Game 3 Preview: Heat ready to take control of Finals series with homecourt advantage

Mike Ehrmann

The rematch continues in Miami in a building that still haunts the Spurs.

Tuesday at 9:00 PM on ABC the Miami Heat will host the San Antonio Spurs for the first time in the 2014 NBA Finals.  After splitting the first two games in San Antonio, the Heat will get a chance to play in front of the home crowd, where they are an undefeated 8-0 during this postseason run.

After dropping Game 1, there was a lot of noise surrounding the team; as if there already isn’t a cloud of talking heads following the team wherever they go. Most of the outrage was about LeBron’s inability to complete the contest, leaving with leg cramps after scoring 25 points. Game 2 was a totally different story as it always is with this bunch, especially the game after a loss.

Historically we all should have seen this coming, after all the Heat always seem to pull out Game 2 after a Game 1 loss in the "Big 3 era." This is a scenario that has appeared 6 times since the trio came together in the summer of 2010. After the Heat lose Game 1 of a series they have gone on to lose only 3 games in the remainder of the 6 series combined. This Heat team has shown to be a resilient bunch and always has a counter punch. They always seem to come up in big situations.

After their victory in Game 2, the Heat have now gone 47 playoff contests without dropping back to back games. This streak dates back to one of my personal favorite games in Heat history and a night that has shaped LeBron James, as well as the championship-winning core that fuels the Heat game after game. Yes, the famed "Game 6, Boston" as we affectionately know it, a night where we watched LeBron score 30 in the first half en route to 45-15-5, and most importantly a victory that set the stage for a game 7 victory and redemption in the NBA Finals.

LeBron wouldn’t need to put that many points on the board for the Heat to succeed over the Spurs on Sunday night, though he did net an impressive 35, with 22 coming in the 2nd half including 3-3 from beyond the arc. James would finish with 35 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists but he wasn’t the only one who finished the game strong.

That "other guy" is Chris Bosh, and lately he’s been anything but just another guy. Bosh played a huge role in game 2 and it seems like he is really coming into his own in these last four games, even after missing a corner 3 that would have clinched the series against Indiana in 5 games. Coach Spoelstra always calls Bosh one of the most important players on the team, if not THE most important, and when his number is called he more than likely will deliver; it’s how he earned the moniker "Big Shot Bosh" after all. So late in Game 2, with a little over a minute remaining on the clock and the Heat down by one, Bosh received a nearly identical pass in a nearly identical spot as the aforementioned Game 5 miss. This time: nothing but net.

This will be the Spurs first visit to Miami for a game of round ball since they took a beating during the regular season, though the 113-101 final score does not properly show how large the margin was during most parts of the game. Before that the Spurs last appeared, or disappeared I should say, in Miami for games 6&7 of the 2013 NBA Finals, and we all know how that went.

Lineups

Expect the lineups to remain similar to the first 2 games if not identical for both teams.  Both coaches have the reputation for making mid-series adjustments so there could be new faces around come tip time, but all indications show that the lineups will remain as follows:

Miami Heat
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
C: Chris Bosh
PF: Rashard Lewis
SF: LeBron James

San Antonio Spurs
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
C: Tiago Splitter
PF: Tim Duncan
SF: Kawhi Leonard

What To Watch Out For

In this game it is important for the Heat to feed off the energy the raucous crowd will be sure to send their way. Coming into this series without home court advantage, the Heat know that they have a maximum for 3 games to play in front of their home fans for the rest of the season. Veterans like Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, even a much maligned Mario Chalmers should look to their teammates, as well as their loyal supporters to carry them throughout the game.

Strategy wise, LeBron should continue to find opportunities to attack the rim, especially if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is going to continue to put Kawhi Leonard on him. Kawhi is a great defender, don’t get me wrong, but he is struggling so far in this series and he is guarding LeBron very tight, very similarly to the way Lance Stephenson guarded LeBron in the previous series. This allows LeBron to use his explosiveness to blow by Leonard and commit aerial assault on the orange metal circle in the sky. The Heat should also look to get Dwyane Wade more involved in Game 3. Wade only scored 14 points on only 9 shots (4-4 from the FT line)

This has been a closely contested series so far and I don’t see that changing as the action moves southeast on Tuesday evening. The only time the Spurs have ever trailed in a finals series was last year after game 7, when the Heat led 4-3. The Heat have the ability to take what would seem like a commanding 2-1 series lead, with another game still left to play at home.

Keep your browser dialed in to Hot Hot Hoops for all of your HEAT news. For another look at the series, head over to the Spurs SBN affiliate, Pounding the Rock.

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