Stephen Howard , SportsBlog.com Presents: Legends Corner- Featuring continuous and compelling blogs written by NBA veterans, Legends Corner is the content hub for some of basketball's most legendary players. on
Tonight all eyes in this NBA Finals matchup will be in Miami where the Heat try to protect home court against the visiting San Antonio Spurs. This is a pivotal game for both teams as the Heat took away the Spurs home-court advantage with the win in Game 2.
It's important to note that the Spurs and the Heat had identical home win-loss records during the regular season at 32-9, tied for second in the NBA. The more interesting stat in my eyes is when you look at the teams' "away" record. The Heat were tied for 5th in road wins during the regular season, going 22-19 just a little above .500. The true dominance of the Spurs this year is shown in their ability to win on the road. The Spurs went 30-11 this year, a feat that during playoff time will give them confidence going into tonight's game.
If you've listened to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich at all, then you have heard him say that it is not a series until you "win on the road" and that "true champions win on the road." As a road team, your main objective is to earn a "split" on the road. The Miami Heat did that in Game 2 and the Spurs will try to regain that home advantage with a win tonight.
If you look at the numbers, in a series that is tied, the winner of Game 3 wins the series 30 out of 36 times. The Spurs know this and the Heat know this. Because of this, I believe more pressure is on the Heat tonight than the Spurs. The Spurs look at this right now as a two-game series that they need to win one game. The Heat absolutely have to win this first home game or they could potentially go down 3 games to 1 if they were to lose both home games.
The farther into this NBA Finals matchup we go, the more important benches will become. This is an area that the Spurs have a clear advantage, and it showed in Game 2 with the Spurs getting 37 points from their bench and the Heat getting only 12. Look to see the Spurs try and speed up the pace and make the bench more of a factor early in the game. Tempo will be key for both teams as you want to be the team dictating the pace.
LeBron James will look to take the lead role early and not try to involve his teammates as much. He will realize the significance of this Game 3 and do everything in his power to will his team to victory. The individual matchup of Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard could determine the outcome.
With all that rests on Game 3, I expect this to be a game with plenty of fireworks that should go down to the last 2 minutes of the game.