TrueHoop: Tony Parker

Daily Postseason MVP rankings

May, 14, 2014
May 14
2:53
PM ET
Thorpe By David Thorpe
ESPN.com
Archive
Check back daily for our latest Postseason MVP rankings. Here's the current Top 3:



Also, check out our weekly Insider column on the Top 10 Postseason MVPs every Friday.

The Spurs' great H-E-B commercial legacy

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
10:26
AM ET
Serrano By Shea Serrano
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
San Antonio SpursAP Photo/Bahram Mark SobhaniSalsa. Shaving cream. Laundry detergent. Steaks. This is what the Spurs are all about.
The coolest San Antonio Spurs commercial of all time ran as part of the NBA's BIG playoff campaign in 2012. It very simply showed an offensive play being run in slow motion by Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan while only Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones" played in the background. It was perfect. All of it. Every single part. It was exactly who the Spurs are. I think I cried for, like, 45 minutes after I watched it.

The runner-up to the 2012 spot was the one that ran in 2005, when Nike was doing those bits where NBA players turned into animals. You can’t find the clip on the Internet anywhere, but the ad strung together separate clips of Manu, Tony and Bruce Bowen before they all morphed into piranhas. Other NBA players got similar treatments in the series. LeBron had one where he turned into a lion, and Dirk had one where he turned into an eagle or something, though if I were in charge I'd have had him turn into an ostrich. The most charming one of that group of commercials was Earl Boykins' -- he turned into a tiny poison dart frog, and that's just adorable.

The least-coolest Spurs commercial of all time was the one where Michael Finley was telling kids not to do drugs.

And somewhere in between all three of those fall the H-E-B commercials, 20 or so segments filmed over the past 10 or so years where various recent Spurs players (mostly Tim, Manu and Tony, but also sometimes Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen or Matt Bonner and Kawhi Leonard, and even occasionally coach Gregg Popovich) talk about brisket or laundry detergent or chip salsa.

H-E-B is a San Antonio-based supermarket chain that’s been around for nearly 110 years. They are, to be clear, beloved, woven all the way into the fabric of the city. My friends and I used to ride our bikes to the H-E-B by my house and then go inside and steal the pan de dulce they had on display in the bakery area. It's one of the first things I remember when I think about being a kid in San Antonio. H-E-B is basically the only grocery store my mom has ever shopped at. When my parents come to visit my family and me in Houston, they drive clean past three separate grocery stores to get to an out-of-the-way H-E-B whenever they need to buy something. That's just how it is. There is an actual symbiotic relationship there. Which is probably, at least in part, how/why the Spurs/H-E-B commercials have engendered the cult-like appreciation and fanfare they have in San Antonio.

I'm aware that all NBA cities have these sorts of locally run commercials where NBA players pitch car dealerships and mattress stores and so on -- I've watched them in Houston for years now -- but I feel confident in assuming that none are better than Spurs/H-E-B ones. The most recent batch, which went live in October, had a reverb that, for the first time in my memory, extended all the way into my Internet purview, landing at Yahoo! and Sports Illustrated and SLAM and more.

The seven most important H-E-B/Spurs commercials from their run together:

"One For Each"


This was one of the four most recent ones from the aforementioned October batch. People were excited about this one because it was the first time that Kawhi Leonard ever spoke in his whole entire life. (Kawhi will grow to be as loved a Spur as there ever has been, I'm sure of it. He's perfect. I love him.) You'll notice how easy Parker is in it, which is something he only recently figured out how to do. Duncan is an admirable straight man, a role he has held for the entirety of the series. And Manu is Manu, which is to say that he is God's Hand.

"M1 Effect"


Important because it is the only commercial that's ever been played in San Antonio that implied that a threesome was about to occur. Respect history, son.

"Laundry Sorting"


Kawhi again. Every time I watch this my heart melts to liquid from being so in love and then leaks out of my everything. Kawhi is an angel on Earth.

Note: During Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals, when Kawhi missed one of the two free throws he shot at the end of the game, giving the Spurs a three-point lead over the Heat (which Ray Allen eventually gobbled up) instead of four, that was very much the saddest point of my whole entire life. Not because the Spurs lost. I mean, it's whatever. I've seen the Spurs lose before. I'll watch them lose again. That's not a thing. It was so sad because it happened to Kawhi -- TO MY KAWHI. It was worse than when I watched my own son steal a ball from his teammate during his YMCA basketball game and then dribble to wrong side of the court and shoot a layup.

"Tough Talk"


Kawhi again, OMG.

"Night Club"


Important because Pop shows up. My one dream is to play for Coach Popovich. My other dream is that they remake “Bloodsport” and I get to play the lead. I'll take either one of those dreams.

"Poetry"


I met Brent Barry once. He was thoughtful and engaging. I liked him as a human. And I definitely liked him as a player for the Spurs, particularly during Game 1 of the West finals against the Phoenix Suns in 2005 (he went 5-for-8 on 3-pointers and tied for the highest plus/minus of any player on the court). And I enjoy him as a commentator and analyst, too. The best Brent Barry TV moment was when he was on NBA TV's "Open Court" and was ornery when discussing the dunk contest that he won. But I just didn't care for him much in these spots. It always seemed like he should've been funnier. I don't know. The Spurs won two titles with him, though, so he's good by San Antonio forever.

"Jerseys Smell Good"


Important because it was the only time in these commercials that Bruce Bowen was funny (the "How are they gonna respect us ..." line).

Note: Bowen is one of my all-time favorite Spurs players. Whenever I played rec league basketball in college or even today I always claim No. 12 for my stuff. I always appreciated his tenacity. I also appreciated his willingness to trip other players. That's basically my best defensive move, just tripping people while they're running around. #Bowen4lyfe

Bonus: "David Robinson and Dennis Rodman for Pizza Hut"


There have of course been other fun commercials in Spurs history. The American Express one with Tim Duncan is a personal favorite, if only because the herculean Kevin Willis has a very sneaky cameo in it. And there's also the Mister Robinson's Neighborhood one David Robinson did with Charles Barkley. And the Sprite one with Tim Duncan and Grant Hill where they're doing odd jobs during the 1998 NBA lockout. And the shaving one with Tim and Robinson together shortly after the Spurs drafted Tim. But maybe the best is the above Pizza Hut one, where David Robinson is talking to Dennis Rodman about how Rodman needs to open up and allow himself to be more weird.

I miss David Robinson so much.

I assume that these commercials will go on forever. There is no chance that the Spurs will ever leave San Antonio and there is an even smaller chance that H-E-B will ever not be around. And I’m grateful for that and happy. I just pray that Kawhi is around for just as long.

