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NBA Finals Game 3 preview: Spurs need to get into the paint, keep LeBron out of it

Jun 10, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

LeBron James, Chris Bosh LeBron James, Chris Bosh

Game 2 of these NBA Finals will be remembered for LeBron James going off. As they should be. He did, to the tune of 35 and 10, plus he got other teammates involved late.

But that’s not the only Spurs problem from Game 2.

Miami played much improved defense in Game 2. That defensive energy and strategy are something coming on the plane with them back to Miami and Game 3 at the American Airlines Arena on Tuesday night. It’s what the Spurs have to adjust to if they are going to steal a game in Florida and even the series.

Miami is 8-0 in the playoffs at home, although they came out of the weak East so take that number with a few grains of salt.

In Game 2 Miami mostly switched pick-and-rolls, which they can do because Chris Bosh is one of the better pick-and-roll defending big men in the NBA (he can challenge the ball handler, then recover as needed, plus he did a good job of closing out on Boris Diaw at the arc in the final minutes). This was a change from the Heat’s default defense of trapping the ball handler, and it worked because with the switch the other defenders could stay home on their shooters. The bottom line is it kept the Spurs from just owning the paint — San Antonio took 11 midrange jumpers in Game 1 and 23 in Game 2. They did take a step back and hit nine three pointers in the second half of Game 2, but they need to get into the paint more.

That is the Spurs challenge in Game 3 is to get back inside consistently — then finish the play. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter were a combined 14-of-16 shooting in the paint in Game 1, but in Game 2 they shot just 8-of-14 in the restricted area as the more aggressive Heat challenged everything.

One thing to watch for, which we saw a little of in Game 2, was the lineup the Spurs used a lot in 2013 — Tim Duncan in the paint and four perimeter players to space the floor around him. Splitter may start but the two big thing is not where the Spurs will spend most of the game. (Boris Diaw lets Popovich go small without actually going small.)

With Miami back home you can expect another good game from LeBron, but the real key is the support. Chris Bosh continues to space the floor and hit big shots. Dwyane Wade has been solid but expect in one of these next to games for him to do more than just flop on Manu Ginobili. The other big key is so far has been Rashard Lewis, who has been a threat from three and played solid defense.

Mario Chalmers has struggled through this series, if he continues to there will be some Noris Cole and a lot of no point guard lineups. Erik Spoelstra has shown the ability to adapt, and he will go with what works in terms of lineups.

But at the end of the day he has the best weapon in the game in LeBron James. And there is no good matchup for that.

  1. heat256 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Can someone let Chalmers and Cole know there is still basketball left to be played?

    • dexregeant - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Amen..Miami’s biggest weakness in these playoffs has been the subpar guard play going back to the Indy series.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:15 PM

        Hmmm… Cole was defending very well in the Indy series and Wade and Allen were playing very well too. Where is this subpar guard play you’re talking about? Chalmers?

    • reesesteel23 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Cole should be taking Patty Mills lunch money in this series.

      • bucrightoff - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        Based off what? Mills has a PER that is more than double Cole’s, while playing fewer minutes. Goddamn Heat fans know nothing about basketball.

      • thekiller678 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        @bucrightoff And that means what, exactly? People who don’t know basketball use stats like PER to compare to role players.. It’s not unreasonable at all to think Cole should be doing a better job on Mills.

      • bucrightoff - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        The Heat would trade Cole and a first round pick for Mills in a heartbeat. He does everything better than Cole. PER is best to use because it evaluates on the basis of a defined criteria, not Mills averages more points and shoots better. Those stats can be skewed by the level of output. PER is a measured that accounts for differences in number of shots taken, usage rate etc..

      • reesesteel23 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        That’s whats wrong with Heat Haters like you. Just because someone doesn’t have anything negative to say about the Heat doesn’t mean they’re a Heat fan. Idiot.

      • azarkhan - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Norris is going to need some lunch money:

        A man was shot and killed at Mansion Nightclub in Miami Beach early Tuesday, police said. Sources tell NBC 6 South Florida the victim is Miami Heat player Norris Cole’s personal chef, Antaun Teasley.

      • southbeachtalent - Jun 10, 2014 at 5:01 PM

        hahahahaha @ bucrightoff what an idiot.

    • spthegr8 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Look @ Bosh in the background. LLS!!!!

  2. lacolem1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    I expect Birdman to play much better in Miami. Cole too.

    The Heat don’t really need a breakout game from Wade, just solid 3rd option support and to STAY AT HOME ON DEFENSE!!! His disciplined has been awful at times, but as long as he keeps Green from going off, it’s all good.

    All things being equal (and they are), the team with the best player should prevail.

  3. papichulo55 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    If LBJ plays 38+ minutes, the Heat win. Best strategy for the Spurs is to get LBJ on the bench. Design some plays that will have LBJ switching to guard Ginobili, and let Mano get a few early fouls called against LBJ.

    • packergator - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      You’re not likely to see Lebron pile up the fouls while he’s in Miami.

  4. aboogy123456 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Kawhi is key for San Antonio this series. He needs to play smart and avoid dumb fouls and turnovers, and that will make a big difference for them with rebounding and defense. I’ve also noticed that Ray Allen has been left open on multiple three pointers each game. San Antonio can’t afford to mess up and leave him open, not even once. I think San Antonio is the better team, but Miami has been the smarter team in both game so far, limiting mistakes and bad possessions.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:33 PM

      Well they already lost then if he’s the key, because he’s not been playing as well in the playoffs this year and he has no special ability to prevent LeBron from doing whatever he wants.

