Game 3: Broad side of barn currently a pile of smoking ashes

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AT&T CENTER — The Miami Heat stifled the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA Finals by aggressively trapping on pick-and-rolls and cutting off passing lanes like mad men. Many of those passing lanes were to San Antonio shooters spotted up in the corners.

In Game 3 on Tuesday night, the Spurs adjusted to the Heat by skipping the corners and instead found their shots in other locations. The result was a NBA Finals-record 16 3-point makes for San Antonio in a 113-77 destruction to take a 2-1 series lead.

Typically the Spurs favor 3s in the corner. It’s closer to the the basket than above-the-break 3s and it’s worth the same amount of points. That’s just good science right there. Well, everyone knows the Spurs like those corner 3s and that their offense is designed to generate open looks from that area. During the regular season the Spurs took the third-most shots from the corner in the league.

They didn’t, however, take as many shot attempts from above the break (the break is that little part of the 3-point arc where it goes from straight to curved). In fact, San Antonio was 18th out of 30 teams in number of 3-point attempts above the break. While the Spurs have found some good looks from that area, often the result of a Spurs big man setting a back pick on the help defender keeping an eye on Danny Green or Gary Neal, it’s still not their preferred shot.

Miami did a damn fine job taking away a lot of those corner looks, and any good looks for that matter, in Game 2. But in Game 3 the Spurs decided to skip a step and started a ‘screw the corner’ campaign that Tony Parker and Co. kicked off. Instead of looking to the corner whenever they got penetration or drew double teams, the Spurs tossed the ball out to the wings and top of the key to guys whose defender had already left to cover what they believed to be an eventual pass to the corner.

In Games 1 and 2, the Spurs took 14 and 16 3-pointers from above the break. In Game 3, however, they took a whopping 23 shots from that area to just nine attempts from the corners.

spurs-heat-shot-chart-nba-finals-game-3

This is how Finals games turn to blowouts.

It was a fairly minor — or major, depending on how you look at it — adjustment for the Spurs to make. But it was one that yielded great results. Parker and Manu Ginobili suddenly found open passing lanes to exploit with the change of perspective. The pair combined for 14 assists, despite playing a combined 2:35 in the fourth quarter.

Clearly, though, the beneficiaries were Gary Neal and Danny Green, who combined to shoot 13-for-19 from 3-point range (68 percent) and drop 24 and 27 points, respectively. I’m not an NBA historian, but I’d venture to guess that results in a win, more often than not.

And while Game 3 was a resounding thump to the momentum of the Heat, it appears little momentum has carried over from one game to the next in this series. Thinking this was the death blow to Miami’s title hopes is a foolish game. Just as easily as the Spurs made a couple of adjustments to their gameplan that generated open looks that you or I couldn’t hit, but at least get off a shot, the Heat can do the same in Game 4.

Although, they would have to do a lot to top the style with which the Spurs did it on Tuesday night.

  • LASpursFan

    whoa. that’s a lot of GREEN.

  • NYC

    Looking at all these makes from his former teammate, you might suspect that LeBron is GREEN WITH ENVY. Amirite, guys?? Huh? HUH?
    Yeah… you’re laughing.

  • Michael

    Lotta Danny “GREEN”

  • Tim in Surrey

    BTW, thanks again, guys. This is apparently the only place I can go to get analyses of what the Spurs do on offense. Everything I’ve seen on ESPN, Yahoo!, etc. is about what’s happening when Miami has the ball. But I’ve contended all along that the interesting thing about this series was going to be whether Miami could stop us, because Miami was a notably weaker team this year defensively than we were. And that was BEFORE Wade started playing like he was coming off of knee-replacement surgery. I’m sure Miami will bounce back on offense in Game 4, but I’m interested to see how they try to stop us. To me, that will determine what happens with this series.

  • STIJL

    Wow. Great article. Could it be Pop’s genius is in affect here. Knowing he’s got really good 3 point shooters no matter if the shots are taken from the corner or top of the key?

    The players…(Green and Neal) certainly proved so.