What's old is new again

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
9:44
AM ET
McNeill By Andrew McNeill
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Tony ParkerAP Photo/Eric GayThe Spurs are banking on the same old formula once again, but with a few fresh new looks.
Apart from a single photo from each of their four championship seasons, there are few reminders of the San Antonio Spurs’ rich history near their locker room at the AT&T Center. Down a long white hallway where action shots of each of San Antonio’s active players are displayed, the title photos -- those uncomfortable team portraits with everyone from the equipment manager to team owner -- hang above metal boxes into which television stations plug their equipment. Cameras, microphones and small monitors are often left sitting on the floor under these team photos as people go about their business before the game. It is the messy part of an empty wing, far from a cherished section designed to immortalize Spurs teams reaching the ultimate achievement.

In the players’ lockers hang jerseys with accents that are oh, so familiar. Like it has for years, white trim outlines the black for the numbers 21, 20 and 9 and black lettering for the names “Duncan,” “Ginobili” and “Parker.” But these days they sometimes sit atop a camouflage pattern, a tribute to San Antonio’s large military community, or a silver alternate with a large single spur on the front.
[+] EnlargeTony Parker
AP Photo/Eric GayHas the sun finally set on San Antonio's dynasty?

The Spurs have won at least 50 games in 14 straight seasons, an NBA record. They’ve had the same coach for 18 seasons, the same star player for 16 seasons and the same “Big Three” for about a decade. It’s a franchise steeped in history.

But amid all the consistency, this franchise is constantly evolving. San Antonio was one of the early adopters of the SportVU camera tracking system. Last season, the Spurs became the first team in NBA history to go text-free when they debuted their gray alternate jerseys, declining to put a city or nickname on the front of the jersey and simply featuring that spur on the chest. There is now an in-house DJ for home games and, to my knowledge, Gregg Popovich has yet to order his execution. Tim Duncan (37 years old) and Manu Ginobili (36) will be retired soon enough, but the maturation of Kawhi Leonard (22) has the team optimistic about its future.

There are changes to this roster, but on the floor the product has been maintained, and that continuity is paramount. Twelve players return from a team that finished an excruciating 28 seconds away from an NBA title last season. Ten of those players were on San Antonio’s roster the previous year, when the Spurs squandered a 2-0 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals.

After San Antonio dispatched the Grizzlies in a four-game sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals, the message resonating from San Antonio was about how happy the team was to get Duncan back to the NBA Finals. “We really want to do it for him,” Tony Parker said at the time, pleased he was able to make good on a promise he made to Duncan. The team sounded like a happy family relieved to get one more time together before life took each their separate ways. Some wondered if Duncan would retire after the season.

It was an understandable feeling. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Popovich know more than anyone how difficult the road to the Finals is, how many things have to fall into place in order to play into June. The Spurs were as healthy as they had ever been last season. Duncan has battled a deteriorating left knee over the second half of his career, but played 69 regular-season games and produced his best per-game averages in three years. Even Ginobili, who is usually good for one catastrophic injury per season, only dealt with small injuries of the soft tissue variety and played 60 games during the regular season.

Now after 103 games in 2012-13 and a summer full of international play for some of the team, including Parker, this Spurs team is going to play another 100 games and make it back to the Finals?

Yet a quick survey of the Western Conference suggests there’s no reason San Antonio can’t do just that. Every other West contender -- the Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and Warriors -- has a fatal flaw greater than San Antonio. And unlike the Spurs, they’re all figuring it out on the fly.

Questions persist about the mental and emotional toll Game 6 of last season's Finals had on the team, when the Spurs couldn’t secure a defensive rebound to clinch the series and ended up losing in overtime. “I think about Game 6 every day,” Popovich concedes. Other Spurs have similar stories, and who can blame them? San Antonio was seconds from being crowned champion, only to watch it disappear in a tangle of gold ropes on the AmericanAirlines Arena court in Miami. Two days later, in Game 7, the Spurs fell again.
[+] EnlargeTim Duncan
AP Photo/Eric GayDespite a crushing loss to Miami in the NBA Finals, things are looking up once again in San Antonio.

But the NBA season is such a long one. By the time the playoffs roll around Game 6 will seem like an eternity ago. The Spurs realize the painful memories will linger, never to go away completely, but there’s nothing they can do but play their way through it. It hasn’t gotten in their way so far: The Spurs currently sit at the top of the Western Conference with a 10-1 record, their best start through 11 games since 2010-11 when San Antonio began the season 13-1.

Aided in large part by the lack of getting-to-know-you period that so many other teams around the league are experiencing, the Spurs are second in the league in defensive efficiency behind the only other 10-1 team, the Indiana Pacers. The offense resides in the middle of the pack right now, but if San Antonio regains its rhythm and Duncan improves on his nightmarish 38 percent shooting, the offense will creep closer to elite once again.

The Spurs built an empire upon incorporating new aspects to an aging foundation. Young players joined with older to continue a winning tradition in San Antonio, while the organization finds new ways to make this classic franchise one advancing with the times. Imitated -- not quite duplicated -- around the league, the Spurs continue chasing history. Sometimes personnel changes are required for survival, but the Spurs are confident that continuity and a healthy mental state is enough to frame one more 12-by-18 team photo on the white walls outside their locker room.

Economists vs. tanking: David Berri

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
2:09
PM ET
By David Berri
ESPN.com
Archive
NBA Draft board
Mike Stobe/NBAE/Getty Images
The NBA Draft might be the single most influential reason we see teams tank. Should we get rid of it?

There are essentially three ways a team can acquire the productive talent it needs to contend for a title:

The Heat approach: Acquire productive veterans
This approach has also recently been used by the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. The problem is that the NBA has a maximum salary. This means that teams cannot use higher wages to attract better talent. Instead, productive veterans are now considering whether or not your team is likely to win. In other words, the Miami Heat approach seems to require that you already have stars to attract more stars.

In addition, teams have to know which veterans to acquire. The New York Knicks have tried to build with veterans for years. But in most recent seasons, the Knicks have failed because they tend to acquire relatively unproductive veterans (primarily because the Knicks focus too much attention on per game scoring).

The Spurs approach: Acquire productive players in the latter part of the NBA draft
When we think of the Spurs, we tend to think Tim Duncan. Although Duncan was the most productive regular season performer for the Spurs in 2012-13, about 48 of the team’s regular season wins came from other players -- the five most productive were Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, and Manu Ginobili. Each of them was either a non-lottery first round pick or a second-round pick. All teams have access to such players, but the team must be able to identify such talent. And since the Spurs are relatively unique in utilizing this approach, it’s reasonable to assume most teams cannot consistently identify productive players outside the lottery.

