Gary Neal hit a clutch three-pointer from the wing as time expired in the first half to give the San Antonio Spurs a 50-44 lead over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at AT&T Center on Tuesday night.
Tony Parker also connected on a three-pointer one play earlier to help the Spurs finished the half on a 6-0 run to steal the momentum going into the tunnel.
The Spurs kept LeBron James and Dwyane Wade out of the paint and forced them into taking perimeter jump shots while taking away their lanes. The game plan was clear from the onset, and it proved to be effective in giving San Antonio the lead at the half. Mike Miller was 3-for-3 and knocked down two of his attempts in the second quarter to keep the game relatively close.
Tim Duncan continued to showcase his timeless talent as he led the way for the Spurs with 10 points and seven rebounds. Tony Parker initiated the offense and found his teammates early and often and totaled seven assists while scoring six points. The Spurs had 13 assists on 19 baskets.
San Antonio shot a blazing 61 percent in the first quarter, including 2-of-3 from the three-point line. Duncan got off to a hot start, scoring six points on 3-of-6 from the field in 11 minutes. They jumped out to a four-point lead in the first 12 minutes,which could have been larger if they had not committed four turnovers and allowed Miami to score four points off those giveaways.
James was relatively quiet early as he got a feel for the game. Obviously, he can do whatever he wants on a basketball court, and he's letting the game come to him to decide whether he'll serve as a primary scorer or facilitator. Miami shot 43 percent from the field, but the encouraging sign for them through the first quarter was the fact that they only committed two turnovers and managed to match the Spurs in rebounding as both teams had eight apiece.
The second quarter began with the heat going nearly four minutes without a score and featured a lengthy Spurs' run that saw them jump out to a lead as large as eight, but Miami went on a 12-1 run to tie the game at 44 points apiece before Parker's three-pointer extended the lead back to three.
SB Nation's own Rodger Sherman explored three good questions worth revisiting in this Game 3 preview:
The Big 1, the Big 2, or the Big 3?
Yes, LeBron is LeBron, but the other two players of Miami's star trio have to play well for the team to find success at AT&T Center. Wade started off with eight points to lead all scorers in the fist quarter, while Bosh struggled to a 1-for-5 start and totaled just three points in the first frame while committing two turnovers during that same stretch.
So far, it's been the Big 2, and that means that if Bosh isn't going to step up and get himself going with easy looks inside, then it will put more pressure on the perimeter players to hit open shots.
Will Danny Green come back to Earth?
Danny Green has been the Spurs' X factor in the first two games and he's picking up right where he left of. Going back to Game 2, he's been an unstoppable force from beyond the arc, going 10-for-16 in his first NBA Finals. He's doing it when his team needs him, as he gave the Spurs valuable momentum in the first half on Sunday before hitting another one to extend the lead to six at the 6:45 mark.
If Duncan and Parker can play up to their capabilities, they will no doubt have a real chance at winning the game if Green continues his other-worldly shooting exploits.
Who wins the turnover battle?
So far, the Heat have won the battle of giveaways with six to the Spurs' eight, but they're losing the proverbial war as they haven't capitalized by turning those into high-percentage transition baskets. Take that away from Miami, and they lose something that they normally do as well as any team in the NBA.