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If Miami made any sort of statement when it evened the NBA Finals with its Game 2 victory, that statement was matched – and raised – by San Antonio in its 113-77 clubbing of Miami in Tuesday’s Game 3 at AT&T Center.
The Spurs took a 2-1 series advantage by dominating at the defensive end and making a Finals-record 16 shots from 3-point land. They took the cash as two-point home favorites, while the 190 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 188-point total.
Danny Green and Gary Neal stole the show by combining to drain 13 treys. Green scored a game-high 27 points, while Neal finished with 24. Neither player committed a turnover.
Kawhi Leonard scored 14 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, made four steals and completely stymied LeBron James with his defense. Tim Duncan added 12 points, 14 boards and a pair of blocked shots.
Tony Parker scored just six points but dished out eight assists compared to only two turnovers. Manu Ginobili finished with seven points and six assists.
James seemingly got beyond the mental hurdles in his game by winning his first ring last season. However, his critics certainly recall his failures in Cleveland, particularly that close-out game at Boston in his last game with the Cavs. They also remember his subpar play in the Finals against Dallas two years ago.
In Game 3, James was an abysmal 7-of-21 from the field. Sure, he does lots of other things (11 rebounds and five assists compared to only two turnovers), but the Best Player in the World has got to put the ball in the bucket when his team needs him in the NBA Finals.
For the series, James is now averaging 16.6 points per game, 10.2 PPG below his average for the regular season (26.8 PPG). James has only made 21-of-54 shots from the field for a 38.9 percentage. He shot at an incredible 56.5 percent clip during the regular season.
In the past, James might have deflected any criticism bound to come his way, but not so after Game 3.
Before the press even had the chance to ask about his shaky performance Tuesday night, James was his own worst critic, "If I'm better, we're better," James declared. "I'm putting everything on my chest and my shoulders. I've got to be better. I'm not doing my part.
"I can't have a performance like that and expect to win the game. I've got to do more, it's that's simple. I've got to do more.
"I've got to be able to put the ball into the basket."
Dwyane Wade had 16 points, five assists and four steals, while Chris Bosh finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
Mike Miller made all five of his attempts from behind the line to chip in 15 points. If we go back to Game 5 of last year’s Finals against Oklahoma City, Miller has now buried 16-of-18 attempts (89%) from deep in his last four games played in the NBA Finals. Wow!
After scoring 19 points in Game 2, Mario Chalmers couldn’t buy a bucket and finished with a bagel in Game 3. Also, he committed four turnovers compared to only one assist.
If there’s a positive note for Miami going into Thursday’s Game 4, it’s that it has been downright nasty coming off a loss in these playoffs. The Heat owns a 5-0 record both SU and ATS in such spots, winning by a whopping margin of 21.6 points per game.
Most books are listing San Antonio (72-27 straight up, 51-46-2 against the spread) as a 1.5-point ‘chalk’ for Game 4. The total is 187.5.
Miami (79-22 SU, 56-45 ATS) will be in its ninth underdog situation of the year. In eight previous ‘dog spots, the Heat compiled a 6-2 record both SU and ATS.
Sportsbook.ag has updated its odds for whom will win NBA Finals MVP honors. James remains the ‘chalk’ but his number has been reduced to +110 (risk $100 to win $110). The next-shortest odds belong to Duncan (+300) and Parker (+300).
The rest of the numbers are as follows: Wade (25/1), Ginobili (40/1), Bosh (75/1) and Chalmers (100/1). The ‘field’ has +300 odds (risk $100 to win $300).
When I asked VI’s Chris David about the total from Game 3, he had a number of thoughts. David said, “Gamblers on the ‘over’ is Game 3 were very fortunate thanks to the late-game surge from the uber-excited Spurs bench.
“I’m guessing some folks were loving or hating DeJuan Blair (who scored nine points at garbage time). As far as the game went, the pace wasn’t extremely fast but the pair made shots, including a combined 24 bombs from 3-point land. I’d be surprised to see that type of production from distance again but I’m the same guy who’s been surprised by the lack of fouls and free throw attempts. Since combining for 35 attempts from the stripe in Game 1, the Heat and Spurs have taken a combined 28 and 29 the past two games, well below their averages.”
Those trips to the charity stripe, or a lack thereof, would’ve undoubtedly resulted in another ‘under’ in Game 3 if not for the wild 3-point shooting barrage.
Looking to Game 4, David said, “We should be well aware of Miami’s production off a loss (5-0 SU, 5-0 ATS) in the playoffs and the reason it has been successful is because of its offense. The Heat has scored 115, 114, 90, 99 and 103 points.
“Delving into the box scores further, Miami has averaged 24.2 free throw attempts in those wins. If you base your handicapping on current form and situations, the best play for Thursday would be ‘over’ Miami’s team total, which is hovering around 93 points.”
Tip-off for Thursday’s Game 4 is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Parker sustained a hamstring injury in the third quarter of Game 3. He had an MRI on Wednesday, but the results were not yet known. As of 4:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, he was considered 'probable' for Game 4.
--The ‘under’ is 2-1 in this series, 23-6 in the last 29 head-to-head meetings between the Spurs and Heat.
--On Popovich’s watch, San Antonio owns a 9-2 straight-up record in 11 home games in the NBA Finals.
-- VI’s Chris David gets a hat tip for this gem of a stat: LeBron James is now 2-6 (33%) in eight career road games in the NBA Finals. On the other hand, Michael Jordan finished his career with a 12-6 road record (67%) in six Finals appearances.
--Miami hasn’t lost back-to-back games since dropping a 92-90 decision at Portland on Jan. 10.
--Sportsbook.ag has released future odds for the 2014 campaign. Miami is the +250 ‘chalk,’ followed by the Thunder (6/1), Bulls (10/1), Spurs (10/1), Pacers (15/1), Rockets (20/1), Grizzlies (25/1), Knicks (25/1) and Clippers (25/1).