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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Miami Heat look to ride stronger defense, LeBron James in Game 3

LeBron James Tony Parker

This post is sponsored by Chrysler

The Miami Heat evened the NBA Finals Sunday with a 98-96 win the San Antonio Spurs and get to host Game 3 on Tuesday night. About the only thing keeping them from a 2-0 series lead was LeBron James missing the final four minutes of Game 1 because of cramps.

Now that he is 100 percent healthy by all accounts, the Heat should be rolling.

LeBron was incredibly dominant and efficient in Game 2, going 14-for-22 from the field, while making all three of his 3-pointers. He was awesome in the paint and did most of his work close to the basket early on before expanding his range in the second half. He even went on an 8-0 personal run to give the Heat the lead in the third quarter.

Gregg Popovich is as smart as they come and generally excellent with devising defensive schemes, but he knows there isn’t a whole lot you can do to defend James because of LeBron’s style.

“He knows more than all of you put together,” Pop said of LeBron when talking to the media. “He understands the game. If he makes a pass and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him.”

LeBron doesn’t force action and likes to pass to the open man as Pop said. Even after reaching four straight Finals and winning two of them, he’s still criticized for his decisions on the court, like when he passed to Chris Bosh in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. On Sunday, James showed his unwavering confidence in Bosh by passing to the big man, who made a 3-pointer with 1:17 left to give the Heat a 95-93 lead.

With LeBron playing his usual unselfish ball, involving his teammates, and taking over when he needs to, the Heat will be tough to beat.

The other thing Miami did successfully in Game 2 was improve their defense.

San Antonio shot incredibly well in Game 1, making a ridiculous 58.8 percent of their shots, including 13-of-25 from 3-point range. In Game 2, that percentage dropped to 43.9 percent and 12-of-26 on threes. A lot of that is due to Miami’s improved defense, which included them closing out much better on outside shots.

One area the Spurs need to improve is free throw shooting. After going 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) in Game 1 from the line, San Antonio was just 12-of-20 in Game 2. That included a stretch in the fourth quarter when Tony Parker and Tim Duncan missed both of their free throws on consecutive possessions. Parker had somewhat of an excuse after taking an elbow to the midsection from Mario Chalmers, but Duncan can’t miss both like that. They could have really opened the game up at that point and didn’t take advantage of the chance.

In order to win, the Spurs will have to do what they did in Game 1 and continue taking the ball to the basket. They were great in the interior, scoring most of their points in the paint. They also need to continue making their outside shots as they did in both games.

Overall, the Spurs and Heat are two incredibly efficient and enjoyable teams to watch. They’re playing very high-level basketball, and whether it’s Manu Ginobili coming off the bench and lighting a fire on the court or LeBron taking over, the real winners are all of us. Who doesn’t enjoy watching these teams play? Game 3 should be another good one.



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