Drubbings, not drama: NBA Finals stuck in blowouts
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
Spurs guard Tony Parker opened the NBA Finals with a memorable shot at the end of Game 1.
San Antonio's 92-88 victory gave hope that the series against the defending champion Miami Heat was going to be full of close games.
It hasn't quite worked out that way so far.
What followed Parker's sensational shot in Game 1 - a twisting, ducking, barely shot clock-beating jumper off the glass - was a 19-point Heat blowout in Game 2 and the Spurs coasting to a 113-77 win on Tuesday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
The blowouts have sent the stars on both teams to the bench early and allowed guys such as DeJuan Blair and James Jones to run out the clock.
''We both answered the losses very well. We both have not answered the wins very well,'' Tim Duncan said. ''That's one thing Pop always points out - you have to be able to bring that same energy with wins and not be satisfied with yourself.''
Heat forward Chris Bosh on Wednesday described the series as ''bipolar basketball'' with wild swings about which team seems to be in total command.
''Can the Spurs bounce back? Aw, man, is Miami serious?'' Bosh said. ''You just have to deal with it.''
Swapping lopsided wins in the Finals is hardly unprecedented. When the Spurs won the championship in 2005 against Detroit, the average margin of victory for the home team the first four games was 21 points.
Game 5 then went to overtime, and the next two games were both decided in single digits.
''It's more normal than people think,'' Manu Ginobili said. ''I still remember 2005 Finals. The first four games were basically blowouts. We won both by 20 here, they won by 20 there. It happens. It's the past, we don't care. We just have to face the next game as if it's going to be a really close one, which we expect.''
HEAT'S DEFENSIVE ISSUES: Before the blowout loss in Game 3, the Heat had only given up more than 100 points once in their previous 18 playoff games.
So while many Wednesday pointed the finger at LeBron James for his lack of scoring, Bosh bemoaned the Heat defense that surrendered a Finals-record 16 3-pointers and let the Spurs shoot 49 percent from the floor.
''It's not offense end that's really hurting us,'' Bosh said. ''It's everything that's happening on defense right now.''
Spurs guard Danny Green has hurt the Heat, hitting 16 3-pointers this series. Miami's Dwyane Wade, who has been chiefly matched up with Green, said the Heat must do a better job of defending pick-and-rolls.
The Heat arrived in San Antonio holding offenses to an average of 87.7 points, second in the playoffs behind New York.
''We've always really prided ourselves on being a defensive-first team,'' Bosh said. ''We have to get stops. All of those things go together. In order for everyone to play well - not only LeBron - we have to play better defense, team-wise.''
SCORING A NEW DEAL?: Aside from propelling the Spurs to a Game 3 win, Gary Neal could get a new contract after this season.
Neal made about $850,000 this season in the final leg of a three-year contract.
He said he was ''comfortable with the financial situation'' in Italy, where he played before the Spurs invited him to a summer league tryout in 2010. The long-awaited opportunity for the undrafted Towson guard interrupted Neal's honeymoon.
''I think I wanted to get back to the states to start my family,'' Neal said.
Spurs owner Peter Holt said bargain role players such as Neal help his small-market franchise steer clear of paying the NBA's luxury tax, which Holt said ''we really can't afford.''
He declined to say whether Neal's big game in a blowout might translate into bigger contract.
''We got to play a game. This is Miami,'' Holt said after the 36-point victory. ''Thursday is not going to look like this.''
T-MAC TIPS: Tracy McGrady's legacy as a two-time NBA scoring champion and All-Star is tempered by the fact that he never led a team out of the first round of the playoffs in seven tries.
Stephen Jackson was waived by the Spurs in April. That left San Antonio needing a spare swingman for the postseason, and gave McGrady a chance to get a ring after 15 seasons. He's played 14 minutes in the Finals because of the back-to-back blowouts.
But McGrady's biggest asset might be playing the role of LeBron James in practice. His advice to the MVP: he can't do it on his own.
''On this level? One guy is not going to be the team,'' McGrady said. ''Everybody needs their supporting cast. The greatest player ever, Michael Jordan, he needed a supporting cast. ... For LeBron, he's not having those 25, 30-point games. He's playing a pretty (darn) good San Antonio Spurs team.''