South Beach is known for its party atmosphere, especially when the Heat are playing at home. However, after game three of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, I highly doubt it was much to celebrate after the way San Antonio took the court and dominated the Heat, shooting 76 percent from the field in one half and 59 percent for the game to defeat Miami.
Instead of the Heat taking advantage of the home court and winning game three, they came out flat and did not play with a sense of urgency. From the initial tip, San Antonio came out with passion and hunger to get a win after losing on their homecourt. Thus, with a mix of urgency and determination to not let the Heat take a potential 3-1 series lead, the Spurs handled their business, becoming the first team to defeat the Heat at home in 11 postseason games.
Because the Spurs proved they can beat the Heat on the road, Miami sits in a critical situation where they must win before returning back to San Antonio for game five. If not, there is a high possibility they may be eliminated and fail to win a third NBA Championship. However, to do so, they must get back to playing Heat basketball.
Despite scoring 22 points, LeBron James did not play well. Not to mention, due to his high level of production throughout the playoffs, he showed signs of fatigue. Tonight, if Miami wants to win, he must bring his “A” game. Not only must he dig deep to find the strength to produce on offense, he must defend and limit Kawhi Leonard’s production on offense. Leonard, who scored 29 points and led the way for the Spurs through game three, will be looking to build off of that performance in tonight’s matchup. Thus, it will be extremely important for James to make his mark on offense and defense early on in the game.
Consistency will always remain a factor for the Heat. Chris Bosh, who was considered one of the more consistent players for Miami when playing San Antonio, only scored nine points last game. This is unacceptable. He struggled to find a rhythm but like James, he has to find his groove in tonight’s game to help his team in a time where they need him the most.
Dwayne Wade is not 100 percent healthy at the moment, but he managed to score 22 points last game. His level of play will most definitely impact whether or not the Heat are successful in terms of winning game four. Tonight, he must come out and do what he does best, penetrate the basket for mid-range shots, get to the free throw line and hit the open shot when he has the opportunity to.
On the other hand, Mario Chalmers has been consistent all right, consistent with not making an impact during the game. In three games, Chalmers has combined for a total of 11 points. He does not have to or neither do I expect him to score 20 or more points tonight. However, he needs to make his presence known in the series. He has not defended Tony Parker at all, who has averaged 18 points over the last three games and found ways to penetrate the basket and get his teammates involved during the game. Thus, like Parker, Chalmers needs to take note and find a way to get involved in the game and be the floor general he is capable of being. Not to mention, it takes pressure off of James, Wade and Bosh.
Overall, the Heat must play smart and make their presence known on defense from the initial tip, something they did not do in game three. Although San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich challenged Leonard to take his game to another level, it is no reason he should have been able to breakdown Miami’s defense the way he did. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker only combined for 29 of the 111 points, which says a lot about how much of an impact Leonard had on the game. Ginoboli had 11 of the 29 points from the bench for the Spurs, not an unusual stat.
Thus, the Heat will be challenged tonight in terms of slowing down the Spurs emerging threat on offense in Kawhi Leonard, playing sound defense for 48 minutes, committing less turnovers, playing to their tempo and advantage on offense.
Tip-off for tonight’s game is 9 p.m. eastern time on ABC from American Airlines Arena.