“If you’re feeling confident, let it fly, get your name in the paper.”
That’s what Gregg Popovich told his players during Game 3 on Tuesday night. Not exactly the pep talk you would expect on such a big stage, but it worked. Gary Neal and Danny Green shot with the utmost confidence, leading the Spurs to a 36 point win to take a 2-1 series lead.
But the job isn’t done. Whether winning by six or 36, it only counts as one win (or loss). The Heat know that better than anyone, which is why they haven’t lost consecutive games since January. They make adjustments and recover as well as any team in NBA history. And now the Spurs provide them with the toughest challenge all season. Win, and force San Antonio into a situation where they have to win two more games, with only one more home game remaining. Lose, and the Spurs can go for the kill-shot on Sunday.
San Antonio has shot exactly 50% from three in the last two games, 43% for the series and 38% in the postseason, which was also their regular season average. Maybe the Spurs shooting does regress back to the mean. But Miami’s inability to close out on shooters remains to be seen. And though the Spurs shot a blistering 50% from beyond the arch in Game 3, everyone’s talked about who the sources were, instead of who failed to come through.
There’s two things we can count on not to happen again in Game 4. Ginobili, Bonner and Joseph won’t combine to shoot 0-7 from three, and the Spurs won’t shoot such a terrible percentage from the free throw line again (58%). Too many open looks were blown on Tuesday for the Heat to feel comfortable that San Antonio won’t go supernova, shooting wise, again.
And with LeBron James vowing to play better tonight, the Spurs can hardly relax and just give up their advantage to the Heat. It’s overstated, but remains to be true – when San Antonio plays team basketball – they’re virtually unstoppable. Rotating to help and collapsing defensively, making the extra pass to go from a good shot to a great shot offensively.
Championship caliber teams seize these moments. Put a third nail in Miami’s coffin and the Larry O’Brien trophy will be just one win away.
Go Spurs Go.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
Tony Parker – Mario Chalmers
Danny Green – Dwyane Wade
Kawhi Leonard – LeBron James
Tim Duncan – Udonis Haslem
Tiago Splitter – Chris Bosh
Key Bench Players
Manu Ginobili, Cory Joseph, Gary Neal – Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Norris Cole
Gregg Popovich – Erik Spoelstra
GAME AND BROADCAST INFORMATION
When: Thursday, June 13th, 2013. 8:00 PM Central Time
Where: AT&T Center – San Antonio, Texas
Television: ABC (National) Radio: 1200 AM WOAI (Local)