The San Antonio Spurs head into South Beach tonight where they look to break the 1-1 NBA Finals series tie against the Miami Heat. The Silver and Black aim to reclaim home-court advantage after it was taken from them by a fully-hydrated LeBron in Game 2. James put up 35 points and 10 rebounds in 98-96 the victory over the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard wasn't there
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker missed four straight free throws late in the game and Manu Ginobili seemed to be trying just a bit too hard down the stretch. But for the Spurs to have a chance at the title, Kawhi Leonard will have to show up.
The two teams now take their talents to South Beach for a couple games where the Heat are 8-0 in the playoffs so far. Being undefeated at home in the postseason is normally quite an accomplishment until you remember who made up the Eastern Conference's top eight teams this year. That being said, the Spurs need to at least split the next two games to have any chance at raising the trophy this year.
One way to do that is to stop LeBron from being THE deciding factor of who wins and loses the game. Game 1 had plenty of ridiculous puns following the most famous leg cramp in recent sports history, but none of it was more annoying than hearing that the Spurs won because of LeBron's absence. As much as I hated hearing, watching, and reading people discuss how the final minutes of Game 1 would've been different if LBJ was on the court, Game 2 showed exactly what a difference it is to have him close the game. We, as Spurs fans, can mock his tendency to flop, say stupid things, and get carried off the court looking like a child, but the dude is one of the most destructive players to have ever played the game and is the best baller in the association for a reason.
James knocked down contested shot after contested shot late in the contest on Sunday, and the Spurs just didn't have as many shots in them. ESPN Stats and Information showed that the "LeBron effect" spreads to his teammates, as well -- calculating that the entire Heat squad shot 60.4% when James was on the court in Game 2 compared to 29.4% when he was off. The distance from the rim Miami shot the ball is closer when LeBron was on the court, too, at 11.5 feet compared to 16.2 feet when he rested.
A few positive notes San Antonio can carry into Game 3 are their stats compared to Miami's. In Sunday's game, the Spurs had more assists than the Heat (26 to 16), more offensive rebounds (11 to 5), more bench points (37 to 12), four more three pointers (12 to 8), one more steal (7 to 6), and two fewer turnovers (11 to 13). It's not often that the team that wins the numbers game in those statistics loses the contest, but that just shows how hot the Heat got towards the end of Game 2. What killed the Spurs was Miami's field goal percentage of 52.9% and the four straight late-game free-throw misses by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
After the first two games of the series, it's clear that this year's edition of Spurs vs Heat has all the makings of another seven game series. Both sides have clearly shown they are the two most deserving squads to be in the position they are in right now, and the quality of the product is evident. San Antonio still looks like the better team after the first two outings and simply needs to hold LeBron to a mortal performance (easier said than done) for the rest of the series. The Heat don't seem to be strong enough outside of their biggest star to fill in the holes left when he is held at bay or on the bench. The Spurs are far deeper and will to need rely on that depth as they trudge through the rest of this Finals series.
Matchup to watch: My matchup to watch in Game 1 was Kahwi and LeBron, BrunoPassos' matchup to watch was the same in Game 2, and I'm keeping it consistent for Game 3. LeBron James can win this title for Miami on his own and the Spurs need Kawhi to do everything he can to be a thorn in his side at all times. Not only that, but he also hasn't really shown up to the Finals yet, offensively. Kawhi scored 9 points in each of the first two games of the Finals, shooting 3-for-5 in Game 1 and 3-for-9 from the field in Game 2. It's almost unfair to put this amount of pressure, both offensively and defensively, on Leonard in this series, but he is a player that has the ability to handle that type of pressure. This battle is going to decide how this series plays out.
|Game 3, 2014 NBA Finals|
|June 10, 2014|
|American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL|
|8:00 pm CST|
|TV: ABC - Radio: 1200 WOAI|
|Mario Chalmers||PG||Tony Parker|
|Dwyane Wade||SG||Danny Green|
|LeBron James||SF||Kawhi Leonard|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Tim Duncan|
|Chris Bosh||C||Tiago Splitter|
|91.2 (27th)||Pace||95.0 (10th)|
|110.9 (5th)||ORtg||110.4 (7th)|
|105.8 (11th)||DRtg||102.4 (3rd)|
Game Prediction: Spurs by 4
Vegas Prediction: Miami by 4.5
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, for real this time, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:
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