The Thunder approach: Acquire productive lottery picks
The third approach is to acquire productive talent in the NBA lottery. Most recently, the Thunder accomplished this when they built an NBA Finals team around the talents of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Lottery picks are granted to the NBA’s non-playoff teams, so you have to lose to implement this strategy. You also must have a fair amount of luck. Not only does it help to finish very high in the lottery, you also have to be able to select the productive players with those high picks. In some years, though, this is difficult. For example, none of the top seven talents selected in 2010 have become players who produce wins in large quantities. A similar story can be told about most of the players at the top of the 2006 NBA draft.

There is another problem that the Thunder discovered. Initially draft picks play under a rookie contract, so these players can produce wins at a very low cost. But this contract expires fairly quickly. Specifically, the Thunder were able to employ Harden for only three seasons. Once a player moves on to his second contract, the team essentially moves to option No. 1 (i.e. building through productive veterans). So not only does this approach requires luck, it’s also a short-lived strategy.

Nevertheless, teams seem to try and follow the third option. And for that to happen, teams have to lose -- or pursue the strategy of tanking. Such a strategy essentially contradicts a fundamental promise made by sporting competitors; that the competitors will do their very best to win the game.

To eliminate this strategy, we simply need to remove the incentive behind this approach. Again, teams only get high lottery picks by losing. And the more you lose, the better your chance of getting the top picks in the draft. If we want teams to stop doing this, we need to change the incentives of the people who implement this strategy.

This can be done in three ways:

Return to a non-weighted lottery
In a paper I co-authored with Joe Price, Brian Soebbing, and Brad Humphreys, we presented evidence that the NBA’s non-weighted lottery -- utilized in the 1980s -- seemed to reduce the tendency to tank. Back in 1985, only seven teams didn’t make the playoffs. Today it is 14 teams. If all lottery picks were selected via a non-weighted lottery -- as was the case in 1985 -- the worst team in the NBA could receive just the 14th pick in the draft. This would effectively eliminate a team’s incentive to be as bad as possible to get the best pick possible.

Eliminate the draft
A more radical approach (for North American sports fans) is to eliminate the draft. In European sports, there is no draft. But on this side of the Atlantic, it is taken for granted that the losers in professional sports leagues are rewarded with high draft picks. However, as we have noted, this gives teams an incentive to tank. So a simple solution is to abolish the draft and allow top amateurs to negotiate with more than one team.

One issue with this approach is that the top amateurs could simply choose to sign with the NBA’s best teams. This is especially likely if the NBA’s rookie salary cap is kept in place. After all, if the wages of the top players are going to be the same, then these players will simply choose to play for the best teams. To avoid this problem, the NBA could implement a system where playoff teams cannot sign a player until 14 amateurs have already received offers from non-playoff teams. And once a player received an offer from a non-playoff team, he could not sign with a playoff team (but could still sign with any of the other 13 non-playoff teams).

This system would force the non-playoff teams to be as competitive as possible, since the top amateurs would probably prefer to play for the best non-playoff team possible. And again, would eliminate the problem of the tanking.

Punish the losers
The tanking strategy is easy for decision-makers in the NBA to embrace. Teams that pursue this strategy are essentially trying to lose to enhance the team’s draft position. This is a simple strategy to follow. Trying to win is difficult, but losing is easy and the more incompetent the decision-maker, the better the strategy can be implemented. Imagine how easy it would be to do your job if you were rewarded for doing the job badly!

To stop this behavior, the NBA could simply implement a rule that says if a team misses the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the team must fire its general manager. If this rule was put in place, constant losing would lead to consequences for executives.

David Berri is a Professor of Economics at Southern Utah University. He is co-author of The Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins (FT Press, March-2010). He has written extensively on the topic of sports economics for academic journals, and his work has appeared at The New York Times, the Huffington Post, Freakonomics.com and Time.com.

Three trends behind Spurs' demise

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
4:26
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
In San Antonio, the proximity to a fifth title will be the legacy of the 2013 NBA Finals.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the San Antonio Spurs are the fourth team in NBA History to blow a 2-1 and 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals, joining the 1962 Lakers, 1969 Lakers and 1978 Sonics.

Naturally, a post-mortem analysis focuses on what went wrong against the Miami Heat

Benching Parker down the stretch
The losses in Game 6 and 7 shared the curious absence of Tony Parker in crunch-time offensive situations.

In Game 6, Parker remained on the bench for the final 31 seconds of overtime. The ensuing two offensive possessions resulted in a Manu Ginobili turnover and a blocked Danny Green shot.

In Game 7, Parker remained on the bench coming out of a fourth-quarter timeout with the Spurs down by four and 27 seconds remaining. Again, Ginobili turned the ball over.

Would things have gone differently if Gregg Popovich left his best playmaker on the court?

That will remain the great unknown. But it is also worth mentioning Parker’s struggles. He was held scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting on his seven drives and did not create any points for his teammates on drive-and-kicks.

Danny Green hits a wall
Going into Game 6, Green was the likeliest candidate for Finals MVP if the Spurs captured the title. In five games, he’d set an NBA Finals record with 25 3-point field goals, while leading the team with 18 PPG.

That’s when it all fell apart for Green. He went from San Antonio’s most effective offensive weapon into a deep slump.

Green went 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) over the final two games, at one point missing 13 straight shots. Despite his woes, Green played a combined 78 minutes.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 1-for-12 performance on Thursday made him just the second player in NBA Finals history to take at least 12 shots in a Game 7 and make one or fewer. The other was Dennis Johnson, who went 0-for-14 for the SuperSonics in 1978 against the Bullets.

LeBron happens
Amidst all of the possible second-guessing of Spurs' decisions, it’s impossible to overlook the impact of LeBron James.

Consider that in the final two games of the series, James averaged 34.5 points, 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists. His 37 points on Thursday, matched Tom Heinsohn’s record for points in a Game 7 win.

The Spurs’ defense is content to allow long and mid-range jumpers. That strategy largely succeeded against LeBron in the first six games. In Game 7, James capitalized.

James was 9-of-20 (45.0%) on field goals outside the paint in Game 7, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. James attempted 87% of his field goals in Game 7 from outside the paint (49% in Games 1-6), his highest rate since joining the Heat.

LeBron's historic effort brings another title

June, 21, 2013
6/21/13
12:48
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
LeBron James hit big shots from the outside with consistency in Game 7.

It lacked an epic ending, but Game 7 of the NBA Finals proved to be both highly entertaining and riveting down the stretch.

The Miami Heat were a few shots better than the San Antonio Spurs. And the difference was that the best player on the floor made the big shots when it counted most.

Let's run through some of the statistical highlights.

Heat go back-to-back
The Heat become the second team in five seasons to win back-to-back titles, joining the 2009-10 Lakers. It marks the 12th time in NBA history that a team won consecutive titles.

The Heat are the third team in NBA history to win Game 7 in the conference finals and NBA Finals in the same season ('62 Celtics, '88 Lakers).

