NBA Finals: Heat Even It Up

OUR NBA FINALS JIM SEZ UPDATE:

THE HEAT GETS EVEN WITH ROUSING 103-84 WIN IN GAME 2 BUT NOW WHAT WILL THE SPURS HAVE UP THEIR SLEEVES COME TUESDAY'S GAME 3 BASH?

By Jim Hurley:

Now, folks, you didn't really think the San Antonio Spurs were going to escape Miami with a two-games-to-nothing lead in this year's NBA Finals ... did you?

No doubt the first 34-or-so minutes of Sunday night's Game 2 was tighter than a supermodel's skirt but then came the avalanche of Miami points:

The Heat outscored the Spurs 14-3 to close out the third quarter and frolicked its way to a 33-5 scoring blitz that made the last several minutes of Sunday night's game nothing but extended "garbage time" and so here we stand at a game apiece with the NBA Finals shifting back for Games 3, 4 and 5 in the Alamo City.

The biggest surprises about the Game 2 blowout?

Gotta say we were among the many media folks surprised that Miami mega-star LeBron James didn't impose his will in the scoring department moreso as he finished with 17 points on 17 field-goal attempts and truly only scored a handful-plus points when it really mattered.

Sure, James threw some hellacious find-the-open-man passes en route to gathering 7 assists (with only 2 turnovers) but it simply didn't seem like your prototypical James game for a playoff tilt. No matter.

One other big surprise is that the Spurs wound up being so darn sloppy with the basketball: Nobody expected a repeat of Game 1 when Gregg Popovich's guys committed an NBA Finals-record four turnovers but, heck, San Antonio had that many just three-plus minutes into Game 2 with point guard Tony Parker (13 points, 5 assists and 5 turnovers) never really getting into a great working rhythm and - apparently - psyched out at times when being guarded by James.

On a night when - if you remember our pre-Game 2 comments in the last Jim Sez column - the Heat needed another big night from its bench and got it thanks to a 13-point performance by G Ray Allen and matching 9-point nights from Mike Miller and Chris "The Birdman" Andersen, the Spurs didn't get much at all from its aging troika of Parker, Tim Duncan (9 points on 3-of-13 FG shooting) and key reserve Manu Ginobili (5 points in 18 minutes) ... even coach Popovich didn't sound happy that his marquee trio combined to shoot 10-of-33 from the floor (that's .303 percent) and let's not forget the fact that Parker/Duncan/Ginobili combined for only eight attempted free throws.

Good line in the ESPN post-game report by resident screamer Stephen A. Smith who proclaimed there should be a "missing persons" report out there regarding Ginobili who spent the better part of Game 2 fumbling around with the basketball (he had three of the Spurs' 16 turnovers) and generally looking lost.
So, what will the Spurs do in an attempt to get back on the right track for Game 3? We'll dig into that in a moment or two but first some key pointspread stats:
Here's how the NBA Finals series between Spurs-Heat has gone so far (note the home team in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

6-6

San Antonio

+ 5

MIAMI

92-88

6-9

MIAMI

- 6.5

San Antonio

103-84

Spread Notes: The Spurs head into Game 3 at 11-5 ATS (against the spread) overall for a still-nifty .688 winning rate and note San Antonio has covered six of its last eight post-season games in all. The Spurs are 4-3 against the odds in all playoff home games this year while now sporting a 7-2 ATS mark on the post-season road.

On the flip side, Miami exited Sunday's Game 2 of these NBA Finals at 10-8 versus the vig this post-season (a .556 winning rate) and note the Heat's now 5-6 against the odds at home during these playoffs and 5-2 ATA away ... hmmm.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals Side & Totals Winners when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays. Also, bang out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too each/every day online and on the toll-free telephone # here with weeknight games available after 1 p.m. ET and weekday games after 11 a.m. ET.

THE NBA FINALS - MIAMI at SAN ANTONIO - Series tied 1-1; Game 3 is Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, ABC-TV

There's some juice in these NBA Finals now that the series shifts back to the home of the Western Conference champs knotted at a game apiece and suddenly every TV talking head has stopped spreading the news that the winners of Game 1 in NBA Finals generally go on to win three-quarters of the time!

The fact is Miami has "the momentum" right now after that aforementioned major late third-quarter/early fourth-quarter surge that rocked the "white-out" crowd in South Beach and so naturally when folks discuss "adjustments" they want to know what the prior game loser is gonna do next.

Here's some ideas:

San Antonio should go ahead and accentuate the Game 2 positives that included the fact the Spurs hit on 10-of-20 trifectas. Guard Danny Green was wonderful while bagging all five of his triple tries en route to a stout 17-point game and so here San Ant must do its very best to at least attempt another 20-plus treys in Game 3.

Not only is that a team strength with Green and fellow reserves Gary Neal and Matt Bonner ultra-important in this regard but it will help Duncan when he gets position in the low box as double-teams figure to be few and far between.

Secondly, San Antonio must play transition defense - and offense - better here. Okay, so the Heat only scored 13 fast-break points in Game 2 but you can see how Miami gets all juiced up when James throws down an uncontested dunk off a whirling-dervish pass by Miller or when G Mario Chamers - a not-so-secret weapon who poured in a Game 2-high 19 points - gets ahead of the field and beats the Spurs' backcourt down the floor.

Naturally, it all starts with San Antonio doing a better job of protecting the basketball but if/when the Spurs turn it over they must retreat in a jiffy or momentum will swing Miami's way even on the road.

Finally, we applaud the defensive work being down so far in these NBA Finals by Spurs' versatile swingman Kawhi Leonard on King James - he's been a major pain for the four-time league MVP and has enough muscle to keep James off balance at times - but the other San Antonio players must be more active dealing with Dwyane Wade's drives to the hoops - why not knock 'em down and send a message? - and they must get a hand in the face of F Chris Bosh who regained his touch with an efficient 6-of-10, 16-point showing in Game 2.

Hey, to Bosh's credit he didn't even attempt a Game 2 triple after going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in the Game 1 loss but his wing jumpers were deadly and a 16-point game here could well be X-factor stuff in what's nearly a pick 'em affair.

NBA Finals News & Notes ...

Much is being made of that blocked shot at the rim by James against Spurs F/C Tiago Splitter but let's keep in mind the Heat led by 19 points in the final quarter when that "highlight play" happened and so it didn't really have any great impact on Game 2 itself ...

We know you didn't ask, but NBA referee Joey Crawford whistled more than a few phantom foul calls in Game 2. Not saying that the oft-controversial Crawford "picked on" one side over the other but it seemed to us every time ABC showed a slow-motion replay of a foul call, Crawford had it wrong. Are you watching, outgoing Commissioner David Stern?...

Last year the Heat became only the third team to sweep the middle three games of a Finals series since the league switched to a 2-3-2 format way back in 1985. Note that the only other two teams to sweep the middle three games in an NBA Finals were the 2004 Detroit Pistons and the 2006 Miami Heat. So, the Spurs should know now that it can be done - the problem is it's been done just three times in the last 28 years or less than 11 percent of the time ...
Finally, we'll save you the trouble of looking it up:

When last year's NBA Finals were tied after the first two games, Miami came home and downed Oklahoma City 91-85 in a Game 3 as James was the major stat-sheet stuffer with 29 points and 14 rebounds plus remember the Heat nailed five free throws late to put the game away as Okie City didn't score a point in the game's final 90 seconds of play.

NOTE: We'll re-cap Heat-Spurs Game 3 action and get you a Game 4 Preview in the next edition of Jim Sez ... don't miss out!

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