in San Antonio, then won the pivotal Game 3 en route to becoming NBA Champions. Both of these teams know what is at stake Tuesday night, and both coaches are prepared.
Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has been in this business for a long time, and has been here before. He will know how to prepare his team. There are two big adjustments that he must make for Game 3.
The first adjustment is to focus on the turnovers. In Game 1, the Spurs committed only four turnovers. In Game 2, they had that many in the first quarter alone, finishing with 16 turnovers. The Heat outscored the Spurs in fastbreak points 13-3.
Teams cannot turn the ball over like that against Miami and come out on top. The Heat love to force turnovers and get out on the fastbreak. Miami has tremendous quickness and athleticism that make it one of the best fastbreak teams in the league. If the Spurs continue to commit turnovers, the Heat will continue to strike like lightning.
The other big adjustment San Antonio must make is their shooting, especially among the Big 3. Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan combined for just 10-33 from the field. That's not going to cut it against this Miami team.
Popovich must design some plays to free up Tony Parker. Miami defended him well last game, and it seemed they knew what he was going to do before he even did it. Parker is the catalyst of this offense, and Pop needs to free him up so he can score and distribute effectively. Once Parker gets it going, the rest of the offense will flow through him.
As for Miami, it's hard to imagine they need to adjust after a blowout victory, but they still have room for improvement. Miami lost the homecourt advantage in Game 1, and Game 2 was close until a tremendous run to end the third quarter and start the fourth.
The most important adjustment Coach Erik Spoelstra must make is to get off to a good start. San Antonio has gotten off to a quick start both games so far. Especially in Game 2, LeBron James and Co. did not come out firing.
San Antonio is one of the toughest places to play. The Heat must start off hot and take the crowd out of the game before they get loud. If the Spurs gain an early lead, Miami won't have the crowd behind them to spark a comeback, like in the first two games. Therefore, they must come out inspired and ready to play.
The other main adjustment Miami must account for is guarding the three. Danny Green and Gary Neal were en fuego in Game 2, keeping the Spurs in the game the entire first half. The Spurs shot 50 percent from three in Game 2, which is impressive on the road in the playoffs.
When the threes are falling, San Antonio is scary good on offense. Miami must defend the three as much as possible and not allow the Spurs to run up the score. The Spurs are at their best when they can drain the three ball, so Miami has to look out for that.
Game 3 has all of the elements to be one for the ages. Miami will be looking to take back homecourt advantage while the Spurs will try to defend their home floor.
San Antonio must flow through Parker and watch their turnovers. Miami needs to get off to a quick start and prevent the threes. Both teams know what they must do, but which one will come out on top in this pivotal game 3?