The NBA Finals so far have been an absolute treat for everyone who’s not a San Antonio or Miami fan, though you imagine the crowd from South Beach will be a little bit happier than those from Texas going into tonight’s Game 3. As for the rest of us, we’ve witnessed to teams playing at the very top of their game, fighting tooth and nail with each other to try and claim the Larry O’Brian trophy.
Here are some things to look out for in Game 3:
Can both teams keep shooting the lights out?:
Through the first two games of this year’s finals both teams are shooting over 50% from the field. Given that the Heat have shot 49.7% throughout the play-offs, while the Spurs have shot 48.5%, this might not seem particularly remarkable. However, when one realises that the Spurs mark is a full 2% above Brooklyn in third place for play-off field goal percentage, it tells you just how good these two teams are and how efficient their offences can be. If both teams can keep shooting the ball at this level we’re going to have a seriously memorable series on our hands. If they can’t the question will be who blinks first?
Can LeBron James stay hot?:
Despite ‘crampgate’, LeBron James is averaging 30.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game through the first two games of the series. If that’s not impressive enough for you, he’s shooting 59.0% from the field, 83.3% from the three-point line and 81.8% from the charity stripe. If LeBron can stay anywhere near his current level of production then the Spurs may be in for a rough night. However, a big part of the answer to this question will depend on the answer to the next.
Can Kawhi Leonard stay out of foul trouble?
The Spurs best anti-LeBron tool has 9 personal fouls so far in the series, the most of any player. Credit must, of course, be given to LeBron for getting Leonard into foul trouble but after last year’s finals we all know Kawhi is capable of giving James difficulty on the offensive end of the floor. Staying out of foul trouble will also allow Leonard to get involved more on the offensive end where the Spurs would love to see an increase in his role, especially given the fact that he’s knocked down 39.3% of his threes in the play-offs so far.
Can the Spurs keep moving the ball?
The answer to this is a resounding yes. I just wanted to point out the success with which San Antonio have been moving the basketball. Through the play-offs San Antonio are completing an average of 309.1 passes per game while creating 53.0 points per game from assists making them the only team to rank in the top three of both these categories. The Spurs have averaged 28.0 assists per game through the first two games and this is what will keep them in ball games against the quicker and stronger Heat.
Can the Heat keep up their swarming defence?
The Heat have battled San Antonio’s passing basketball with aggressive, in your face defence, making 20 steals over the first two games and forcing the Spurs into an uncharacteristic 33 turnovers. Bar the defensive collapse the Heat suffered at the end of Game 1, they’ve played well on that side of the ball, and the Heat will take heart from the 2nd and the 4th quarter of Game 2 in which they allowed the Spurs just 35 combined points.
Can the Spurs hit their free throws?
Four consecutive missed free throws will haunt Greg Popovich’s dreams. With the Spurs up by 2 points Tony Parker missed his free throws from Mario Chalmers flagrant foul on him and then Tim Duncan missed his free throws after being fouled by Chris Anderson. LeBron then scored 5 straight points and the Heat went on to clinch the game. I would have loved to see some odds on those two guys missing all four of those free throws. The Spurs were 12-20 from the free throw line in the game and after Kawhi Leonard’s missed free throw at the end of Game 6 last year I wouldn’t be surprised if Pop had his team out at midday today practising from the charity stripe.