After a split in the first two games of the NBA Finals in Miami, the next three will be held in San Antonio with both teams possessing the potential to close out the series.
Each team perfectly utilized their blueprints for success in keeping the series even at 1-1. With momentum at a stalemate, here are the matchups to keep an eye on in Game 3.
LeBron vs. Himself
Players like Mario Chalmers can't consistently be depended upon for performances like in game two, so LeBron has to make sure he doesn’t beat himself by trying to do too much. He needs to keep finding open shooters no matter how many times they miss.
LeBron forces too many shots late but facilitating often takes pressure off of him to score. If LeBron can hold onto the belief that being like “Magic” the majority of the contest isn't a bad thing, he’ll likely be able to become “MJ” if he needs to late in the game.
Miami’s Pressure vs. San Antonio’s Efficiency
Game 1 was all about Tony Parker who shot 50 percent from the floor for 21 points and 6 assists. Miami was only able to force four turnovers in that game, which the Spurs took advantage of with 40 points in the paint.
Miami dialed up the pressure in Game 2 and played at a fast pace that led to a 33-to-5 run. They forced the Spurs into 17 turnovers and wore them out to get open shots, shooting 52.6 percent from the three-point stripe.
When Miami is aggressive on both the offense and defense they are a more efficient team. When San Antonio controls the tempo of the game and runs the offense through the post, they usually knock down open shots when the defense falters.
Game 3 will come down to who can wear down their opponents and open up opportunities for easy shots.
Erik Spoelstra vs. Gregg Popovich
After a slow start by James in Game 2, Spoelstra got his team going offensively with the pick-and-roll which allowed LeBron to get some easy buckets and kick out to open shooters. The Heat shot 49.3 percent because of it.
Tim Duncan and Thiago Splitter just couldn’t convert in the low post in Game 2 for the Spurs, going a combined 5-of-18 as opposed to 11-of-25 in Game 1. Popovich needs to run his defense through the high post to give other guys cutting lanes to score more efficiently in the paint in Game 3.
The matchup of game plans will be the X-Factor in Game 3.
The first two games have showed everyone that this series will not simply be “Big 3” vs. “Big 3,” but rather game plan vs. game plan.
Whichever team can remain true to their identity will come out on top in Game 3.