Facing the threat of a 3-1 series deficit, the Miami Heat must regroup their typically staunch defense ahead of Game Three of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night at American Airlines Arena.
The Heat ended the regular season with the fifth best defense in the NBA, allowing 97.4 points per game, and were third in forcing turnovers with nearly 16 a game.
Yet San Antonio has broken down Miami’s defensive front by averaging 110.5 points, 60 percent shooting from the floor, 48.8 percent from three and more than 40 points in the paint in their two victories.
The formula for Miami seems to be limiting the Spurs chances near the basket. In Miami’s Game Two win they managed to hold San Antonio to 34 points in the paint and 43.9 percent shooting from the field. The Spurs also missed several key free throws in the fourth quarter, going 12-for-20 from the stripe overall, in the narrow 98-96 Miami win.
The historical first half San Antonio put up in its 111-92 victory in Game Three is certainly one Miami can’t allow a second straight time. Led by third-year forward Kawhi Leonard’s career-high 29 points, the Spurs lit up Miami with 75.8 percent shooting in the first half and at one point held a 25 point advantage.
The Spurs also scored 23 points off 20 Miami turnovers, with guard Danny Green recording five steals and Leonard and Tony Parker each notching two swipes. Leonard played Miami star LeBron James especially well, holding the four-time MVP to 22 points, which tied James’s second-worst output in these playoffs. Parker and Green also came up with 15 points apiece.
James and guard Dwyane Wade, who also scored 22 points, also combined for 12 of Miami’s turnovers.
The Heat also need more from their bench, while containing the Spurs the second unit. Manu Ginobili led the way with 11 points and three boards for a San Antonio bench that outscored Miami’s 29-22. It was the lowest differential between the two benches in the series thus far, with San Antonio’s taking Game One 34-20 and Game Two 37-12.
Backcourt play should be a concern for Miami as well. Starting point guard Mario Chalmers has seen his points per game decline in every series this post season, and he’s shooting 25 percent from the field in the Finals. Last year against the Spurs he averaged 10.6 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 40.6 percent from three, including 20 points in Game Six and 14 points in Game Seven to clinch the title.
Start Time: 9 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ABC
Live Stream Info: A live online stream is available at Watch ESPN here
Betting Odds: Miami -5
Over/Under: 197 points
Prediction: Miami over San Antonio 108-101