      • savvybynature - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:04 AM

        Yeah, Leonard is terrible. What a scrub. Great points, Smigel* * eye rolll

  5. jbeagles23 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    And what makes you sure Manu can pick up fouls on lbj. He can man up one on one with a quicker, better ball handler in Parker

  6. jzone954 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Miami has to get to their transition game tonight

    • turnmymicup - Jun 10, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      I was also thinking that. Time to turn up the heat and set the tone. Get the ball out into the open floor and this team is unstoppable.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:35 PM

      They have to win the turnover battle and shoot their usual percentage. That should be enough.

  7. jzone954 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Dating back to last finals Miami is actually 11-0 at home. Spurs need to play flawless and have someone drop 28-35 pts. Because Miami causes turnovers and gets into their transitions game at home like non other. The key to me is that if the spurs still drop a high percentage from 3 or land they will be in this game. I have to say, I’ve never seen a team connect from down town on their floor like SA does.

    • packergator - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Except that being in the game doesn’t seem to be enough when Lebron’s available for the full game. Between this year and last year in the Finals, the Heat have shown better performances down the stretch than the Spurs.

    • savvybynature - Jun 10, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Miami lost the first game at home in last season’s Finals.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:40 PM

        But, again, that was Game 1 when Miami was a worse home team. That’s not the same as going into a Game 3 when you just won the previous game and you haven’t lost at home all postseason.

      • savvybynature - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:05 AM

        Yeah, those games against the Bobcats are really insightful when predicting this series. Great points again, Smigel.

  8. moppop - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Even only after two games, this series has been delivering!

  9. prareedoggin - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Hey genius, he meant cole should be shutting mills down. His strength is good defense. No where did he say outplay him on offense/better all around play. Lock him down and thats it. And I agree Cole should be able to do that to Mills

    • spursareold - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      Mills is super quick, a good ball handler, and has legit range out to 28-29 feet. Good luck with that.

      • turnmymicup - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        Cole has all those attributes as well. Cole needs to step up his level of play. Last series he was balling out of control. Now Norris is looking very ghostly. Looking for a big game from him eventually.

  10. prareedoggin - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Then you make a comment about Heat fans when it was you that read it wrong

  11. montrealknowledge - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    It should be Tiago, not Diaw.. Tiago is the key.

  12. 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    Four years of proving it. Earning it. Getting it. 48 minutes. Let’s Do It!

  13. leahcima1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Let me preempt all the Heat haters. I am going to the game tonight. I will drive my horse team pulling my bandwagon and park in a handicap space. I will arrive when I want, which will be late. I will leave when I want, which will be early. I will cheer a successful flop by a Heat player and boo a successful flop by a Spurs player. I will cheer the ref if he makes what I think is a bad call against the Spurs and boo him when I think he made a bad call against the Heat. I will not whine, complain or malign the winner, unless of course it happens to be the Spurs. I will definitely not pay any attention to the morons who are Heat haters. Lebron for goat, Lebron for president of the Hall of Fame, Lebron forever.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Jun 10, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      Drop the mic. You nailed it. Have fun tonight.

  14. ptownbearsfan420 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Can we pleeease put to rest the term, “take that with a grain of salt”. Like seriously, read a thesaurus.. Think outside the box. You’re professional writers for gods sake!

  15. mrbiz8505 - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    Spurs need to get hit in the face and fall over…..without actually getting hit in the face….but acting like it….because they’re good…

  16. rodyaugu - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    We will hear spurs fans whine about calls lebron will get that he wasn’t getting in San Antonio. Spurs pretty much fouled him every time he drove at the rim.

  17. thundercocck - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    Parker needs to be more aggressive. When the Spurs set picks the Miami bigs hedge way too much. Parker should be attacking that or look for the roller who could finish or kick it out.

    One thing is for sure, the Spurs can’t play the way they did in the 4th

    • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      They don’t hedge “too much” – they do that on purpose, and it’s very difficult to attack, which is why they do it.

      • savvybynature - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:21 PM

        Actually, they’ve done it less overall this season and did it much less in game 2 — mostly choosing to switch the pick-and-rolls instead — because it hasn’t been all that effective.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:22 PM

        Yes, I noticed that in Game 2, which was smart – it caught the Spurs by surprise on certain possessions. Miami in general is a big show team on pick and rolls though.

      • savvybynature - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:08 AM

        Yeah, Heat defense is unstoppable! *71 points in the first half, cough
        Lebron is basically their only good defender. We’ll see if that’s enough.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:23 AM

        We’re talking about pick and roll defense here… what are you going on about?

      • thundercocck - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:32 AM

        However the Heat chooses to defend the pick and roll the bottom line is that Parker needs be more aggressive and make quicker decisions

  18. antistratfordian - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    If there is going to be a blowout in Miami, it’s probably going to happen here.

    • savvybynature - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:09 AM

      Finally, you made a ballsy call that ended up being right. Maybe there is some hope for you after all, Smigel.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:24 AM

        I am always right. I haven’t been wrong in years.

      • savvybynature - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:36 AM

        Except you were calling for a Heat win tonight. And the opposite happened. So you were wrong. Tonight.
        I can’t follow your delusions anymore, they’ve become too nonsensical even for me.

  19. JT - Jun 10, 2014 at 8:56 PM

  20. themagicfanguy - Jun 11, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    “Well they already lost then if he’s the key”

    And the bandwagon casuals that play 2K continue to think they know something about basketball.

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