Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Maybe the best thing one can say about the Miami Heat is losing a Game 1 in a playoff series - yes, even an NBA Finals - doesn't seem to rattle 'em all that much.
Last year's Heat team floundered in Game 1 and quickly fell behind the Oklahoma City one game-to-none but that didn't exactly keep Miami's hoopsters down as they went on to win the next four games in a row and thus gave LeBron James and Company an NBA crown - they say the first of many together, remember?
Well, this year we witnessed the Heat get beaten 93-86 -- as 13-point home betting favorites, no less - in an Eastern Conference Semifinal Round series against Chicago and the Miami response was to go off and win the next four consecutive games in that best-of-seven series.
Plus it happened versus the Bulls back in 2011 too - lose Game 1 and then roll to four straight wins to clinch a playoff series - and so you do have to forgive this Heat for appearing a bit unconcerned about digging itself an early hole in this year's NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Still, don't let anyone soft-sell this to you:
Game 2 is now officially a "must-win" affair for the Heat because even the most wide-eyed optimistic Heat fan doesn't think James and Company will win Games 3, 4 and 5 in the Alamo City this coming week.
SAN ANTONIO at MIAMI - Spurs lead series 1-0; Game 2 is Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC-TV
To bang out a Game 2 win - note the Heat's been installed as a heady 6-point betting favorite for this tilt - Miami must change some overall tactics/strategies with number one on the list being the fact James must be more "selfish" and less of a distributor come the fourth quarter here.
The stat line is Game 1 was fancy stuff for James as he finished with a triple-double with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists but why did he allow the Spurs to dictate his moves in the final frame when the Heat registered a paltry 16 points?
Why not go to the hoop more - mainly against Kawhi Leonard and some top-of-the-foul-line double-team help from Tim Duncan (see 20 points and 14 rebounds) - and make some in-close shots and/or draw some fouls against the black-clad Spurs?
While we didn't fault James for chucking out the pass to a wide-open Chris Bosh for the much-dissected missed three-pointer with under a minute remaining we will agree with most media folks who don't understand why Bosh took as many field-goal tries as James (16 apiece) and only one more than G Dwyane Wade (7-of-15 FG shooting for 17 points) ... the fact of the matter is James has to take at least 22 or 23 shots from the floor here in Game 2 and he must make more than four trips to the free-throw line. Got it?
Conversely, the Spurs managed to win Game 1 even though Gregg Popovich's crew shot a measly 41.7 percent from the field (that's 35-of-84 shooting) and really went through stretches where the likes of Duncan (who started 0-for-5 from the field) and reserve G Manu Ginobili (4-of-11 FG shooting for 13 points in 30 minutes of play) couldn't get heated up and so now you're left to wonder if that tandem will hit a hot stretch or two here and will PG Tony Parker (21 points, 6 assists and 0 turnovers) continue to post his usual playoff figures that lie in the 23 points, 7 assists range.
Keep in mind the Spurs love the downtown shot and yet canned only 7-of-23 trifectas in Game 1 and still walked off the court winners - so will Leonard, Danny Green and/or Matt Bonner have their moments in the sun from beyond the three-point arc here and thus stagger the Heat when Erik Spoelstra's club is paying more attention to Mr. Parker?
Finally, two key elements/developments to watch for here:
Will Miami's Wade "have his legs" here after two full days off or will he revert to the middle portion of the series against Indiana where the two-time champion simply didn't have any lift? If Wade is effective as a cutter/slasher to the hoop, he'll help make life easier for James - if Wade's a step slow or not explosive towards the tin, the Spurs will see it and slough off him more.
And what about those Miami Heat reserves? In Game 1 - spurred on by G Ray Allen - the Heat bench scored 30 of the team's 88 points or 34.1 percent of the offensive production with Allen's 13 points in 24 minutes leading the way.
Is it fair to expect another 30-point-or-so game here from the combined likes of Allen, Chris "The Birdman" Andersen (7 points in Game 1 against San Antonio), Mike Miller (5 points in Game 1) and Norris Cole (also 5 points in the NBA Finals opener) or should Spoelstra figure his backups won't be quite as productive?
Hey, if James isn't the torch-bearer in the fourth quarter here - assuming its' relatively close after the game's first three quarters of play - than the Miami bench may well be the difference-maker as to whether or not this series is knotted up at a game apiece heading to San Antonio for Tuesday night action.
Here's how the NBA Finals series between Spurs-Heat has gone so far (note the home team in CAPS):
Spread Notes: The Spurs head into Game 2 at 11-4 ATS (against the spread) overall for a tasty .733 winning rate and note San Antonio now has covered six of its last seven post-season games while enjoying its current seven-game SU winning streak. On the flip side, Miami exited Game 1 of these NBA Finals at just 9-8 versus the vig this post-season (a .529 winning rate) The Heat's just 4-6 against the odds at home during these playoffs.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals Side & Totals Winners when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays. Also, bang out loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too each/every day online and on the toll-free telephone # here with weeknight games available after 1 p.m. ET and weekday games after 11 a.m. ET.
OUR WEEKEND BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES
Hey, as long as you're compiling a possible list of National League starting pitchers to go in this summer's All-Star Game at Citi Field in Flushing, let's not forget St. Louis Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright who upped his personal record to 9-3 with a tasty 2.34 ERA in Friday night's win in Cincinnati.
In case you're wondering, Wainwright has accounted for nearly 23 percent of the Redbirds' MLB-best 40 wins this year and his latest gem saw him go seven innings while allowing two runs, seven hits and one walk.
In a year in which RHP Chris Carpenter declared himself gone from the St. Loo rotation early on - again - Wainwright has stepped up to become the real ace of a splendid starting staff that could have two other hurlers going into the All-Star Game (see RHP Shelby Miller who is 7-3 with a minuscule 1.91 ERA and fellow right6y Lance Lynn who is 8-1 with a 2.76 ERA).
Can you imagine NL manager Bruce Bochy (San Francisco Giants) going with Wainwright, Miller and Lynn in some type of order to pitch the first four or five innings of this year's Midsummer Classic? Wow! ...
Okay, so who's really the surprise team in the bigs this year?
How about the Oakland A's who exited Friday night's 4-3 win at the Chicago White Sox with a spiffy 38-25 record ... now did you really think the A's would be playing better-than-.600 ball nearly 40 percent into this current campaign?
The latest edition of the "Moneyballers" have a bit more pop in those bats than you might have realized as the A's - although they rank only 10th in the American League in total home runs with 62 - sport a guy who could lead the league in LF Yoenis Cespedes who has 13 "knocks" this year while sporting a slugging percentage of .510.
The A's may not have more than a couple of truly recognizable names in their everyday batting order - yes, Cespedes would be one of 'em - but here they are creating havoc in the AL West once again and gunning for one of those two AL wild-card berths ... who would have thunk it, right?NOTE: More NBA Finals action in the next edition of Jim Sez.