They are also the third team in NBA history to win the NBA title without leading the NBA Finals at any point in the series until after Game 7 ('69 Celtics, '78 Bullets).

LeBron does too
LeBron James won his second NBA title and joins Bill Russell and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to win back-to-back regular-season MVPs and NBA titles.

He joined Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Hakeem Olajuwon as players who won back-to-back NBA Finals MVPs (O’Neal and Jordan won three straight, with Jordan doing so twice).

James is now 3-0 in Game 7s with the Heat after losing both of his Game 7s with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Heat’s Big Three are now 5-1 all-time in elimination games.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that James tied the record for most points in a Game 7 NBA Finals win, matching the mark set by Tom Heinsohn for the Boston Celtics in 1957.

James had a rough series outside the paint through the first six games, making only 21 of 62 shots. But in Game 7, he was able to hit from the outside repeatedly, including the basket that made it a two-possession game inside of 30 seconds to play.

The last word on James: He averaged 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists for the series. The only other player to average 25-10-7 in an NBA Finals series was … James in 2012.

Unsung Star: Shane Battier
Shane Battier made six 3-pointers in Game 7, tying the record for most 3-pointers made in any Game 7. Tim Hardaway made six against the Knicks in the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals and Joe Johnson made six against the Heat in the first round in 2009.

Another Ring for Riley
Heat president Pat Riley has now been a part of nine championship teams. He won six as a coach (five as a head coach), two as an executive, and one as a player (in 1972 with the Lakers).

Spurs finally beaten
The Spurs suffer their first NBA Finals series loss after winning their previous four.
They fall to 3-5 all-time in postseason Game 7s and lose back-to-back games for the first time this postseason.

The Spurs got 24 points from Tim Duncan, but Tony Parker and Danny Green both struggled, shooting a combined 4-for-24.

Parker's issues are noted in the chart on the right. Green was 1-for-12 from the field. He was 2-for-19 in the final two games of this series after shooting 57 percent from the field in the first five games.

Elias noted that Green became the second player to take 12 or more shots in Game 7 of a NBA Finals and make one or fewer. The other, Dennis Johnson (1978 Seattle SuperSonics) went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career after going 0-for-14 from the field in a loss to the Washington Bullets.

It’s the first time the Spurs lost consecutive games in which all three members of their Big Three played since last Dec. 12-13.

Home-court advantage
Home teams are now 15-3 all-time in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, with six straight wins. The last road team to win was the 1978 Bullets over the SuperSonics.

History points both ways for Game 6

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
2:38
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive

AP Photo/Lynne SladkyLeBron James is averaging 31.5 points per game in games in which his team faced playoff elimination
Historical storylines abound going into Tuesday's Game 6. Can the San Antonio Spurs continue their road closeout dominance? Will LeBron James have another big scoring game to stave off elimination?

Here's a look at the numbers in support of each team.

Why the Spurs Will Win
The Spurs enter Game 6 leading the series 3-2. Teams up 3-2 in the Finals have gone on to win the series 83.3 percent of the time (35-7) all-time. Since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985, teams up 3-2 have gone on to win the NBA Finals a virtually identical 82.4 percent of the time (14-3).

Even with the final two games of the series in Miami, the Spurs have recent history on their side.

The Spurs are an NBA-best 14-2 in potential series clinching games on the road in the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili era since 2002-03. Those 14 wins are six more than any other team over that span.
Gregg Popovich is 19-5 when his team had a chance to clinch a playoff series on the road. Only one head coach in NBA history has a higher career winning percentage than Popovich in those games (min: 2 games): Tom Heinsohn (8-1, .889).

The Spurs closed out each of their previous three series on the road this postseason, taking down the Lakers, Warriors and Grizzlies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams in NBA history have won four series clinching games on the road in a single postseason: the 1989 Pistons and 1999 Spurs.

San Antonio is just one win away from its fifth NBA Title and would remain one of just two teams in NBA history with multiple NBA titles without a Finals loss (Bulls, 6-0). It would also be their first NBA Finals series win without home-court advantage.

Why the Heat Will Win
Not surprisingly, it all starts with LeBron James.

He’s averaging 31.5 points per game in his career when facing playoff elimination. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest for any player in NBA history (min. five games). In fact, only Michael Jordan (31.3) and Wilt Chamberlain (31.1) are also above the 30 PPG threshold.



The Heat have been here before. In 2012, they climbed back from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Miami couldn’t pull it off in the 2011 NBA Finals, falling to the Mavericks 4-2.

Only three teams under the current format have won the NBA Finals after trailing 3-2 with the remaining two games at home. Most recently, the Lakers came back to beat the Celtics in 2010.
On the most basic level, it’s the Heat’s turn on Tuesday. Neither team has won back-to-back games in this series, just the third time that’s happened through five games of the NBA Finals since 1985.

Miami has been dominant following a loss this postseason, winning all six games by an average of 20.7 points. The Heat haven’t lost back-to-back games since January 8-10, going 12-0 following a loss since then.

Spurs use new big three for big win

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
12:52
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive

Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports
Danny Green (left) and Gary Neal both broke a franchise record in the Spurs' big win.
The San Antonio Spurs rode the performance of their big three to a dominating win over the Miami Heat in Game 3. their 36-point victory is the third-largest margin in NBA Finals history and the second-largest in Spurs postseason history.

Danny Green (7-for-9) and Gary Neal (6-for-10) both broke the Spurs franchise record for 3-pointers in an NBA Finals game (five) and Green was one shy of the NBA record (Ray Allen in 2010). Green has made 16 3-pointers through three games, already the most in an NBA Finals series in team history and easily the most of any player through the first three games of an NBA Finals series.

As a team, the Spurs' 16 3-pointers are a new NBA Finals record.

The New Big Three
The big three came through for San Antonio, but it might not be the names you’re accustomed to.

Green, Neal and Kawhi Leonard combined to score 65 points on 50 percent shooting, including 15-for-22 from 3-point range.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to score just 43 points on 18-for-46 shooting (39.1 percent).

The Spurs' typical big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for just 25 points, but Duncan pulled down 14 rebounds and the latter two combined for 14 assists.

Green has scored 56 points in this series to lead all players, six more than LeBron James and 15 more than any of his teammates.

Key to the Game: Spurs shut down the pick-and-roll
Defensively, the Spurs bottled up the James-Mario Chalmers pick-and-roll. In Game 2, the Heat shot 7-for-9 with no turnovers off that pick-and-roll combo, but in Game 3 it netted them no field-goal attempts and three turnovers.

James has been held under 20 points in all three games in the series, only the second time that’s happened to him in his career (he’s played 134 playoff games). The other time it happened was in Games 3-5 of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, the only postseason series Miami has lost since James joined the team.

