The 2014 NBA Finals have been a non-stop adrenaline rush, from the air-conditioning malfunction in Game 1 to LeBron James' masterful performance in Game 2. Now the action shifts to Miami for what's sure to be a memorable battle between the Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
Everyone wants to attribute LeBron's 35-point, 10-rebound showing in Miami's victory on Sunday as redemption following the criticism he endured for missing nearly seven minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 1 with cramps.
To do so is to miss the bigger picture, which is that LeBron happens to be the best player in the world and is more than capable of taking over when the moment requires him to.
As we prepare for Game 3, here is a look at what you can expect to see and where to find all the action.
2014 NBA Finals Game 3 Schedule
When: Tuesday, June 10
Where: American Airlines Arena in Miami
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBA.com
Game 3 Predictions
Gregg Popovich Will Finally Adjust His Defense
There aren't many defenders who can stop LeBron, but Kawhi Leonard has been particularly ineffective through two games. Even factoring in the last quarter of Game 1, which he missed most of due to leg cramps, King James is averaging 30 points, eight rebounds, three assists and 2.5 steals in the first two games.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was asked by ABC sideline reporter Doris Burke (via Yahoo Sports' Johnny Ludden) what he wanted to see from LeBron in the fourth quarter of Game 2. In typical Pop fashion, he simply said he'd "like to see LeBron play poorly."
Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, noted in his NBA Finals preview that Popovich was more than willing to give LeBron and Dwyane Wade jumpers last year and how that appeared to be a good strategy this year.
James is shooting 81 percent at the rim, and scoring on 69 percent of his drives; Wade is shooting 62 percent in the paint and scoring on 57 percent of his drives. But from mid-range? LeBron is at 42, Dwyane is at 39. So how do you think Pop will structure his defense?
Whatever the strategy is in the huddle, it hasn't worked. James is shooting 59 percent and Wade is at 48 percent.
Popovich has a well-deserved reputation as the best coach in basketball right now, but leaving Leonard on the floor to get eaten alive one-on-one against James isn't doing anyone any favors.
Rashard Lewis Will Play a Key Role
If I would have told you before the Finals began that Rashard Lewis would have scored 24 total points in the first two games, would you have believed me? How about this stat from HoopsHype:
The brilliance of Lewis' role with the Heat is its simplicity. He's not being asked to do more than hang around the perimeter, wait for LeBron to find him and fire an open shot. It's worked to perfection thus far to the tune of 9-for-19 from the field and 5-for-13 from three-point range.
San Antonio has gotten in the habit of collapsing in the lane when LeBron or Wade begin to drive, leaving Lewis free to do his own thing. The Heat have desperately needed his offense since the bench has contributed just 32 points through two games.
Championship teams get to that level by receiving contributions from unlikely sources. Lewis is long past the point where he is a star, but he still has the ability to be effective in the right system.
Miami Will Win Game 3
In the fast-paced, instant-reaction world we live in, there was a rush to proclaim San Antonio champions after Game 1. What was overlooked in that game, though, was that the Heat were winning 86-84 until they lost their best player.
After LeBron left, the Spurs closed the game on a 26-9 run that made the game look more lopsided than it ever really was.
Fast-forward to Game 2, with LeBron back at full strength: The Heat withstood an early surge from the Spurs before closing the gap at halftime and finishing things late in the fourth quarter with a clutch three-pointer from Chris Bosh.
The point being for all of San Antonio's depth, it's still having all sorts of problems containing the Heat with LeBron on the floor. Popovich hasn't found an answer to slow down the four-time MVP in the Finals.
There's no denying the Spurs are the deeper team, but in the NBA all you need to win a championship is the best player on the floor, a healthy Wade and sharpshooters lined up to take advantage when the defense hones in on one spot.
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