Fast Breaks: Supporting cast moves Spurs into control of Finals
Fact: This series was never going to be about Big Threes.
Whether you favor the explosive star power of Miami's trio or the steady consistency of San Antonio's troika, the NBA Finals was always going to come down to the performance of the supporting casts. And in the Spurs' 113-77 win in Game 3, their role players came through in a big way.
An avalanche of threes. The Spurs were the fourth best three-point shooting team in the regular season (37.6 percent) and the second best team from beyond the arc in the playoffs (36.7 percent) coming into Game 3. On Tuesday, San Antonio connected on an NBA Finals-record 16 three-pointers, swelling a six-point halftime lead into 31-point blowout early in the fourth quarter. Leading the way was Danny Green (7-for-9), a former second-round pick and D-Leaguer who has been on fire in his first Finals series, and Gary Neal (6-10), a 28-year-old undrafted free agent who has had his passport stamped playing all over Europe.
Where's Mario? The Heat's success doesn't rise and fall with Chalmers ... or does it? Chalmers was a disaster in a Game 1 loss, spectacular in a Game 2 win and submitted a horrendous zero-point, one-assist, four-turnover effort in Game 3. The Heat must get something out of their point guards -- Norris Cole posted a mediocre eight-point (on 3-of-8 shooting), three-assist, three-turnover line -- and with Chalmers, they never know what they are going to get.
The Spurs D gets it done. Gregg Popovich has dismissed the notion that anything could be gleaned from how San Antonio defended LeBron James in 2007, but one strategy looks familiar: The Spurs are daring LeBron to beat them with his jumper. James scored just 15 points on 7-of-21 shooting, including 1-of-5 from beyond the three-point line. Kawhi Leonard -- who is a superior defender with a pair of the strongest hands in the game -- is giving James plenty of cushion when he has the ball, and LeBron simply couldn't get into a rhythm in Game 3. LeBron's erratic shooting led to several long rebounds, which contributed to San Antonio's 20 fast break points.
James has evolved into a dangerous shooter since those '07 Finals, but if he isn't connecting early he will have to force the issue in the paint. His ability to draw defenses is too important for Miami, which needs that attention to free up Mike Miller and Ray Allen on the perimeter.
Parker's health. The only thing that could put a damper on the Spurs win could be the health of Tony Parker, who left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be a right hamstring injury. Parker returned for a minute in the fourth but was pulled when the game turned into a rout. Parker is an irreplaceable cog in San Antonio's offense and his injury could significantly shift momentum toward Miami, even in defeat.