Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NBA Finals: Notes from Game 2

Chris Bosh had a strong Game 2 and is a key to the series for Miami.
By Bennett Corcoran

•    While his numbers in the first half may seem oddly pedestrian as LeBron James scored just four points on 2-7 shooting, it’s not as if he played poorly during that stretch. While he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well thanks to the lockdown defense of Kawhi Leonard, James drew double teams seemingly every time he touched the ball or the Heat ran a screen for him, opening up other players for wide open looks. While I was expecting LeBron to have one of “those games” in which he effortlessly drops 35+ points and takes over the third quarter like he has done on so many other occasions, he still orchestrated a huge run with Mario Chalmers to blow Game 2 out of proportion, even if the gaudy point totals weren’t there last night. Acting almost as a decoy, LeBron caused the Spurs to abandon shooters in the corners and leave unguarded Miami players under the hoop.

•    Game 2 also featured a serious role reversal from Thursday's Game 1. San Antonio went from a stingy four turnovers and a disappointing 7-23 from three point range in Game 1 to 16 turnovers featuring an impressive 10-20 from beyond the arc, including 7-10 in the first half. To be fair, half of those treys were by Danny Green (5-5 from three), but it’s still quite a turnaround from one game to the next. In Game 1, Tony Parker emerged as a fearless leader, strategically picking apart Miami’s defense and finding the open man while making the occasional circus shot in between. However, Game 2 was disastrous as the Spurs couldn’t hold onto the ball and nobody other than Green or Leonard could knock down a shot. Expect a regression towards the mean in Game 3, where the turnovers and three-point percentage even out and reflect the balanced attack that the Spurs have despite the complete dud Sunday night.

•    Chris Bosh has been widely criticized throughout this postseason, and has assumed the scapegoat role of this Miami team whenever they turn in a loss. Despite his inefficiency throughout the playoffs, Bosh turned in a solid game when the Heat really needed one, registering 12 points and 10 rebounds on 6-10 shooting. The 0 three-point attempts comes as a sigh of relief for many Heat fans who blamed Bosh for missing an open three at the end of Game 1. While the point total doesn't blow you away, if Bosh can put up a double-double every night, Miami will be very difficult to beat.

•    While Bosh has often been condemned for his love affair with long jumpers, Tim Duncan has been oddly inefficient on his 15 footers this series. The Big Fundamental finished strong in Game 1, but started 0-5 in the first quarter, mostly on jumpers just past the free throw line. Duncan couldn’t deliver in Game 2, as he finished with just 9 points on 3-13 shooting. When Duncan thrived in Game 1, it was when he was aggressive and banging down low, and I expect more points in the paint from him in Game 3. We all know Timmy can bank in 12 footers, but he needs to be assertive early for San Antonio to build momentum.

•     While the struggles of Bosh and Wade are garnering plenty of attention in the media, Manu Ginobili is quietly yet consistently under-performing. Shooting just 38% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc, the Argentinian needs to step his game up if the Spurs want to win the next one on their home court.

•    Although Wade didn’t exactly have a good game, he’s starting to play with more energy at the beginning of games. In the first two games of the series, Wade has really gotten the ball rolling for the Heat, while LeBron has deferred to the open man instead of taking over as the primary scoring threat. However, Wade is still disappearing down the stretch and looks burnt out in the second half. Luckily, they didn’t need him to do much as the game was decided with most of the fourth quarter still left to play, but this has to be a concern for Miami. In his halftime interview, he was panting so much he could barely talk. And I thought the Spurs were supposed to be the old team.

•    Mike Miller was 3-3 from three-point range. While Ray Allen has been off and on from three these playoffs, Miller has clearly been more on than off.

•    Blowouts are never fun to watch, especially not on the biggest stage in basketball, but at least Tracy McGrady got some playing time.

What to Expect for Game 3:

•    Expect Gregg Popovich to whip his team back into shape and the Spurs of old to have a solid and well-rounded Game 3 in which Parker and Duncan return to form on their home court. I keep hearing the statistic that the Heat hadn’t lost back-to-back games since January, and while this may be true, the Spurs had also won seven in a row going into last night’s game, while the Heat were a underwhelming 3-4 over that stretch. Miami exploded in a must-win scenario, but the Spurs will be back next game. I’m not necessarily saying they will win, but I do think it will be a close one in San Antonio.