NBA Finals: Spurs up 2-1, cue LeBron hate!

We’ve all now had 24 hours to digest San Antonio’s 36-point dismantling of Miami in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday. It was the worst playoff loss in Heat history and the largest margin in NBA Finals history.

San Antonio’s role players > Miami’s role players

Before Game 1, we all knew San Antonio’s bench was deeper and, well, better. But three guys on the Spurs — Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gary Neal — have far exceeded expectations in their Finals debuts.

The Game 3 numbers: Leonard (14 points, 6-10 FGs), Neal (24, 9-17) and Green (27, 9-15). That’s 65 points on 24-42 from the field and 15-22 from 3.

Some wizard even tweeted this last night:

That’s insane. Miami’s ‘Big Three,’ by comparison: LeBron James (15 points, 7-21 FGs), Dwyane Wade (16, 7-15) and Chris Bosh (12, 4-10). That’s 43 points on 18-46 from the field, 1-6 from 3.

To recap: Miami’s ‘Big 3,’ on 4 more shot attempts, scored 22 less points than Leonard, Neal and Green.

And that’s not to mention the job Leonard’s doing defensively on the MVP. In 39 minutes, LeBron scored only 15 points on 7-21 shooting, and he did not attempt a single free throw. The Heat were -32 with The King on the floor. BTW, LeBron has yet to top 20 in a single game of these Finals; during the regular season, that was the case in 5 of his 76 starts.

In my blog post after Game 2, I brilliantly predicted Mario Chalmers would not keep up the stellar play on the road. Plagued by early foul trouble, Chalmers boasted this stat line: 0 points, 0-5 FGs, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 20 minutes. But give credit to Mike Miller, whose 15 points on 5-5 from 3 was the only good thing to happen for Miami in Game 3.

What’s next from LeBron?

Contrary to just about every NBA columnist out there, I’m not worried about LeBron. Think about all the times Miami’s faced major adversity since the 2011 NBA Finals debacle: Game 4 in Indiana in 2012, down 2-1 and without Chris Bosh; Game 6 in Boston in 2012, on the brink of elimination; and Game 7 against Indiana this year, also on the brink of elimination. LeBron’s stat lines from those games are as follows.

  • Game 4 vs. Indiana, 2012: 40 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists; Heat win, 101-93
  • Game 6 vs. Boston, 2012: 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists; Heat win, 98-79
  • Game 7 vs. Indiana, 2013: 32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists; Heat win, 99-76

Common threads here: pressure situations, great defenses, great performances by James.

I still like San Antonio to win this series in 7 — my original pick — but I do expect Miami to take Game 4 in San Antonio. After all, the Heat have to win either Game 4 or 5 to push this series back to South Florida.

Man, I love this game.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

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