We've seen two games of the 2013 NBA Finals, and we've seen two matchups completely different in feel, style, narrative -- and most importantly -- result, sending us to San Antonio with the series knotted at one and very little idea how things will turn out going forward.
Game 1 was a down-to-the-wire struggle between two squads playing great defense, but each managing to avoid turnovers. Although LeBron James had a triple-double, the Spurs only coughed the ball up four times. And it was Tony Parker's 21 points, capped by a miraculous bank shot with under a minute left after 23.9 seconds of strong Heat defense, that got the highlights, the swooning, and the Spurs a win.
Game 2 seemed like it would be close for a while, but the Heat turned their performance up in the third quarter, going on a 33-5 run over the span of about eight minutes -- that's one team on track for a 40-point quarter, another on schedule to manage about eight points -- that gave this one garbage time.
The momentum is with Miami, and we've known for some time that the Heat have an extra level with nitrous oxide and afterburners. They won 66 games this year, including 27 in a row at one point, and, yes, they were last season's NBA champions. But the Spurs did their job in Miami by getting a win and giving themselves home-court advantage. It's technically possible, if unlikely, that they can close out the series with three wins at home here. Even if the combined scoreline of the two games is a bit lopsided, all that matters is the series tally, and that's even.
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Odds: Spurs favored by 2 points
Here are three questions on Tuesday night's game as we wonder who can jump out to a 2-1 lead:
The Big 1, the Big 2, or the Big 3?
Here's a fun question: When's the last time LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all had a good game? LeBron James is LeBron, and every one of his statlines is pretty preposterous. But the other two guys have been hit or miss.
Wade has shown signs of relevance -- he had 21 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- but his knee is gimpy, and his game needs explosion. Bosh has fallen in love with the idea that he needs to take a lot of three-pointers, and although he had a double-double in Game 2, it was his first since the conference semifinals, and he only had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The last time Wade and Bosh both scored more points than shots attempted -- which is a pretty baseline way of judging whether or not a player was at least average -- was Game 4 of the Indiana series, five whole games ago, and in that game, Bosh had seven points on six shots and Wade had 16 points on 15 shots. These guys are superstars, and they're not setting the world on fire; they're maybe putting a very small-scale model of a globe into some warm water, to continue an awful metaphor.
This is part of the beauty of the Heat: two guys who would be essential on any other team have had meh postseasons, and yet they're in the Finals, and tied. But both guys simply achieving being average regularly would be a boost for Miami.
Will Danny Green come back to Earth?
In Game 1, Danny Green was one of the Spurs' top players in the first half, hitting four threes, and although he wouldn't add any points later in the game, his shooting kept San Antonio in the game before it pounced late. In Game 2, he went 6-for-6 from the field, 5-for-5 from three, for a team-high 17 points, again mainly in the first half. It was lost in the fact that the game turned into a blowout, in part due to the fact that Green didn't connect on a bunch of threes in the second half.
Green has developed from a wispy wing player that didn't seem to have much of a role in the NBA into a legitimate defensive guy who can absolutely drain it from downtown, hitting over 40 percent in each of the two years he's had a significant role with San Antonio. But even great shooters don't hit at the rate he's hitting right now. Although he starts, he's supposed to be a role player with San Antonio, and he's shooting like he's their star.
Who wins the turnover battle?
You're not going to lose many professional basketball games when you turn the ball over just four times. In the thousands of NBA games this season, only four times did a team manage to turn the ball over four or fewer times, and the Spurs pulled it off a fifth time in Game 1 of the Finals. This against a team that forced the fourth highest percentage of turnovers in the league, stacked with strong perimeter defenders, a team that forced a monstrous 21 turnovers in a decisive Game 7 against the Pacers. It was brilliant ball-handling from Tony Parker and smart decision-making by the rest of the squad.
The Heat, on the other hand, aren't going to lose many games where they force 16 turnovers. In fact, in 36 games where they forced 16 or more turnovers in the regular season, they went 34-2. That's a 94.4 winning percentage. In Game 2, they forced 16 turnovers. This leads to a lot of LeBron James dunks or other sorts of transition finishes, and if somebody actually gets back and convinces him not to dunk, bad news, they have shooters who know exactly where to go on a secondary break. Tony Parker had five turnovers to go along with his five assists, and in the 33-5 run, the Spurs had six turnovers, leading to two James transition baskets, Mario Chalmers' and-1, and Ray Allen threes.
Whether or not San Antonio gives the ball away is a huge key to whether or not this can be a ballgame. If it is thrifty with it, it can keep pace. If not, get ready for more highlight reel stuff.