During a stoppage in play during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich approached forward Kawhi Leonard and delivered a few friendly punches to his chest.
Such is the unorthodox way in which Popovich chose to congratulate Leonard, who scored a career- and game-high 29 points, lifting the Spurs to a 111-92 win.
Leonard and the Spurs torched the Heat defense on Tuesday, using exquisite passing and deadly jump shooting to capture the 2-1 series lead. When the Finals resume Thursday night for Game 4 in Miami, look for several players to also make a significant impact on the offensive end.
The Heat chose to rest Wade for a large portion of the regular season, with the hope that his wobbly knees would be healthy in time for the playoffs. Well, now is the time for Wade to prove the validity of that approach. Game 4 isn’t a must-win, but a loss would give the Spurs a 3-1 advantage on their home court.
Don’t be surprised if you see the Wade of old in Game 4, bounding and sprinting through the Spurs defense. So far, he’s averaged 18 points in the Finals. Don't be surprised if he explodes for 25+ tonight.
After all, it wasn't that long ago that Wade became famous for plays like these:
This is an important game for Chalmers. With much talk of his confidence dipping after Game 3 (he had 2 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds), he will need to respond well in this game. It’s not like he hasn’t had success in the Finals before—he had a game-high 19 points in Miami’s Game 2 win last year.
"But obviously right now he's been struggling a lot. But the number one thing is he can't lose confidence in himself. Before we can give him confidence as a teammate, he has to believe in himself that he can make plays."
Chalmers’ performance tonight could have implications regarding his overall value as a player. I think he’ll step up simply because he needs to.
Video sessions were probably not fun for the Heat players after Game 3. Coach Erik Spoelstra undoubtedly chastised his team for allowing the Spurs to shoot so many open jumpers. Expect the Heat to clamp down on defense in Game 4, clogging passing lanes.
In turn, the Spurs will need to rely a bit more on their star players to get things done offensively. Tony Parker is due for a big game, and the circumstances will probably trigger Parker to pace the Spurs in scoring.
Similarly to Parker, Duncan will have to step up out of sheer necessity. The Heat will make it harder for the Spurs’ role players to shine, leaving it to the stars to get things done for the Spurs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see San Antonio dump the ball to Duncan in the post a bit more than usual.