Game Four of the NBA Finals takes place tonight in Miami. And after the way San Antonio dominated Game Three, there are some serious questions for Miami. The Heat must win this game with Game Five back in San Antonio. Today we ask how San Antonio can take complete control over this series:
Philip Rossman-Reich: The Heat’s prowess in bouncing back in games after losing the previous one is well documented. What do the Spurs need to do to stop this trend and take command of this series?
Matt Zemek: Keep this point in mind: The Spurs scored 40 points in the second half of Game Three . . . and still won by 19.
For all the great things San Antonio did in the first half of Game 3, the team cooled off in the second. What this says, at least to me, is that the Spurs do not have to produce 35-point quarters to win. If they can regularly hit the 25- to 28-point mark in four separate quarters, the Heat’s lack of a deep, high-scoring bench will make it hard for the defending champions to keep pace.
Where are the non-Big Three/Lewis/Ray Allen points going to come from on the Miami roster? If San Antonio plays a steady offensive game and produces something in the area of 102 to 108 points, I don’t think the Heat will win.
Miami wants this series to be ugly. In Game Three, San Antonio made it pretty. The Spurs probably cannot expect Kawhi Leonard to go off again in Game Three, and they also cannot expect Danny Green to be as relentlessly good as he was on Tuesday night, either.
This feels like a game in which Parker and Ginobili take on more of the scoring workload. Boris Diaw facilitating the offense with his passing is something the Heat will focus on taking away, so Parker (even more than Manu) should get a fair share of chances to create something.
If Parker plays his best game of the series, the Spurs can establish the kind of game they want on offense.
If Ginobili is able to excel as Parker’s backup, San Antonio can hit its scoring targets and continue to thrive on offense without need of 33-, 35-, or 37-point quarters.
Philip: To me, the Spurs’ success so far in this series has come down to their ability to take care of the ball. They have to continue to be aware of when they get stuck playing one-on-one basketball and start turning the ball over and get back to the simple things they do like moving the ball to get guys open.
When the passing is crisp and quick, the Spurs are unbeatable. When it gets stuck, the Heat defense has been able to swarm and recover.
All three of these games have largely been determined on turnovers. In the second and third quarters of Game One, the Spurs turned the ball over at an alarming rate — committing 12 of 22 turnovers and posting a 24.0 percent turnover rate for the game. If the Heat did not have their own problems with turnovers, the Spurs might have lost Game One.
When the Heat did sneak the score back into a manageable deficit in Game Three, the Spurs turned the ball over and the offense got stuck. San Antonio has to manage those periods when they are struggling to move the ball better.
This is exactly the points Gregg Popovich said his team will struggle. This is where the Spurs have to push through and increase their defensive intensity to take control of this series.
Josh Burton: The Spurs, in order to win this game and go up 3-1 in the series, just have to continue to attack the rim and keep up their offensive intensity and execution from Game Three. In the NBA, if teams can establish dominant interior presences, then the perimeter opens up for less-contested three-pointers and mid-range jumpers. For a good shooting team like the Spurs, all they need are some open three-point opportunities to get hot and put points up quickly.
Also, even for as resilient a team as the Heat are, nothing is more deflated then watching an opponent–on your home court, nonetheless–knock down three after three after three while there is nothing you can do to stop it, because of how potent the post offense is. That would create a lose-lose situation for Miami that would all but make a win easy to attain for San Antonio.
As Phil noted, turnovers have also been huge in this series, and San Antonio’s dominance in that category will only change with increased Heat defensive execution. This is only possible if the Spurs can’t establish interior scoring, which would hurt their perimeter scoring as well, making them uncomfortable on offense leading to turnovers.