He was -32 in this game, the worst plus/minus of his NBA career. He’s played three NBA Finals games in San Antonio (two with Cleveland in 2007), posting a negative plus/minus in all three games and shooting 34.5 percent in the three games combined.

Stat of the Night
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili registered their 100th playoff win together, the second trio in NBA history to reach 100 (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper won 110).

The Spurs have played 25 NBA Finals games in franchise history and have yet to trail in the series. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most NBA Finals games played before trailing in NBA history.

Looking Ahead
The Heat are 4-5 in their past nine games after going 46-3 in their previous 49 games dating to the regular season. Since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985, the Game 3 winner of a tied NBA Finals series has gone on to win the series almost 93 percent of the time (12-1).

NBA Finals stat storylines: Game 3

June, 11, 2013
6/11/13
9:31
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Each team has its shooting strengths and weaknesses through two games.
The winner of Game 3 figures to have a pretty significant edge in the NBA Finals, given the recent history.

Since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985, the Game 3 winner of a tied NBA Finals series goes on to win the series 12 out of 13 times.

Let's take a look at five of the statistical storylines to watch that could make a difference in which team has that advantage.

How do the Spurs respond to being blown out?
The Spurs are 3-0 this season following a loss by at least 19 points. They are 28-11 following such a loss since the 2002-03 season (when Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan first played together).

If the Spurs lose Game 3, it will be the first time that they have trailed in the NBA Finals in franchise history. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that among teams to appear in at least one NBA Finals, the Spurs and Sacramento Kings franchise are the only teams to have never trailed in a Finals series.

How do the Heat respond to their win?
The Heat put the Spurs right where they wanted them by losing Game 1.

In the LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh "Big 3" era (since 2011 postseason), the Heat have lost a Game 1 of a series four times.
Following a Game 1 loss, Miami is a perfect 13-0 in games within those series over that span.

The Heat scored 103 points in their Game 2 win. They are 21-1 when scoring 100 or more points in postseason games in the Big 3 Era.

Lebron and the 20-point mark
The Spurs have held LeBron James under 20 points in both games this series.

James has played 133 career games in the postseason and been held under 20 points in three straight games just once.

It happened in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Mavericks in Games 3-5.

That was the last postseason series the Heat have lost.

Heat have the edge from in-close
The Heat shot 15-of-21 from inside five feet in Game 2 and are shooting 30-for-47 (64 percent) on such shots in the series. LeBron James, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole have been the Heat’s Big 3 on those shots, making 16 of 21.

The Spurs were 11-of-24 (46 percent) from inside five feet in Game 2, their second-worst percentage on those shots in a game this postseason.

The Spurs are shooting 24-of-50 (48 percent) inside five feet during the series after shooting 63 percent on such shots in the postseason prior to the NBA Finals. The two players who have had the most trouble -- Ginobili (2-of-7) and Tiago Splitter (1-of-5, including one shot rejected by James).

Spurs matchup of note: Tony Parker in pick-and-roll vs Heat defense
The big men for the Heat did not hedge out to help on Tony Parker in the pick-and-roll in the first half, and the Spurs scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting off Parker’s pick and rolls. That followed Game 1, in which the Spurs scored 20 points on Parker pick-and-rolls.

In the second half, the Heat were more aggressive in helping on Parker (such as in the opening minute of the fourth quarter when Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers fought through two screens to contest Parker’s attempt), and the Spurs went 1-for-6 on the nine instances in which they ran a pick-and-roll through him.

Parker was 0-for-3 in his shots in the second half off the pick-and-roll. He’s averaging 10.4 points-per-game on pick-and-rolls this postseason, second-most to Chris Paul's 12.0.

Spurs-Heat Game 2 takeaways

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
12:23
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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When things looked precarious for the Miami Heat in the second quarter and LeBron James’ stat line looked pedestrian by anyone’s standards, it became throwback night:

What was going on? Was he being too deferential? Not sufficiently assertive? And was this lack of assertiveness actually a lack of resolve and the symptom of a deep character flaw?

How we miss you, 2011 C.E.

A combination of factors were at work, but to the extent there was a problem, it was far more rhythm than resolve. Unsatisfying as it sounds, there were a lot of possessions that simply didn’t end up in LeBron’s hands.

The defense of Kawhi Leonard also has to be cited, as it clearly bothered LeBron more than occasionally. The best example came toward the end of the third quarter, when Leonard recovered from a Mario Chalmers screen and quickly caught a driving James and deflected his pass for a turnover. He played on LeBron’s right shoulder fearlessly all night. When James held the ball, Leonard gave him a little space but was hyper-alert to potential closeouts.

But there were plenty of good opportunities all around for Miami, and the Heat -- often James himself -- frequently chose the one that happened not to be LeBron.

Dwyane Wade and James orchestrated a pick-and-roll with just less than four minutes to go in the first half, right about the moment of the game when LeBron’s limited level of involvement in the offense went from a peripheral plot point to a major storyline. Together, they forced a defensive switch by San Antonio.

The immediate expectation would be to empower James, who was eight feet in front of the basket one-on-one against Danny Green. But just when it seemed like Wade blew it by not finding LeBron, Wade bounced into the lane against Leonard, rose and flicked the ball at the rim over Leonard.

It was an obvious opportunity for LeBron, but there’s no faulting Wade for not giving it up.

James drew Green again on a switch the very next possession, and James shot a 17-footer directly over Green. It was a shot he hits at a decent clip but didn’t fall.

A couple of possessions later, James ran directly at Gary Neal in transition off a Spurs miss. He bullied Neal into the lane just beneath the basket and established position. But Wade either didn’t feel like he could lob a pass inside that would have cleared Tim Duncan, who stood between Wade and James, or felt he had some real-estate opportunities of his own to exploit. Either way, Wade drove the lane, lured Tony Parker away from Chalmers on the strong side perimeter, then dished to a wide-open Chalmers for the 3-pointer.

Just as James made his approach to the paint while leading a break in the third quarter, he kicked the ball out to the arc and rang up the hockey assist on Ray Allen’s trailing 3-pointer.

A minute later, James jump-stopped in the paint on a drive, saw Mike Miller wide open and gave it up again for a teammate’s open 3. Then followed a James laser to a cutting Wade for an easy layup and a dish to Wade again on the break when Wade settled for an awkward runner. The Heat went to a successful Wade-Chris Bosh pick-and-roll off a subsequent inbound.

In the Heat’s final possession of the third quarter, James’ sturdy screen for Chalmers took Parker out of the play, allowing Chalmers to drive to within five feet of the basket for the floater and the foul. A pass of medium difficulty to James would have resulted in a high-percentage shot but probably not one better than Chalmers’.

