LeBron James suffered endless criticism for leaving Game 1 with cramps in the Miami Heat's eventual 110-95 loss. James, as the NBA's resident apex predator, came roaring back in Game 2 with 35 points and 10 rebounds to propel his team to a 98-96 victory.
The Spurs then raised basketball to its platonic ideal with one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA Finals history en route to a 111-92 Game 3 win.
ESPN Stats & Info showed us just how ridiculously hot the Spurs were on Tuesday night:
The Spurs opened Game 3 by making 19 of 21 shots from the field.-- take a look-- pic.twitter.com/etmHQenfhM— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
The Heat looked rather helpless for the majority of the contest. Remember, these are the two-time defending champs we're talking about here.
The onslaught of awesome the Spurs unleashed in Game 3 puts them in the driver's seat for the remainder of the series. It will take a Herculean effort from James and the Heat to turn this series around, especially if some key members of the Spurs continue their outsized influence on the proceedings.
Here is the television information for those basketball fans who can't fathom missing a minute of NBA Finals action.
|Heat||Spurs||June 12||9 p.m.||ABC||Spurs 2-1|
Game 4 Preview: Players to Watch
ESPN's Skip Bayless had the right advice for Kawhi Leonard after Game 2.
Kawhi Leonard has to quit hesitating and just go up and shoot it like the rising star he is. Nearly every time he shoots with conviction …— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 9, 2014
The message definitely sank in.
Leonard's 29-point outburst in Game 3 could hardly have been more surprising based on his meek statistics from the first two games.
|Game||Points||Field goals made/attempted||Field-goal percentage||Rebounds||Assists||Fouls|
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich thinks foul trouble might have contributed to Leonard's timid play, as per David J. Neal of the Miami Herald: "I think the foul situations the first two games, really he overreacted to them and became very cautious and he doesn’t play like that. He’s got to be really active at both ends.”
If the Heat need to go tit for tat with the Spurs' shooters for the remainder of the series, they will have to rely on their own sharpshooter in Ray Allen to pave the way.
Allen isn't particularly vocal, but he did offer his opinion on the Game 3 debacle, via Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun:
"Nothing to do with guys not coming to play. They had a good floor game and took it to us." -Ray Allen— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) June 11, 2014
The aging Allen is still primed to be influential, as shooting mechanics are less apt to deteriorate with age than high-flying athleticism. His veteran leadership is also a plus despite his reduced role.
As Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe notes, Allen brings a wealth of experience and a willingness to be a role player:
Allen makes no apologies for being nearly 39 years old. He has played the most regular-season games of anyone from his draft, 13 more than Derek Fisher and 55 more than Kobe Bryant. He has etched his role in Miami as a sharpshooter, a floor-stretching guard who makes the most of his minutes.
It’s not the role he had in Boston, not even close. But Allen has gratefully accepted a reduced responsibility for an opportunity to win more rings.
Allen is 6-of-15 from three-point range in this series, a solid rate for the wily veteran. The Heat would be wise to get Allen the ball early and often in Game 4.
An early barrage of threes can whip the home crowd into a frenzy and take pressure away from Rashard Lewis, who's performed admirably but shouldn't be relied upon for an entire series.
The legendary Tim Duncan was quick to credit Danny Green and Leonard for the Spurs' Game 3 performance, as per Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy.
Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green: "They were the keys to the game. They took over the game."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 11, 2014
Green kicked his offense into high gear in Game 3. He was brutally efficient, going 7-of-8 from the field and tallying 15 points.
How will the 2014 NBA Finals play out?
Green is no stranger to historic shooting performances in the NBA Finals. He hit a Finals-record 27 shots from three-point range in 2013 against the Heat. His performance Wednesday must have triggered some nauseating flashbacks for his opponents.
His game did have more than one dimension on Tuesday night; Green collected five steals, and his energetic defense was a big reason the Heat coughed up 20 turnovers. His long wingspan and excellent instincts make him a dangerous two-way threat in this series.
If Green can take away possessions from the Heat and build upon his strong shooting performance from Game 3, the Heat will be unable to keep up with the Spurs for the remainder of the series.