In a series where the stars have struggled to get it going consistently, the others have stepped up big. In Game 2 it was Mario Chalmers for the Miami Heat and in Game 3 it was Danny Green and Gary Neal who came up huge for the San Antonio Spurs and led the way in the 113-77 rout. The two well-traveled journeymen combined for 51 points and shot 13 for 19 from the three-point line with Green even displaying some defensive prowess by stifling LeBron James into 7 of 21 shooting and 15 points, 9 of which came in a late third quarter run. Green was a 2009 2nd round selection of the Cleveland Cavaliers but bounced between the NBDL and the NBA even having a previous stint of six games with the Spurs in 2010. Coach Popovich saw enough in him during that short period to bring him back and he eventually signed a 3 year deal in 2012 after finishing 9th in the Most Improved Player Voting in 2011. Gary Neal’s road to the Spurs, involved more frequent flyer miles, after going undrafted out of Townson University in 2007. Three years saw him spend time in Turkey Spain and Italy playing professionally but on Tuesday night he showed the world how the prolific scorer was able to score 1000 points for two different universities. (he averaged 18.6ppg two seasons at LaSalle University)
Conversely the Heat continue to struggle to find consistency offensively. The Big 3 are looking more like the 3 stooges, shooting only 39% from the field with LeBron James not even attempting a free-throw. If it weren’t for spectacular game by Mike Miller, who is continuing his hot shooting in the Finals with 15 points on 5 of 5 shooting from 3, the game could have been a lot worse. Even the hero from Game 2 Mario Chalmers was non-existent, going scoreless on 0 for 5 shooting.
What the Heat must do in Game 4:
Show that the Big 3 visited the Wizard: Each of the three superstars with the heat at some point in the series has gotten away from what made them the dominant player individually and it may be time to get some help to refocus them. LeBron needs to find that courage to exert his will as arguably the best player in the NBA; it is almost scary to see in the statline that he didn’t attempt one foul shot, now some will say the referee non-calls may have contributed to some of that but it seems as if he isn’t looking for the contact. He MUST be more aggressive and drive to the basket or go to the post more where he has shown that he is almost impossible to stop.
Bosh needs to have the heart to get back to what made him a 20 point scorer when he was with the Toronto Raptors, and that is a post player who occasionally shoots a 15-18 foot jumper if open. The worse thing that happened to the Heat in winning last year title was this 6’11 power forward realizing that he could score beyond the three-point line. Now it seems like that’s where he would rather spend all of his time even though his shooting percentage has suffered for it.
Dwyane Wade needs to be smart enough to realize he isn’t the same dominant player he used to be. Asking to be more involved in the offense doesn’t help if he is shooting ill-timed jumpers and not creating off the dribble within the concept of the offense. Even after shooting a decent 7 for 15 in Game 3, he must understand that it may be more of a curse than a gift if he is the leading scorer.
Be balanced: Considering that LeBron James scoring is decreasing, 18-17-15 and he is more content on being a facilitator instead of dominating the score sheet, the rest of the Heat players must contribute something. Mike Miller has shown that he will be a factor but Chalmers, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and even Udonis Haslem must be must do something. Even if it’s not as a scorer they have to serve as a spark through their hustle, steals or rebounding. Even in a game they shot better the Spurs still had 19 offensive rebounds is way too many.
What the Spurs must do in Game 4:
Keep it up: Whether it’s the hot shooting, 50% from three-point land, the great ball rotation that resulted in 29 assists, or the high energy that forced the Heat into 16 turnovers, the Spurs have to operate by the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Even in instances where things may not be going as well, for example Manu Ginobili who is still struggling from the field shooting 37%, the better play from his teammates could result in him getting more efficient looks which could raise that percentage.
Be ready: Not only should Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green expect an angry and determined LeBron James, who will be looking to do more, the entire team needs to expect a greater sense of urgency from every Heat player. While history has shown that 11 out of the last 12 teams who won Game 3 of the NBA Finals went on to win the series, Game 4 is just as important because the percentage of teams winning the series after being down 3-1 in this 2-3-2 format, is almost next to impossible to overcome and the Heat know that.
They also must be prepared to play with an injured Tony Parker, if at all, after he suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter on Tuesday. In playing Parker probably wont be as explosive so it may be necessary for Ginobili or Neal to handle the ball more. Prior to Game 3 the thought of having to rely more on Neal would have caused many Spurs fans to worry but after his 24 point outburst, they wont be as anxious, with some being relieved because he has shot better from the three than Parker, 9-18 compared to 1-2.
No one likes being backed up into a corner and the Miami Heat are one loss away from being at that point and because of this fans should expect to see the same Miami team from Game 2 and Games 5 & 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals who turned up on all levels and dominated in all facets. The determining factor of having the same results in those games is if the Spurs can remain deadly from outside and nullify Miami high energy with their own… 50% from three with that high of a volume in attempts is hard to expect again but if they can make the buckets they do make beyond the arc be timely ones, they could be just as deadly. The adjustments Coach Popovich made between Game 2 and 3 neutralized the advantages the Heat were seeking and because often times its pivotal coaching decision that determines a Finals game, his readiness will trump any explosion LeBron has offensively (and I only mentioned him purposely because I don’t see the Heat contributors outside of 1 or 2 players stepping up) Spurs 94 Heat 89