And the Heat first mounted a 15-point lead after James took control of the left block against Manu Ginobili, got the pass, saw an immediate double-team and whipped a pass along the baseline that landed in Miller’s hands in the right corner for an open 3-pointer.

Time and again, James hunted mismatches and dragged the unsuspecting victim into the post, and there was a classic example of how quirky the game was for LeBron as he tried to get on track down low.

With a little less than five minutes left in the third, James dragged Green onto the low left block and got an entry pass from the left sideline. This is one of Miami’s corner-post sets run for James at the spot on the floor that best allows him to be a true triple threat. But just as he started to go to work, Duncan was whistled for defensive three-seconds.

So, yes, by both conventional and LeBron standards, he had an unremarkable first three quarters. There were definitely uncharacteristic moments. Having his shot blocked at the rim by Green wasn’t one for the reel, and he failed to convert on the break after Green performed the aerial version of pulling the chair out (opening the door to the plane?) on LeBron, throwing the shot attempt off.

But LeBron’s results over the first three quarters weren’t worrisome or a betrayal of his powers. And assertive can mean different things. His team was performing efficiently overall, and, by a combination of chance, the appetite of his teammates and some pretty strong defense by Leonard, the individual production wasn’t there until late. It happens, especially against disciplined defenses that plug the lane before James can find a seam.




Chalmers is one of those players we rarely look at with a long telescope. It’s easy to forget he was a second-rounder out of Kansas in 2008. As the draft drifted toward the end of the first round, he was one of those potential draft-night steals, a guy who might surprise and become an effective backup NBA point guard.

Chalmers' career has exceeded those projections. He isn’t a perfect solution, but he’s one that’s been far more than adequate holding down a very serious responsibility for an elite team and doing it during the nuttiest of environments in which the people he works with yell at him a lot. He’s essentially the long, spot-up threat, the stretchiest guy in the starting lineup for a team featuring James in his prime.

In Game 2, Chalmers led the Heat in scoring and drained a big 3-pointer that re-established the lead for Miami 90 seconds before halftime. We saw in Game 1 that he can be an effective weapon if he can clear the corner on the screens from James and Udonis Haslem. Leonard can’t do much to help since he’s on James, which means if Chalmers can pick up a little speed around that turn, life becomes more difficult for Duncan or whomever is waiting.

The defense has gotten inordinately smarter, even if there are occasional groaners. The staff gave him a directive to run under screens for Parker and work with his big men to make sure they nailed the timing of the recoveries. He shined in those capacities as well in Game 2.




In Game 1, the Spurs found quality looks inside for their big men against smaller Heat defenders, the guys who have to rotate from the wing when the Heat blitzed pick-and-rolls. The Heat still ran a few blitzes on Sunday night (early), and we saw Tiago Splitter as the beneficiary when he drew Miller as the rotator. Splitter scored an easy bucket at close range to settle the Heat’s first-half run.

Blitzing the pick-and-roll is a tough full-time strategy for the Heat because they’re already pretty small behind a trap on the ball handler. Combine that with Parker’s speed, which requires the big man to hang around longer, and the Heat’s defense can get destabilized pretty quickly when that happens (as it did in Game 1).

With that in mind, the Heat began to switch some pick-and-rolls. Ideally, this strategy is less likely to put a defense into rotations, which is death against the Spurs. Initially, Miami’s switches came almost exclusively in late shot clock situations. If Parker or another guard can make a play from 25 feet with five seconds left, then so be it.

Sometimes, the Spurs did, as when Parker in the first quarter zipped past a screen from Boris Diaw just in front of the left sideline and flipped up a teardrop over a backpedaling Bosh with the shot clock expiring. Green sank his third 3-pointer of the game when Splitter gave him a screen that bought Green enough space to step back and launch an uncontested look from beyond the arc.

But the Heat accomplished much of what they wanted defensively with the switch (credit them for getting into late shot clock situations by defending for 18 seconds). Duncan missed a 20-footer over Wade with the shot clock expiring. Bosh, Haslem and James handled Parker and the guards sufficiently. The Heat were still put into their share of rotations -- many of them the result of Spurs cutters and divers -- but distances were shorter because nobody was more than a few feet from their assignment to trap Parker or pick up Duncan on the roll.

Whether it was the switch or something else, the Heat desperately needed some variance in their pick-and-roll coverage coming into Game 2. And throughout the second half, we saw the Heat’s big men give Parker a long show with Chalmers taking the long way under the Duncan screen.

A team has to mix up its pitches against San Antonio. If the new plan is a disaster, you can always ditch it, but sometimes, a competitive series demands trial and error. You have to know when to abandon the experiment (and/or be willing to cut bait early), but even the remote possibility that you can win a few possessions makes it a worthwhile gamble.

Spurs-Heat Game 1 takeaways

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
1:19
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive


The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat did basketball proud on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The series opener was a nice composite of the most likeable qualities of two really good basketball teams. Neither San Antonio nor Miami was the very best version of itself, but that wasn’t the result of selfishness or poor execution or anything other than the fact that the game is challenging when you’re playing the best competition.

A good number of missed shots came off well-executed actions, and some of the best shots -- in fact, the best shot -- were scored against incredible defensive efforts. Tony Parker’s improbable, leaning bank job came a second after he was literally on one knee against the Heat’s best pressure defense of the night.

When Parker put the Spurs up by six points earlier with three and a half minutes to go in regulation, the bucket was the result of the nastiest of crossover dribbles against a pesky Mario Chalmers. Parker skidded left, rose with the ball and nailed the well-contested jumper.

And when the Spurs went up seven on Danny Green’s big 3-pointer just before the 2:00 mark, it was after a series of passes when the ball went side-to-side and back again in a span of two seconds.

We didn’t see any transcendent individual performances in Game 1. Parker led all scorers with 21 points, and none of the high-volume guys on either side shot better than 50 percent from the field. But we saw Parker square off against LeBron James in the game’s final minutes, the Heat go point-less down the stretch and, of course, Parker’s bank shot, which will occupy a place in the constellation of bright NBA Finals moments.

Let’s play seven.
 

Pick-and-rolls with Parker and Tim Duncan are mainstays of the Spurs’ offense, but certain risks arise when the Heat blitz Parker (or any ballhandler when Duncan is the screener) while playing small. By doing so, the Heat effectively put one of their perimeter players in a rotation to pick up Duncan, and that can be dangerous for Miami.

At the two-minute mark of the first half, Shane Battier didn’t stand a chance as Duncan rolled hard to the basket after Chalmers and Joel Anthony trapped Parker off a pick-and-roll in the middle of the floor. Battier tried to station himself between Duncan and the basket, but Duncan was too big and too deep and drained an easy hook shot from about 5 feet out.

Tony Parker
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsTony Parker dropped 21 points in San Antonio's Game 1 win.


