It's official: Predicting things is pointless. We just watched a game where LeBron James was helpless as Danny Green and Gary Neal combined to blow out the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. That's not the craziest sentence I've ever typed, but it's certainly amongst the less likely ones.
We've now run the gamut in the NBA Finals: We've had one intense, close game, decided by just four points after both squads traded leads — and Tony Parker hit a miracle banker with the shot clock expiring.
We've had one blowout in Miami's favor, with the Spurs turning the ball over and giving James and the Heat too many opportunities to slam in transition on a 33-5 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.
And we've had one blowout in San Antonio's favor, with Green and Neal bombing away and setting the NBA Finals record for most threes by a team in a game with 16, while James was, well, bombing in one of the worst games he's played in recent memory.
It's tough to say where we're headed next. If you believe in the concept of momentum carrying over from game to game, I'd like to hear you explain how that massive Miami run turned into a Spurs rout in just one game. But we know that we have two teams capable of complete dominance, as well as two teams capable of putting on a damn good show.
The Spurs can put themselves on the brink of a fifth NBA title with a win in Game 4, and the Heat can turn this into a best-of-three series — in which they have home court advantage. Here are three questions about a game that — just like the first three — could go either way.
Do we see LeBron James? Like, the real LeBron James?
Wednesday morning, millions of Americans sprung out of bed feeling renewed: James, you see, had played a bad game in an important situation. And after four MVP awards, an NBA championship and countless games this postseason where James had put in yeoman's work while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sputtered, the casual NBA fan's favorite trope was back: James is not clutch, and does not perform well when the game is on the line or when his team needs it.
To a certain extent, this is craziness. Guys, James is really, really great at basketball. He had a triple-double in Game 1, was pivotal as the Heat exploded in Game 2, and yes, had a bad game in Game 3.
But to a certain extent, it's puzzling. As Mike Prada spelled in out in quite a bit of detail -- with pictures! -- the Spurs have opted to play off James, inviting him to shoot. James' shot, once a weakness, has improved steadily over the course of his NBA career to the point that he's an above-average shooter, but he seemed hesitant to take an open look. And without an attacking, decisive James, the Heat's offense wasn't itself.
James has been great this series despite his inability to score — the trip-doub, the Tiago Splitter block, generally strong passing and defense -- but he's only scored 50 points on 54 shots. The Heat need him to be proactive and effective to win, and right now, he's neither.
Will random players' hands continue to be covered in flaming embers?
Before Game 3, I did this same post, and made Danny Green one of the three questions. Guys, I'm not a genius. I just noticed that Green had been playing really well -- mainly in first halves -- and wondered if he could continue being a solid contributor. More than likely, I figured Green would be average to unnoticeable.
Instead, dude hit seven threes. Seven. SEVEN. He's now 16-for-23 from beyond the arc in the series.
And he's not the only one: Neal is 8-for-13 in the last two games, from nowhere. And Mike Miller is 9-for-10 on three-pointers this series, including his last eight straight. Both Neal and Miller have had games where they went 5-for-5 from downtown in a game where their team has lost by at least 20 points, so everybody's just gunning.
It's not impossible for any of the three to sustain it. Green has turned into a spectacular shooter, hitting 42.9 percent of his threes on the year, and Tuesday night was actually the fourth game on the year where he hit seven or more threes -- he even had one night with eight threes. Neal had a seven-three, 29-point outing earlier on the season. And Miller hit seven threes in the decisive Game 5 of last year's finals. Let's also not forget that Ray Allen, who holds the NBA record for threes in an NBA Finals game with eight, is 6-for-9 from downtown on the series.
Shooting this good is pretty rare and tremendously unsustainable. Although to some extent, it's a measure of suboptimal defense on shooters, there have also been scores off of broken plays, lucky shots, and just a disturbing amount of very, very hot shooters. Who stays hot, who regresses to the mean -- and how violently?
Can Miami clean up their own glass?
It's no secret that Miami's not the greatest team at grabbing defensive rebounds. They play small, with Bosh often the biggest player on the floor, and are much more adept at contesting shots than actually picking up the carom. They only snagged 73 percent of their opponents misses in the regular season, 23rd in the league.
But San Antonio is one of the worst teams at grabbing their own misses: they only picked up 20.5 percent of shots they missed, the second-worst rate in the league.
Yet, in Games 2 and 3, the Spurs couldn't be denied on the glass. After not topping 14 offensive rebounds in the regular season, they had 15 boards in Game 2, a figure that would've been a season high, with eight offensive boards coming from Kawhi Leonard alone. They bested that in Game 3, ripping 19 offensive rebounds, with Tim Duncan ripping down seven, his highest figure of the season. All told, in the last two games, they've managed to get their hands on 34 of 91 misses, 37.4 percent, an absurdly high amount.
That's inexcusable, and the Heat have to get better at preventing San Antonio from getting second opportunities.
Here's the info on Thursday night's Game 4:
NBA Finals, Game 4
San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
San Antonio leads the series, 2-1
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Odds: Spurs -1