Published June 13, 2013
| Sports Network
All eyes will be on the Miami Heat Thursday night to see how they respond to Game 3's embarrassing loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
The Spurs walloped the defending champion Heat, 113-77 on Tuesday night, but their best player may be somewhat limited for Game 4 Thursday.
Tony Parker suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain in Game 3, but is expected to play Thursday.
"If it was the regular season I would definitely have rest, I would not play," said Parker on Wednesday after learning the results of the MRI exam. "Obviously it's the Finals, you know."
Parker, though, was given the green light on Thursday morning.
San Antonio leads 2-1 in the series and, with the next two in Alamo City, Miami has little time to figure out what has ailed them.
"We've been at our best when I guess our backs are up against the wall. And we're at it again," league MVP LeBron James said Wednesday. "We'll see how we respond tomorrow."
James is correct. Miami has been sensational after a loss during this postseason. The Heat are a perfect 5-0 following a setback and all five wins came by double-digits.
They also haven't lost back-to-back games since Jan. 8-10, a staggering six- month run of brilliance.
But the Heat haven't had to fix as ugly a performance as Tuesday's.
The 77 points they mustered matched a season-low from that Jan. 8 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Although, head coach Erik Spoelstra didn't see the offense as a problem.
"I don't even want our guys bringing up that side of the floor. If that's what we're going to pinpoint this to, we're kidding ourselves. We really are," he said Tuesday after the loss.
A season-low in points is something to address, no matter what Spoelstra wants his team to believe. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are giving about as much as expected considering their inconsistencies this postseason.
The problem might be James.
He is averaging 16.7 ppg during the three games of the Finals. James only had 15 points on Tuesday and those came on 7-of-21 shooting. Of course, James did other things like grab 11 rebounds and hand out five assists, but he did not attempt a single free throw, which is staggering considering he averaged seven free throw attempts per game this season and 8.6 for his career.
The four-time NBA MVP is certain he will improve.
"I'm just confident in my ability ... So I guarantee I'll be better tomorrow for sure," he said. "If you can go 7-for-21, but you get to the free throw line 10-plus times, you're being aggressive. You have to be able to shoot the ball high clip from the field if you're not going to the free throw line. You can't have both."
Spoelstra did have a point about the Heat's defense. Miami allowed 16 made 3- pointers, which is an NBA Finals record, and the Heat got destroyed on the glass to the tune of 52-36. The Spurs had 19 offensive rebounds.
Perhaps what's most troubling for the Heat is that San Antonio's version of the Big Three didn't do much in Game 3.
Parker had six points in just over 27 minutes and Manu Ginobili has been ineffective throughout the playoffs. Tim Duncan had 12 points and 14 rebounds, but two role players keyed the victory.
Danny Green, a second-round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009, went 7- for-9 from long range and scored 27 points. He is averaging 18.7 ppg in the Finals and is shooting a jaw-dropping, 16-for-23 from 3-point range in the series.
Gary Neal, who went undrafted and played in Turkey, Spain and Italy, had 24 points, including 14 in the first half. He was the spark for the Spurs and his late 3-pointer to close the half gave San Antonio a six-point lead.
"Last night was kind of me putting it all together on the highest stage," Neal said Wednesday. "I came out aggressive. I was able to make some threes. I was able to attack off the bounce. I was able to put it all together last night."
If Parker is limited or worsens the injury, San Antonio could be in trouble and what looked to be a comfortable position after a humiliating rout on Tuesday, could turn into an even series.
"We're going against a team championship DNA and championship pedigree on the floor and a must-win," explained James. "We're going to be ready for it. We're going to accept the challenge and see what happens."
Game 5 will be Sunday night in San Antonio.