This represents a huge opportunity for San Antonio in the series. If the Spurs can keep the Heat scrambling in defensive rotations during small-ball, Duncan should have some stellar looks at the basket against much smaller defenders, so long as Parker can make the pass out of the trap. This might once have been an issue for Parker, but it has been years since he couldn’t move the ball against pressure.

The Spurs weren’t successful on every possession -- Mike Miller was ready and waiting for Duncan when the Heat blitzed Ginobili on an angle pick-and-roll with about 4 minutes to go in the third quarter -- but they generated a number of good chances for Duncan, both for himself and as a playmaker, and on the offensive glass.

Why blitz, then? Because laying back means Parker is looking at open jumpers from 18 feet. In theory, it’s a shot Miami can live with, but when Parker is hitting from the floor or has an unobstructed view of the entire floor with options everywhere, it can debilitate and demoralize a defense. Trapping also produces the brand of chaos that fuels the Heat's break. That said, at some point, the Heat might want to mix in a few defensive calls that diverge from their primary coverages.
 

Had the Spurs guards hit a few of the wide open 3-point attempts, we might be speaking more poetically about the Spurs’ offensive performance, and with good reason. A bad possession was a rare event for San Antonio, per usual. A primary reason all their stuff works even without conventional athleticism or explosiveness are the ball skills and speedy decision-making of Duncan.

On the game’s fourth possession, Duncan caught a pass at the top of the circle from Parker on his right soon after Parker attacked off Duncan’s high pick. Nothing fancy or unusual or overly aggressive, just basic work in the half court. The ball doesn’t stay in Duncan’s hand, not even for a second. He instantly moves it along to Danny Green on the weak side, far too quickly for Wade to close on Green effectively.

It’s the sort of possession that makes the game look so easy, because the tasks appear so simple -- short pass, short pass, long shot. And they are simple. Most teams at any level can follow that sequence, but how many of them can beat the Spurs’ time? Wade was even cheating that far off Green, but that’s why the speed at which Duncan operates as a decision-maker is so important. The margin between Green being pressured and Green being wide open is determined in the time it takes Duncan to act.

Boris Diaw works well in this capacity, too. In the second quarter, he found Green in the corner out of a baseline trap. A little later, Diaw drove from the right corner along the baseline immediately off a swing pass when he saw Chris Bosh trying to close at an awkward angle from higher up the floor -- another quick decision that yielded a couple of points.

Most big men in the game take a split second, some longer than others. Duncan and Diaw take almost zero time, one reason the Spurs can get shooters wide-open looks with half the shot clock still remaining.
 

Most matchups have pretty obvious implications with regard to pace. It’s generally easy to say, “Team A wants to get out and run, while Team B wants a slow-it-down, grind-it-out affair.”

But how fast does San Antonio really want to play? The Spurs generally benefit from a jolt of speed in the game, but the Heat’s fast-and-early game is a different animal than anything else in the league, and that’s where the Spurs can get hurt, and did several times in the first half, when Miami moved into its stuff at a brisk speed.

The best example came with about 3:35 remaining in the second quarter. Wade caught the ball on the move in a half-court set on a corner cut off a down screen from LeBron. Wade collected, dribbled, stepped and soared, the result very close to an and-1 when Green fouled Wade at the rim. The pace was crucial for Wade in the first half because he didn’t have to score against a set half-court offense every trip down, something he had trouble doing against Indiana.

The biggest beneficiary of the Heat’s first-half focus on early offense was James. How did James catch Duncan out on an island midway through the first quarter? Merely by pushing the ball off a miss. The Spurs’ transition defense is as attentive as any in the league, but it’s not always easy to find your man when the stream is running.

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesLeBron and the Heat kept up the pace early in Game 1, but the Spurs adjusted after halftime.


A few minutes later, LeBron did the exact same thing to Diaw. Off a long miss by Ginobili, James rushed the ball up and keyed in on Diaw like a predator. James pulled up, slowed down the action so he could let Diaw marinate a little longer in isolation. This is LeBron at his very best: Single-handedly controlling everything from the speed at which nine other guys are going to move and even the pitch of the crowd. Once James had Diaw alone, LeBron backed up virtually all the way to half court before revving the engine, then bulldozing left. The layup at close range missed, in no small part because Duncan disrupted the shot near the rim, but the Heat would gladly simulate that possession 23 times and call it a quarter.

LeBron is looking to do this off the ball in early situations, too. Off a Duncan miss late in the first quarter, James found himself out on the perimeter and a short jog back down the court. He immediately found Diaw, who was back guarding the paint, and posted him up 12 feet from the basket. James caught the entry from Ray Allen, turned, drove, met Duncan again at the rim, but this time James drew the foul, Duncan’s second of the quarter.

“We’re going to miss some shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said during a huddle in the second quarter. “I don’t care. But I care about the transition, all right?”

Had the Heat gotten the same number of opportunities in transition after halftime as before, they probably would’ve won Game 1. Instead, things tightened up and the game became a skills competition. Advantage, San Antonio.

Spurs, Parker connect at night's end

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
12:50
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Tony Parker came up clutch for the Spurs in Game 1 ...


And the Heat were off-the-mark in the fourth quarter.
The steadiness of the San Antonio Spurs won out in Game 1.

Their fourth-quarter rally and defensive stand powered them to a victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The veteran play of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan proved to be the biggest factors in this victory. Let's run through the highlights.

Play of the Game: Parker’s big shots
Parker was 2-for-4 on contested jumpers in the final 3:30, including a shot-clock beating jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

Prior to that stretch, Parker was 0-for-3 on the contested jumpers, and the Spurs were 4-for-25 as a team. They finished 6-for-30, but Parker’s beat the-shot clock make in the final seconds was the biggest of the game.

Parker made 3-of-5 mid-range jumpers in the game. He’s shooting 46 percent on mid-range 2s this postseason. His career average on those shots is only 39 percent.

Spurs knocked on the door all night, finally broke through
The Heat took a 21-19 lead with 2:47 left in the first quarter and held that advantage for most of the rest of the game.

The Spurs missed 12 straight shots that would have tied or taken the lead, but finally broke through, going ahead briefly on a Parker free throw with 7:47 left in that game, then getting a Kawhi Leonard putback with seven minutes remaining that sparked an 8-1 run.

Historical Perspective: Duncan’s 20-14
The 37-year-old Duncan finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Only one player older than Duncan has had a 20-point 14 rebound game in the NBA Finals—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar- who did so at age 38 twice in three days in 1985.

Historical perspective: LeBron’s Triple-Double
LeBron James had 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists. His 10 playoff triple-doubles are tied for the third-most all-time with Larry Bird and Rajon Rondo. Only Magic Johnson (30) and Jason Kidd (11) have more.

