NBA Finals: Miami Heat know Spurs will be inspired in Game 3

MIAMI (AP) -- Dwyane Wade thinks there's no one better than the Miami Heat at dealing with the mental challenge of the playoffs. In his eyes, only one other team might compare.

He's talking about the San Antonio Spurs.

That's why Wade believes these NBA Finals are just getting started.

 

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When he looks at the Spurs, he sees qualities his own team has, including an ability to break down a loss and quickly correct things. It's what Miami did before Game 2 of the finals and it's what Wade expects the Spurs to do before the title series resumes with Game 3 in Miami on Tuesday night.

"You never put them away," Wade said. "I think they always believe and it's the same with us. You can't, you won't, put us away because we're always going to believe. That's why this is a perfect, different animal, kind of series. They're the other team like us. They don't lose much and when they do they come back and be better in the next game. So we've got to come out and do the same thing."

That would explain why on Monday, instead of a day off, the Heat gathered to watch video of Game 2.

By winning in San Antonio to even the finals at 1-1, home-court advantage now belongs to the Heat. But no one in their locker room thinks it's going to get easy now.

"They came out great. They played a great game," Spurs guard Tony Parker said after Miami's 98-96 win in Game 2, the 13th straight time the Heat immediately followed a postseason loss with a victory. "Now it's our turn to go over there and get one. We played pretty well all season long on the road and so we're going to have two great opportunities to try to come up with a win."

Miami has won a franchise-record 11 straight postseason games at home.

The last team to win a playoff game in Miami was the Spurs, winning Game 1 of last season's finals.

"We are in a tough situation because we've got to go to Miami and we've got to get one," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We don't want to come back here 3-1 down. It's very hard to overcome that. Definitely going to be a great challenge for the team to play in an arena like that and having to win."

A challenge, sure, but it's one Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Spurs can handle.

"Coming back here there has to be an incredible sense of focus and urgency," Spoelstra said Monday. "They're a veteran, poised, championship-level team that's been through a lot. The crowd won't affect them much."

Neither team thought it played all that well in the game that it won so far in these finals.

The Spurs turned the ball over too much for their liking in Game 1 - the game that will be remembered for the air conditioning malfunction and cramps inside a steamy building forcing LeBron James to leave in the final minutes. In Game 2, the Heat weren't thrilled with a slow start and how they spent much of the game playing from behind.

When James got rolling in the third quarter, things started swinging Miami's way in Game 2. When he found Chris Bosh for the 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good with 1:18 left, it was just another example of the four-time MVP setting a teammate up for a big play.

"I'm going to make the right play," said James, who signaled to Bosh about what he wanted on that play. "To have that trust from my teammates, they know when I've got the ball, I'm going to make the right play. Doesn't mean it's going to go in. Doesn't mean it's going to result in a win, but they believe in my ability."

The pressure, if Miami had not found a way to win in the final moments of Game 2, would have been enormous on the two-time defending champions.

Now, it seems to have shifted to the Spurs.

"It doesn't matter what we've been through before," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "We're here now again."

The last time these teams met in Miami at this time of year, the Heat wound up spraying champagne in their locker room.

It's tempting, Bosh acknowledged, to think that all Miami needs to do for a third straight championship is stay unbeaten at home.

But Bosh won't let himself go there.

"I can only think about Game 3," Bosh said. "We've played well at home this postseason. I think we feel we have an advantage now. We have to make sure that we play well and keep it that way."

Here are five things to watch in Game 3:

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LOOKING FOR LEONARD: Kawhi Leonard is not only struggling to defend LeBron James, but hasn't been able to get his own game untracked. After averaging 14.6 points and shooting better than 50 percent in the 2013 NBA Finals, Leonard has managed only 18 total points through two games. He was in foul trouble in Game 2 and was ineffective, scoring nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, and the Spurs are letting him know they need more.

"I don't think Kawhi got into the game," Tim Duncan said. "He was in foul trouble up and down and he was so worried about that, I think that kind of took him out of the game. We talked to him, got in his ear, and have him refocus no matter what happens on the defensive end of the floor. He's got to continue to be aggressive on the other end and make LeBron and those other guys work."

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BOSH BLOSSOMING: Outside of the offensive rebound that set up Ray Allen's tying 3-pointer in Game 6, Chris Bosh was pretty disappointing in last year's finals.

He was scoreless in Game 7 and managed just 11.9 points per game while shooting less than 50 percent, getting badly outplayed by Duncan. He scored 18 in both games in San Antonio, nailing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:18 left in Game 2 but not settling for the 3 as he sometimes does. He also had a pair of driving dunks while getting fouled and made 59 percent of his shots in the two games.

"With us, look, he's arguably our most important player. We've said that now for four years," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And it's not just because of that shot. That's what everybody notices, and if he's not getting the normal opportunities, and he's not scoring, or doesn't have big rebound numbers, it seems from the outside everybody is so critical about his game. But for us, he has a lot on his plate."

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THEY'RE FOR FREE: Free throws keep costing the Spurs against the Heat.

Tony Parker and Duncan combined to miss four straight in Game 2, preventing San Antonio from extending a two-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Spurs finished with eight misses in a game they lost by two.

The Spurs, who missed a chance to finish off the Heat when Leonard and Manu Ginobili each missed a free throw late in regulation in Game 6 last year, are shooting 69 percent in the series. The Heat have made 78 percent, with James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade combining to go 21 of 24.

"We were 12 for 20," Parker said after Game 2, "so we will try to do better next game."

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HEAT AT HOME: The Heat are 8-0 at home in this year's playoffs and have won a franchise-record 11 straight here in the postseason since the Spurs beat them in Game 1 of the 2013 finals.

"It's a quick turnaround in Miami, not many days off," Wade said. "We've got to use our home crowd, our energy to our advantage."

Miami is 68-19 all-time (.782) at AmericanAirlines Arena during the postseason. Only the Lakers' .792 winning percentage at Staples Center is higher.

"You know you have to win on the road to win a championship," Parker said after Game 2. "And tonight we played a little bit better, got 11 turnovers, and we wanted to do that. On the road we're going to have to play even better."

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GETTING THE POINT: The Heat are still waiting for a meaningful contribution from their point guards.

Starter Mario Chalmers has taken only seven shots and scored eight points thus far and was bothered by foul trouble in Game 1. Backup Norris Cole was scoreless in 11 minutes off the bench Sunday and is just 1 for 6 in the series. And neither one has had much successful guarding Parker, who is averaging 20 points.

But the Heat remain confident in all their players, never hesitating to give someone the ball even if he's struggling.

"When we do that, we just stick together and continue to motivate each other, good things happen," Bosh said.

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