NBA Finals 2013: Players Who Must Step Up in Game 5

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NBA Finals 2013: Players Who Must Step Up in Game 5
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The San Antonio Spurs were stunned in Game 4 of the 2013 NBA Finals, as the home team couldn’t find a way to get into rhythm on offense and was punished on the defensive end by the Miami Heat.

Now that the series is tied at two games apiece, expect the intensity to ratchet up quite a bit. This best-of-seven has been reduced to a best-of-three, with the side that backs down first in Game 5 almost sure to lose it all.

Let’s take a look at who must step up for each team if they don’t want to go home empty-handed at the conclusion of this epic showdown.

 

Tiago Splitter

The Spurs were manhandled underneath on Thursday night and this Brazilian big man was once again posterized in the process.

While the blocks by Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier weren’t as savage or destructive as LeBron James’ decimating swat in Game 2, they seemed to have a clear impact on Splitter’s psyche.

In just 14 minutes of play, the 28-year-old scored just four points—all on free throws—as his three shot attempts were off the mark. He added just three rebounds and one assist to compliment three turnovers.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra clearly instructed his players to defend the pass when he received the ball in the low-post or after a pick-and-roll, as the 6’11” center was tentative and meek when he did actually attempt a field goal.

If Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is going to keep starting Splitter, the big is going to have to show that he’s no longer afraid and show some confidence when attacking the basket.

 

Dwyane Wade

Wade’s performance in Game 4 was absolutely stunning, as he took a page from his younger days and put the Heat on his back.

He may not have been the leading scorer—those honors go to James and his 33 points—but D-Wade dropped 32 on 14-of-25 shooting and played a whopping 40 minutes in the 109-93 blowout.

Flash also put together one of the better outings in Finals history, grabbing six rebounds and swiping six steals to compliment that massive point total, joining a fraternity that includes Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Julius Erving as the only players to score 30 and grab five rebounds and steals.

Shane Battier was impressed by the vintage display, telling Rachel Nichols it was representative of his showing in the 2006 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

Turns out he was right, as you can see by this graph I’ve created below:

If he can stay hot like this, there’s no doubting that the Heat will win the next two games and celebrate another championship in South Beach.

 

Tony Parker

Parker wasn’t terrible on Thursday, but the blame for the complete meltdown of the Spurs offense has to fall on its floor general.

He played through the pain of a hamstring injury to score 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting and dish nine assists, but his three turnovers were costly and inability to ignite the rest of the San Antonio scorers was noticeable.

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TP is at his best when he’s knifing his way through the different levels of the Miami defense and finishing at the rim or kicking it out to the open man—often not getting credit for what would be a hockey assist after the extra pass is made for a wide-open trey.

With the hamstring an issue and the pick-and-roll game shredded by the shrewd Heat defends playing the lanes, there was only so much Parker could do to help his squad stay competitive.

With a few days of rest, the Spurs will need him to come back better than ever if they are to regain control of this series.

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