The NBA Finals shift to Miami tonight for the next two games (not three!) as the series is tied at one. Game Three winners have historically gone on to win the NBA Finals when the series is tied 1-1, so the tension is high. What will happen next? Let us take you through those answers.
Philip Rossman-Reich: What adjustments does each team need to make entering Game Three? What is your prediction for the game?
Matt Zemek: Game Three will be fascinating in terms of the adjustments the coaches make because this has been a series in which core groups of players are and aren’t producing.
LeBron James-Chris Bosh-Rashard Lewis-half of Ray Allen-half of Dwyane Wade are delivering for the Heat. Norris Cole-Mario Chalmers-Birdman [Chris Andersen]-Others are not.
Tim Duncan-Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili-half of Danny Green-half of Boris Diaw-half of Patrick Mills are making noticeable contributions for the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard-Tiago Splitter-Marco Belinelli-
Game Three comes across to me as a player’s game. The Spurs need Leonard to become what he was in last year’s Finals if they are going to change the tone and trajectory of the competition. The Heat need Chalmers to become what he became in last year’s Finals if they are going to keep home-court advantage. The Spurs need to make a higher percentage of foul shots and stay out of foul trouble on the wings. The Heat need Wade to provide a more substantial scoring presence. One cannot imagine Miami defending its title with Wade playing all six (seven?) games of this series at the level he has demonstrated in the first two games.
The Spurs really struggle in Oklahoma City. They should have won two of three last June in Miami . . . but they wound up losing three of four. Will they be haunted by Biscayne Bay or will they gather themselves? These Spurs are supposed to be better than last year. It is worth trusting them to head back to San Antonio with a 2-2 series at worst.
Philip Rossman-Reich: Both teams have done some very good things in the first two games, it is going to be interesting to see how they change things up for the rest of this series as things shift to Miami.
San Antonio is clearly deciding to defend LeBron James in a similar way that they did last year. They are doubling him hard in the post and laying off him to let him shoot jumpers. The only problem is that through the first two games, James is largely hitting his jumpers. Should San Antonio continue defending him this way if he keeps making his jumpers? This is a big question for Gregg Popovich. I suspect San Antonio will defend him a little bit differently, trying to get him to pass the ball without first attacking and bullying his way to the rim.
The Heat are going to have to continue to find ways to get James the ball in a position that compromises the Spurs defense. That could mean posting him up a little bit more or looking to have him catch the ball more on the run on cuts and curls. That is obviously not his strength, but it is the one thing the Heat can do better than any other team. When they get their guys in motion they can be extremely deadly, especially with the way they can spread the floor. Miami will have to continue to force and capitalize off turnovers while keeping players like James and Dwyane Wade involved in good spots for them to score.
For this game, I think the Heat win sort of running away. That first game back at your home floor is always emotional and Miami has done some really good things in the first two games. It feels like the Heat have a little bit of the upperhand. If I had to pick a score for tonight, I would go Miami 102, San Antonio 95.
Josh Burton: For the Heat, they need to improve their perimeter defense badly. The Spurs made nearly 50 percent of their threes in Game Two (12-for-26) and better than 50 percent of them in Game One (13-for-25). Overall, that makes for a 49 percent effort from distance (25-for-51) thus far in the series, which is a mark that is just too high for Miami to effectively weather.
Led by Danny Green and Manu Ginobili mostly, San Antonio can be lethal from three, and that attribute was a big reason for the Spurs’ Game One win and why Game Two was so close. Sure, the Spurs are talented from downtown, but much of their three-point success in this Finals can be explained by the vast amount of open looks they have had from deep. The Heat’s closing-out on shooters has been lacking in this series and it really needs to improve.
For the Spurs, on the other hand, the key is to make sure no one on the Heat other than LeBron James hurts them on offense. Obviously, LeBron is going to get his points (35 in Game Two) and San Antonio can certainly live with that from one of the NBA’s best players. However, the 18 points from Chris Bosh and 14 points from both Rashard Lewis and Dwyane Wade are what sunk them on Sunday night.
They need to make sure that LeBron is the only Heat player to significantly hurt them scoring-wise, because they need to win Game Three to keep this series in check, and I think they will. The Spurs, with Gregg Popovich, are the best team in the league at realizing their flaws and making the necessary adaptations to fix said mistakes. Tonight, I think they will be able to do just that.
Philip: Since we are on the topic of Game Three, the talk has centered on Dwyane Wade and his flop and what the NBA can do about it. What should the NBA do about this “problem?” Is it a bad thing for the NBA to have star players acting that egregiously?
Matt: As said by someone else on Twitter Sunday night:
Suspensions. RT @rushthecourt: How much would you need to fine Wade to make it not worth it to him to flop to get those two points?
— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) June 9, 2014
The crackdown on flopping is simple: suspensions. Period.
So what if D-Wade has to pay a few thousand bucks? He’ll say the price was worth it, even more so had his flop occurred in the fourth quarter and not the first half.
Philip: While Wade’s flop was especially egregious and is the kind of thing the NBA needs to work out of the game, I am not someone who views flopping as a serious problem. The NBA and basketball media have put a lot more focus on it than it probably deserves. It is human nature to try to sell calls and it is human nature to react to those actions. What the NBA needs to do is continue to use fines to harm players when they get away from it, but the league needs to do a better job training referees to avoid rewarding these awful flops. The players are looking for an advantage, it is not their fault the refs are giving it to them.
Josh: I agree with Matt. Money doesn’t matter to these superstars, so miniscule fines are doing nothing to deter flopping at all.
The only way to get players to seriously stop flopping is by using suspensions to discourage them from doing so. The NBA just needs to find one guy to make an example out of and I don’t think we’ll see much more flopping in these Finals.