NBA Finals Game 4 Preview - NBA Draft Notes

OUR NBA FINALS GAME 4 PREVIEW - WILL THE HEAT AVOID A MELTDOWN AND THUS MAKE THIS A BEST TWO-OUT-OF-THREE SET? ...PLUS SOME QUICKIE NBA DRAFT NEWS/NOTES

By Jim Hurley:

Now we're about ready to find out if the Miami Heat "get what they deserve"here in a Game 4 of this year's NBA Finals.

Undoubtedly, that post-Game 3 quote by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra immediately following Tuesday's uninspiring 113-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs was designed to both inform the gathered media of just how he felt and also light a little fire under his team that ended Game 3 with 40.8 percent shooting from the floor (that's 31-of-76 made field goals) while allowing San Ant to drill half of its 32 trifectas.

Much of the talk following San Antonio's 36-point win the other night revolved around how poorly the Heat defended the triple - yes, the ball movement was superb by the Spurs' perimeter guys but we've never seen Miami so flat-footed on defense in the "Big Three"Era -- and clearly it was his team's rotten defense that bothered Spoelstra more than the club's 77-point scoring output.

How's it all gonna change in Game 4?

We'll share some ideas in our Game 4 preview just below. But first a couple of key topics that have been dominating the pre-Game 4 scene:

What's the health status of Spurs' mega-star point guard Tony Parker who left Game 3 after playing just 27 minutes (partly because of the injury and partly because of the blowout) with a tweaked hamstring that the veteran called a "weird"injury and he doesn't remember how it happened?

Parker was due to get an MRI on the off day between Game 3 and Game 4 and didn't sound particularly worried but this might have "game-time decision"written all over it for San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich should Parker not feel right.

Secondly, what's the mental mind-set of the Heat - and specifically four-time league MVP LeBron James?

It's safe to say James' 15-point, 11-rebound, 5-assist performance in Game 3 might have been good enough numbers for other NBA star players but anyone who watched that game and saw James hit on just two of his first 13 FG tries and lack the fire to go hard to the hoop knows the Spurs have been "winning the mind games"with James so far and now we'll have to see if he gets discouraged by the defensive looks he's seeing here -- or whether he'll suck it up and go for 30-plus points and steer Miami to the winner's circle here in this get-even-or-else game.

Finally, is it fair to expect San Antonio "supporting cast"members Danny Green and Gary Neal to explode again here after they combined for a rousing 51-point night in Game 3?

Green (game-high 27 points with 7 made triples) has really come into his own in this year's playoffs and as long as Miami leaves 'em alone outside the arc he should make half (or more) of his tries and so don't be utterly shocked should Green go for 20-plus points here but Neal (24 points in Game 3 including 6 made trifectas) figured to be more of a one-night wonder.

Hey, the journeyman guard was feeling it and so Game 3 turned into his finest hour but we'd be less apt to believe Neal could do that again here in Game 4 especially with Miami's guards instructed to get in his grill and stay there. Heck, if Neal gave the Spurs 10-to-12 points here than "Pops"probably would take it hands-down.

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Now, let's dig a little deeper with our Jim Sez Game 4 Preview:

MIAMI at SAN ANTONIO - Spurs lead series 2-1; Game 4 is tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET

One of the post-game comments made by San Antonio legend Tim Duncan (12 points and 14 rebounds in Game 3) said it all about this series as both clubs have "reacted"well off losses but not so great off their wins and the four-time NBA Finals champion suggested the Spurs need to show they can handle prosperity better here in Game 4.

Still, it's got to be human nature to relax a tad after a 36-point home win:

After all, the Duncan/Parker/Manu Ginobili triumvirate only drained 10 field goals in all in Game 3 and yet the Spurs didn't break a sweat as they outscored Miami in each of the four quarters and coasted following a 50-44 halftime lead - might it be the case that San Antonio's version of the "big three"may have to double (or more) its collective scoring output of just 25 points in Game 3 in order for the Spurs to carve out a three games-to-one series lead here.

