Dribbles: Analyzing the NBA Finals, tied 1-1

Miami pulled even with San Antonio last night in the NBA Finals, using a 33-5 second-half run to pull away from the sloppy Spurs and win 103-84. Now, we’re all tied up at 1 and headed to San Antonio for 3, with ample time between now and Tuesday to complain about the Finals’ 2-3-2 homecourt format.

San Antonio’s stars stumble

What if I told you, headed into Game 2, Mario Chalmers would score more than Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, combined? That’s what happened. Duncan was 3-13 for 9 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes, Ginobili was 2-6 for 5 points in a mere 18 minutes (Danny Green was making shots), and Tony Parker, the hero of Game 1, was 5-14 for 13 points. Ginobili, 3, and Parker, 5, had double (8) the combined turnovers the entire Spurs team had in Game 1.

The Spurs were -14 with Duncan on the floor, -23 with Ginobili and -27 with Parker. Miami was +29 with LeBron James on the floor, +30 with Mario Chalmers and +27 with Ray Allen.

The only reason the Spurs were in this game — don’t forget they were up 1 deep into the third — was the play of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Green finished 6-6 from the field and 5-5 from 3 for 17 points, and Kawhi played another terrific defensive game on LeBron and outsmarted the MVP on the boards — finishing with 14, 8 on the offensive end, and some easy putbacks.

Cory Joseph was fantastic in limited minutes, as well. Despite not playing in the first half, Gregg Popovich inserted Joseph for Parker early in the third, and the Spurs seemed to feed off his energy. The result: a 7-0 run that put San Antonio up one — a lead that obviously didn’t hold. The Spurs were +12 in the 9 minutes Joseph played — most of which came in garbage time — and he finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds (2 offensive) and an assist.

A white hot team effort by the Heat

All the talk today is on that 3rd-quarter sequence in which LeBron blocked Tiago Splitter at the cup, found an open Allen for a corner 3 and, following a Mike Miller steal, put the game on ice with a 2-hand fast-break slam. And it was every bit as incredible as it sounds.

But Miami got contributions from a lot of players. Chalmers led the way with 19, LeBron had 17, Chris Bosh had 12 (and didn’t spend the whole night camped behind the 3-point line), Allen had 13, Dwyane Wade had 10, and Chris Andersen and Mike Miller each finished with 9. In all, Miami hit 10 3’s, shot close to 50% from the field and only had 6 turnovers — against a Popovich-coached defense.

On to San Antonio

Now, the series shifts to San Antonio. In the Popovich era, the Spurs are 9-2 in home NBA Finals games. The last loss came on June 21, 2005, against a Detroit Pistons’ team that was facing elimination and boasted one of the most complete starting fives in NBA history. Due to the 2-3-2 format, Miami must win at least one game to send this series back to South Florida for a Game 6.

Of course none of those teams — the ’99 New York Knicks, ’03 New Jersey Nets, ’05 Detroit Pistons or ’07 Cleveland Cavaliers — could stack up with these Heat. (Only one had LeBron James, but also started Daniel Gibson, Drew Gooden and Sasha Pavlovic.)

Back to the Heat. In the 2 games in Oklahoma City in the 2012 Finals, Miami’s bench tallied a combined 20 points — and 10 of those came from a still-limp Chris Bosh in Game 1; Bosh started Game 2. Miami’s bench scored 57 in the 3 games in Miami — though that stat’s slanted from Erik Spoelstra’s increased use of Norris Cole, a DNP – Coach’s Decision in Game 1, and Mike Miller’s 23-point eruption in Game 5.

Aside from Allen, a soon-to-be Hall of Famer, sniper and new addition to Miami’s bench, can Miami’s role players travel? Will Andersen impact the game on both ends? Will Cole, Miller and, should he play, Shane Battier, a starter on last year’s Finals team, hit open shots?

Then, of course, there’s Chalmers, whose 25 points in Game 4 vs. OKC is perhaps the only reason Russell Westbrook’s 43-point outburst came in a losing effort. ‘Rio scored a combined 15 points in Games 1 and 2 last year.

On San Antonio’s end, the Spurs need something out of Ginobili, who struggled to handle the ball last night. Manu’s failed to reach double-figure scoring in 7 games this postseason, including 5 of his last 8.

Oh, man, this should be fun.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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