3-on-3: Spurs go for the 3-1 lead
The Spurs took Game 3 of the NBA Finals from the Heat and now it’s Miami’s turn to reciprocate. In today’s 3-on-3 with our guest from Grantland and Rolling Stone, Steve McPherson, we talk about Kawhi Leonard’s Game 3 performance, the Heat point guards and the threat level in Miami.
1. More impressive in Game 3, Kawhi Leonard’s offense or defense?
Steve McPherson, Grantland/Rolling Stone: I’ll say defense, just for a moment in the third quarter (I think) where I caught Leonard on defense facing down LeBron James and moving those giant hands of his in quick, precise ways as if he were Bruce Lee or some other master of controlling space. So often, a guy’s hands are just things flailing around at the end of his arms, but this was like kinetic poetry.
Trevor Zickgraf, 48 Minutes of Hell: He was awesome defensively, but I still think we have to look at his offense as the more impressive aspect. He hit 3s, bullied his way into the lane and attacked the paint when he saw a mismatch. We haven’t seen that versatility in one game all that often, let alone against a great defense like Miami’s. His defense, as brilliant as it was, was more in line with what I was expecting coming into the series. That also might mean my expectations for him on defense are unfairly high.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: I’m going to say offense just because he was so damn efficient. The career-high 29 points was impressive, but the fact that he did it on just 13 shots while being the go-to defender for LeBron James on the other end? That’s the stuff legends are made of.
2. How much is point guard play hurting the Heat?
McPherson: I think the play of their point guards is hurting them but not in the way that they need better point guard play—as defined by playmaking and passing—per se. It’s more that they need better play in a number of different areas, but it’s not like they’re hurting badly for shot creation. It would also help for the Spurs not to shoot 75.8 percent in the first half.
Zickgraf: A decent amount. It’d be one thing if Mario Chalmers just wasn’t hitting shots, but he’s letting guys blow by him when he’s not fouling them. The defense has been a bigger problem than the offense. Chalmers not being able to guard Parker means an oversized Norris Cole has to or LeBron James has to expend extra energy defending Parker.
McNeill: Combined, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are averaging 6.6 points on 25 percent shooting, 5.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 4.7 turnovers in about 42 minutes per game in these Finals. Miami is essentially playing 4-on-5, because the defensive contributions from these two aren’t oustanding either. LeBron is great, but I don’t think even he’s good enough to play a man down against the Spurs.
3. Fill in the blank: For Miami, the Game 3 loss was _______.
McPherson: Demoralizing. Although Bosh said it was “probably the worst game we’ve played together,” it was probably still enough to beat the majority of teams in the league. Sadly for them, the Spurs aren’t the majority of teams. Now whether the Heat take that as a sign that they’ll bounce back in Game 4 or a signal that they’ll consider some serious changes is on them.
Zickgraf: As demoralizing as Game 2 was for the Spurs. How demoralizing is that, exactly? I have no idea. But here was a great opportunity for Miami to take command of the series and they didn’t. All it did was make the series 2-1 Spurs. The Heat have been in this position before, so there’s probably not any panic, but I imagine they’re going to come out in Game 4 as aggressive as we’ve seen them so far in these Finals.
McNeill: Par for the course. This series is going to be back-and-forth and we’re all going to have to like it. Miami won Game 2 when the Spurs offense bogged down late. Of course the Spurs were going to start out well on offense in Game 3, although maybe we didn’t expect it to be that well. Now it’s the Heat’s turn to adjust and send San Antonio reeling. It’s stressful to watch, but it’s never dull.