Look for Popovich to get Duncan more involved early with his low-post moves a key against the likes of Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh - neither of whom is truly equipped to stop the 37-year-old - and providing Parker is fit to go here expect him to dart/dash his way more to the hoop one game after he attempted only three free throws in all.

Ahh, it's the mystery of what the Heat will do here that provides the intrigue of Game 4: As we all know, Miami has not lost back-to-back games since early January and the Heat - to its credit - has followed up playoff losses with wins and truly strong showings.

In fact, here's what Miami has done following a loss in this year's post-season (with all home teams in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
5-8 MIAMI - 12.5 Chicago 115-78
5-26 Miami - 2 INDIANA 114-96
5-30 MIAMI - 7.5 Indiana 90-79
6-3 MIAMI - 7 Indiana 99-76
6-9 MIAMI - 6.5 San Antonio 103-84

As you can see, the Heat's followed up its playoff losses with five double-digit wins in as many games with a per-game scoring differential of 21.6 points per game but we must point out that Miami's been home off a loss in four of these tilts and so keep that in mind.

Still, the Heat have to go back to basics here and that starts with defending and not falling asleep against SA's three-point shooters. Than, James has to take the bull by the horns right from the start and worry about getting teammates "involved"after he goes for 15 or 16 first-quarter points.

Let's say James is a "given"with 30 points, 10 boards and 10 assists: Than this Game 4 will be determined on whether or not Wade can cut/slash his way to the hoop and whether or not Bosh can nail those wing jumpers. Throw in a strong bench showing by either/both Mike Miller (5 triples in Game 3) and/or Ray Allen and the Heat could get even here.

Still, that's a lot to count on, isn't it?

Here's how the NBA Finals series between the Heat-Spurs 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

6-11

SAN ANTONIO

- 2

Miami

113-77


NBA DRAFT NEWS/NOTES

Did you mark your calendar? The NBA Finals could be finished as last as Thursday, June 20th should we go the distance in this Heat versus Spurs set ... and then the NBA Draft is set for one week from that night on Thursday, June 27th from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Right, it does kind of sneaks up on you, doesn't it?

Well, let's take a few minutes in this Jim Sez column piece to weigh in with some news/notes and recent in-the-know reports claim the #1-2-3 players picked here will be Kentucky C Nerlens Noel to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Michigan PG Trey Burke to the Orlando Magic and Georgetown swingman Otto Porter "staying home"and getting selected with the third pick by the Washington Wizards.

Yes, there remains trade talk out there centering on the Magic possibly dealing out of the #2 pick with the Atlanta Hawks owning both the 17th and 18th overall picks here and possibly dealing 'em both plus a player for #2 but that's getting to be more a longshot at this stage.

Meanwhile, there are two players who could wind up anywhere from #4 all the way down to #15 in this upcoming NBA Draft and that's Maryland C Alex Len and Indiana F/C Cody Zeller - neither of whom really turn us on and yet there are rumblings that Len could be on the radar of the Phoenix Suns at #5 while Zeller is getting strong mention at the #7 pick with the Sacramento Kings.

Advice to the NBA general managers out there: Don't dare spend a top 10 pick on either one of these guys that figure to be journeymen players in this hoops league.

One player that is expected to drop into the mid-20s is Murray State PG Isaiah Canaan but he could be a steal earlier in Round One after a solid college career that included a batch of games where he took the final shot. Canaan could be a nice pick at #11 by the Philadelphia 76ers ...

Finally, now that the Charlotte Bobcats have hired Patrick Ewing as an assistant coach (and very possibly a head-coach-in-waiting) might the 'Cats consider nabbing a big man that Ewing could help develop?

Right now the thought is that Charlotte - with the fourth overall selection in this draft - is eyeballing Kansas two-guard Ben McLemore but might Louisville's shot-blocking whiz Gorgui Dieng make more sense here?

The NBA Draft is looming - much more in the coming days.

NOTE: Catch our NBA Finals Game 4 re-cap - plus lots more - in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

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Nov

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