San Antonio travels to Miami, life would be a whole lot easier if they can steal game 3 tonight. If they were to lose on the road, they would trail 2-1 in the series, with game 4 played in the same building. Of course the Spurs are a complete team, that means there isn’t anything they can’t do. However, it would be an extremely tall task to outplay the Heat in game 4.
The team in that huddle can’t look too far ahead, but coming in they know they need this game more than their opponent. The reigning champions have been the most resilient team in the league, they don’t lose many back-to-back games and that just hasn’t happened in the playoffs.
Spurs on Offense
What do you do when you pay your first game on the road in The Finals? You get your leaders going early and often, while staying in the ears of the role players to be ready at all times. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have to control the game offensively. Parker has to attack, especially if LeBron James is covering him. He just has t be himself, finding his way into the lane to make things happen, it’s a battle that he has to hold his own at what he’s best know for.
Duncan has to bring his classic A-game, or bank game rather. Even more important, if Parker isn’t penetrating off of screens, they have to get the big man involved with touches. Mix it up, feed Duncan in the low post, the high post, let him go to work because he will make the right pass to the open man. Once Parker dissects the middle, good things happen. On top of that, when Duncan looks for his shot, it’s usually a night the Spurs put on a clinic.
So while you want Danny Green taking open shots, they also need Kawhi Leonard to be more active. His contributions are tough to defend, considering he can: set screens, cut to the hoop, hit an outside shot, grab offensive rebounds, and finish inside. These guys have to play their roles like they have all season long, but a victory is reliant on Parker/Duncan getting the best of their matchups. Manu Ginobli? Well, he can keep them in the game when the starters aren’t doing too hot. They’re going to need his ball-handling to keep Parker fresh, and why not set screens for Parker off the ball if James is going to be on him? Ginobli will have to assert his scoring in the first half, he completes the big three and will be feisty on D. I’m not too worried about Ginobli as much as the other two.
The bigs, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw, they have two objectives tonight. One, helping the team out with a basket here and there, it would be nice if they can combine for 4-6 points per quarter. Secondly, they have to use their fouls, they have 6 to give and they don’t need Duncan in foul trouble. The lane has to be protected somewhat, although Miami plays Euro-ball, they have the some of the best penetrators the game has seen. With Green forced to stick to a perimeter shooter, Splitter and Diaw have to do the little things: draw a charge here, get a deflection there, maybe even a block, fight for lose balls, and foul. By foul, I mean hard enough so the ball doesn’t go in, but clean enough not to get tossed from the game.
See, the Heat are great defensively, their activity turns up the tempo to create easy points. That’s the last thing any team needs when playing against them, force them to play offense and contest every movement they do.
Spurs on Defense
The entire defense has to be on a string, if James, or even Dwyane Wade takes a dribble one way, everyone has to take a step in that direction. Fundamental yes, and that’s why the Spurs are who they are. The only defender that has to play his man tight along the perimeter, say 2 or 3 passes away, is the guy guarding Ray Allen. Nobody forces you to shoot more mid-range shots than Greg Popovich. The in-between game is a lost art, and King James accepted and overcame that challenge last year and in game 2.
Wade and Chis Bosh are also deadly consistent from 15-feet out, that’s why San Antonio has to limit their double-teams. You might not contain James, but like they beat him in the finals when he was with Cleveland, do your best to make it a one-man show. Make him do everything while taking his teammates away. You can play Wade and Bosh straight up, make Wade prove he has the legs and challenge Bosh to make one-on-one plays when he’s out of rhythm. By not double-teaming and having the defense shift to every movement, you are disrupting the passing lanes and hovering over the shooters. Sag off James a little bit, the more three-pointers he attempts, the better for the defense. If he can scorch you for 4-quarters from downtown, then there’s not much you can do when a guy is on fire like that.
Class of the Western Conference for over a decade, and the NBA as a matter of fact, the Spurs have a few titles and are beyond battle-tested. They’ve gone through it all, including defeat at the hands of Miami a year ago. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they fell short in game 3, but odds are already against them as far as dethroning the champs is concerned. The NBA’s version of the New England Patriots, this model franchise faces a must-win game in terms of the chess match and series go. You would think they have a better chance to win game 3 as opposed to game 4, splitting games on the road would be an accomplishment heading back to Texas.