Miami is currently 2-1 up in the Eastern Conference Finals, and will play one more game at Boston before the series shifts back to South Beach. Boston seemed to make the right adjustments for game 3 and dominated the Heat throughout the game, winning by 101-91.
While Boston deserves the credit, it was something about Miami’s demeanor and body language that wasn’t right. On the court, and during the post-game press conference, James and Wade seemed calm, they smiled and exchanged jokes with the media. Despite giving a game back to Boston, they didn’t seemed too fussed about the loss, as if it was merely a regular season game.
Sure, there’s no need to put your head down after a loss in a highly competitive series, yet we are used to seeing greater dissappointment in players when the stakes are this high.
Keys to the game
Probably the biggest adjustment that Boston made for game 3 was the way they utilized Kevin Garnett offensively. Garnett scored 24 points on 10-16 shooting, as Rajon Rondo and others were feeding him the ball right under the rim. Being the tallest player on the court, KG could time and time again establish a deep position in the paint, and all his teammates needed to do was to throw the ball up and let him go get it. Miami have to make adjustments to limit the amount of easy layups Garnett gets in the paint, by forcing him out to the perimeter.
LeBron James was on fire in the first quarter and went off for 16 points. Due to the fact that James was hot, it wasn’t necessary for Wade to get involved offensively as much from the get-go, but the jumpers eventually stopped falling for James. Since Wade didn’t establish much of an offensive rhythm, we rarely saw him attack the basket, and he didn’t attempt a single free throw in the game. Last time Wade didn’t attempt a single free throw in a playoff game was in his rookie season.
Just to compare a couple of numbers: Miami went 10-20 at the line in game 2. James and Wade attempted 35 free throws amongst the two of them in game 2. The key to fixing the problem is obviously going into the game with a more aggressive mindset, and everyone has to do a better job converting at the line – 50% is simply unacceptable.
With Bosh out, Battier has kind of settled in as the x-factor for the Heat. When Battier is knocking down his shots, and spreading the floor, the driving lanes naturally open up and make it easier for Wade and James. Battier was cold in game 3, going 0-6 from the field.
To win game 4 Miami will need to come out with a desperate mindset. While James scored 34 points in game 3, he only had 5 assists, and we all know he is more than capable of putting up solid triple-doubles. I would like to see James looking for his teammates early, and get guys going, especially Dwyane Wade. James will inevitably have that one quarter where he takes over the scoring load, but it will be important to establish a collective offensive rhythm early in the game, and James is the best facilitator on Miami’s roster.
Another key factor in game 3 was the contributions off the bench by Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels. Miami’s bench has to match the Boston’s reserves intensity.
A thing Miami did well in game 3 was scoring in the fast break. We saw the Heat push the ball even when Boston made a basket, and earn quick,easy points before Boston got a chance to set up their defense. They have to continue pushing the ball at any given opportunity.