This was James’ third career triple-double in the NBA Finals. That ranks second-most all-time, trailing only Johnson’s eight.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that James is also the third player to have a triple-double in consecutive NBA Finals Games (he had one in Game 5 of last year’s Finals), joining Wilt Chamberlain (1967) and Johnson (1984).

Elias also notes that he has twice had at least 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 10 assists in a playoff loss. In NBA history, teams with a player that went 18-18-10 in a playoff game are 13-5.

The last player prior to James to reach those numbers in a playoff loss was Billy Cunningham for the 1971 76ers.

Lastly: This is the third time in the last 20 seasons that a player had a triple-double in an NBA Finals loss. Two of those were by LeBron James (one in 2011, one this season). The other was by Jason Kidd in 2002.

The one player able to stop James was Kawhi Leonard. James was 2-for-8 shooting against him, 5-for-8 against everyone else.

Looking ahead
In NBA Finals history, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 71.2 percent (47-19) of the time. However, the Game 1 winner has lost each of the last two NBA Finals (Heat in 2011, Thunder in 2012).

The Heat have been down 1-0 in a playoff series four times in the James/Bosh/Wade era. In each of the other three instances, the Heat swept the next four games, including last year’s NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pop of the day

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
1:12
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Gregg Popovich
Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images

“[Tim Duncan] doesn’t really even talk to me that much anymore. We’ve been married so long that ... half the things I say he doesn’t hear, the other half he tunes out if he did hear, because he figures it’s bull----. Manu’s getting to that point. Tony’s close to it."

-- Gregg Popovich, November 2012

A battle of Big Threes begins in Game 1

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
11:03
AM ET
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com

Getty Images
Game 1 will be the first time the Heat and Spurs have met at full strength in more than two years.

The Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season and for the fourth time in franchise history (2-1). The boys from South Beach are seeking to be the first team to win back-to-back NBA titles since the Lakers did it in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

On the other hand, the San Antonio Spurs are in the Finals for the fifth time in franchise history and the first time since the 2006-07 season. The Spurs are 4-0 all-time in the Finals and are one of just two teams with multiple NBA titles without a series loss (Bulls, 6-0).

There have been 66 NBA Finals all-time. The winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 71.2 percent (47-19) of the time. However, the Game 1 winner has lost each of the last two NBA Finals (Heat in 2011, Thunder in 2012).

The Spurs have never lost Game 1 in the NBA Finals. They are one of two teams with a perfect record in the opening game of the NBA Finals.

A Battle of Big Threes

The Heat and Spurs met twice during the 2012-13 regular season, with the Heat winning both games. However, the two teams haven’t met at full strength in more than two years.

On March 31 in San Antonio, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili did not play. On Nov. 9 in Miami, none of the Spurs’ Big Three played. And in the teams’ lone meeting in the 2011-12 season, on Jan. 17, Wade and Ginobili did not play.

The previous time these teams’ Big Threes met was on March 14, 2011, which the Heat won 110-80; it was the first season of Miami's Big Three.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili have recorded 98 postseason wins as a trio, which ranks second all-time behind 110 from Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper.

James has carried the weight of the Heat’s Big Three this postseason, averaging 26.2 points per game compared to 25.5 points per game from Wade and Chris Bosh combined.

Offensive Powerhouses

This marks a matchup of the two best offenses this postseason.

The Heat have had the most efficient offense in the NBA this postseason. Miami averages a league-high 108.4 points per 100 possessions, with the Spurs second at 106.5. The Heat also lead the NBA in half-court efficiency, averaging 0.94 points per play, with the Spurs second at 0.93.

In transition offense, the Spurs average an NBA-high 1.28 points per play, with the Heat second at 1.26.

Duncan averages 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds in 22 career NBA Finals games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Duncan is one of just four players all-time to average at least 22 points and 14 rebounds in the Finals.

3-pointers, pick-and-roll important in Finals

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
12:20
PM ET
By ESPN Statistics & Information
ESPN.com
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Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
The Spurs and Heat both ranked in the top five in 3-point shooting and scoring off the pick-and-roll this season. Tony Parker has the most points on pick-and-roll plays this postseason.

The San Antonio Spurs will have their hands full with slowing down the Miami Heat and their quest for a second consecutive championship. Despite the challenge of limiting LeBron James and guarding a bunch of long-range shooters, San Antonio has a few matchup advantages to exploit.

The Heat and Spurs ranked among the top five teams in the NBA in 3-point shooting during the regular season, with Miami coming in second behind the Warriors.

The strong shooting from both teams has continued in the playoffs, with the Spurs and Heat ranking second and third, respectively, in 3-point shooting during the postseason.

The corner 3

The corner 3-point shot has become a staple of the Heat and Spurs. Miami made 309 corner 3-pointers this season, 35 more than the next closest team, while the Spurs ranked third with 261 during the regular season. The Spurs are shooting a slightly better percentage on corner 3-pointers in the playoffs, but Miami has made 13 more field goals from that spot on the floor.

Ray Allen (15), Shane Battier (11) and Norris Cole (7) have 33 of the Heat’s 48 corner 3-point field goals this postseason. Allen’s 15 corner 3-pointers are tied with Quincy Pondexter for the most of any player in the playoffs.

Pick-and-roll

Pick-and-roll plays will be important for both teams in this series as well. The Spurs and Heat are first and second in the postseason in points per game on pick-and-roll plays, averaging 38.4 and 36.6 points per game, respectively. However, the Heat are second in postseason defensive efficiency against the pick-and-roll, allowing 0.80 points per play. The Heat cause turnovers on 16.9 percent of their opponents’ pick-and-roll possessions in the playoffs, leading all teams.

The Heat haven’t faced a guard similar to Tony Parker in the postseason. Parker is responsible for nearly 62 percent of the Spurs’ pick-and-roll offense. This postseason, Parker has the most total points on pick-and-roll plays with 152 and the second most points per game off the pick-and-roll. During the regular season, Parker’s 562 pick-and-roll points were second to Damian Lillard’s 629.

Can the Spurs stop LeBron?

The Spurs have done a great job of taking away their opponents' best options in the playoffs.

Tiago Splitter held Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to 15-of-48 (31.3 percent) shooting in eight games.

Danny Green was asked to guard Stephen Curry and held him to 25 points in six games on 22.9 percent shooting, including 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) from the 3-point line.

But can the Spurs stop LeBron James? Kawhi Leonard has played against James just once in his career, as a rookie Jan. 17, 2012. James was 9-of-14 from the floor with 20 points with Leonard as the primary defender. This postseason, the Spurs have allowed 93.7 points per 100 possessions with Leonard on the court. That’s the second-lowest total, behind Tyson Chandler, for any player averaging at least 25 minutes a game this postseason.

Sunny Saini and Evan Kaplan contributed to this post

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