Game 4 of the NBA Finals didn’t just tie the series between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, it raised several questions as to what’s to come in Game 5 as well.
Both teams have been inconsistent this series and that’s why we’ve seen so many lopsided games. The average margin of victory through the first four games is nearly 19 points, which shows how all-or-nothing the Heat and Spurs have been to this point in the NBA Finals.
The winner of Game 5 is going to have a major advantage going forward, needing to win one of the following two games to raise the banner at the beginning of next year. The answers to the following questions should determine which team takes a 3-2 series lead and which is a game away from being eliminated.
So, what should you be watching for from each conference champion in Game 5? Here are three questions that are sure to be answered by the time the Heat and Spurs board the plane en route to Miami for Game 6 of the series.
Will Tony Parker’s Hamstring Affect His Play?
The Spurs will not win the title if Tony Parker isn’t his usual self in Game 5. Giving Miami a 3-2 lead with a pair of games remaining at home is a death sentence for any team. Parker’s hamstring is going to play a big role in whether the Spurs head back to Miami up a game or down a game in the series.
It’s certainly never good when a player says that his hamstring can tear “anytime now,” which is what Parker told reporters after Game 4, according to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
“If it was the regular season, I would be resting like 10 days,” Parker said. “But now it’s the NBA Finals. If it gets a tear, it’s life.”
Parker has not been at his best all series long. Just take a look at how many points he’s scored through the first four games of the NBA Finals compared to his points per game averages for the other three series the Spurs have played this postseason. His recent play doesn’t even come close how he did earlier in the playoffs.
The Heat and Spurs have now traded blowouts in each of the last three games. Game 5 is a must-win for San Antonio and if Parker can’t step his game up, the Spurs are going to get shellacked for the third time in the last four games.
Parker is going to let his hamstring tear just to try to win the series for the Spurs. But it’ll all be for naught if San Antonio doesn’t win Game 5—and whether that happens relies a lot on how Parker’s hamstring holds up throughout the 33 or so minutes that he’s expected to play.
Is Manu Ginobili Going to Show Up?
Where in the world has Manu Ginobili been this postseason and more specifically, these NBA Finals? For a guy that’s been so reliable for such an extended period of time, he’s really played poorly throughout the playoffs. If the Spurs lose Game 5, he’ll likely be a major reason why.
During the regular season, Ginobili was averaging 11.8 points per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field. While he’s averaging around a point less in the postseason, he’s only shooting 37.7 percent. Everything has become unraveled in the Finals, though, as he’s scored just 30 points in four games and is shooting 34.5 percent.
That’s completely unaccepted for someone that’s getting 24 minutes of action on the court each game. Spurs coach Greg Popovich might be better off giving Ginobili’s time to someone else if he’s going shoot around 35 percent each time he takes the floor. At this point, he’s more of a liability than an asset.
This is what Popovich said of Ginobili in a conference call, according to Nate Taylor of The New York Times:
“He’s having a tough playoffs, and he hasn’t really found a rhythm or found his game yet,” Popovich said in a conference call. He added: “I think that he’s obviously not as confident as usual, and he knows full well that he hasn’t performed the way he would like and the way he’s used to. But it’s simplistic to say, ‘What are we going to do to get him going?’ He’s going to get himself going, or he won’t. He knows that he’s got to play better for us to be successful.”
So, will Ginobili get going in Game 5 or will he continue to shoot bricks and play like a rookie that’s well out of place?
Will the Big 3 Stay Hot?
While LeBron James has done much of the dirty work for the Heat throughout the NBA Finals, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh both emerged in Game 4 to aid Miami’s 16-point victory over the Spurs. It was the first game this series where the Heat’s Big 3 really came alive and did serious damage.
Through the first three games against San Antonio, the Big 3 averaged just 43.3 points per game combined. In Game 5, they nearly doubled that average, putting 85 points on the board amongst the three of them. But can James, Wade and Both play a second straight strong game?
Wade and Bosh have been two large liabilities for the Heat throughout most of the postseason—whether it is shooting poorly or just not playing well altogether. Those times may be behind two-thirds of the Big 3, though, after their respective Game 4 performances.
The Heat have won this postseason when Wade and Bosh have not been at their best and Miami could probably still win this series if it’s just the LeBron show for the next three games. Playing a balanced game is what takes a lot of pressure of James, though, and every point that Wade or Bosh scores is one that James doesn’t have to.
We know what James, Wade and Bosh are capable of doing when they are all shooting well and playing together. They did it in Game 4. Will they do it in Game 5?