The Independent Variable
🏀 NBA Finals: Game 3 Preview
7 June 2023
I wanted to get to this sooner and write something longer, but instead, since the game is an hour away, we’ve got bullet points!
Eric Spoelstra on Turning Jokic into a Scorer — @bleacherreport
Spo apologized to Shelborne after this, which is good. I’m guessing he has a problem with the simplification of the question (I’ve been pushing this strategy since before game one). While he would have a point (if he were better about his rebuttal), it’s never really been about just turning Jokić into a scorer. What Miami is trying to do is limit his ability to create for others. What that does is keep them from getting into a rhythm and gets them less engaged on defense. Michael Porter Jr. is an exemplary example of this in game two. Jokić could still end up with 10+ assists, but what you are trying to do is get less touches and less attempts for the other players off of Jokić passes—force them to create for themselves and limit the touches Jokić gets in the paint, where points are way too easy to come by for him. The other key here is obviously Jimmy Butler guarding Jamal Murray—being able to guard him 1-on-1 allows the Miami Heat to do so much more with their defense to
disrupt what Jokić wants to do deep in the lane.
Both Chris Vernon on The Mismatch and Tim Legler on The Lowe Post did a great job of getting a bit more into how that strategy ends up working (although no one is talking about them being less engaged on defense when they get less touches 🤷♂️).
- I think the winner of this game goes on to win the series. If Denver wins (as I originally predicted), I think my prediction of Denver in 6 comes true. If Miami wins, I think they end up finding a way to push this to 7 and ultimately winning the whole thing.
- The key tonight is going to be Jimmy Butler. I expect Denver to turn Jimmy into a scorer, if you will 🤪. Denver should guard Jimmy 1-on-1 with Aaron Gordon and stay home on the shooters. Make Jimmy show he can beat you, because right now, that honestly might be a question. After Jimmy’s heroics against NY and then the first two games against Boston, he hasn’t shown he can be effective attacking the basket. Tonight is going to be the Jimmy Game one way or another, either he is either going to go for 40 and beat you or have an abysmal shooting night that will ultimately limit what Miami can do the rest of the series. Hopefully that ankle is okay.
- The non-Jokić/non-Jimmy minutes should be a huge indicator once again for who has the advantage going into the fourth. Denver won these minutes in game two, but I’ve been surprised at Miami’s lack of willingness to go to the zone in these minutes early. I think Jokić will be ready for them in the 4th quarter tonight, so Miami throwing it out early when he isn’t out there to beat it would be a sound strategy to try to win those minutes at home.
- Denver’s bench is another key thing to watch. Bench players tend to struggle more on the road, so can Brown and Braun have the same impact they had in games one and two. If not, it could mean trouble.
- I expect Vincent to keep rolling and it’s due time for Martin to have a game too. If Denver listens to me and allows Gordon to guard Jimmy 1-on-1, the ball might end up being in Bam’s hands a lot (again), so him finding a way to be effficient scoring and making sure both Vincent and Martin, as well as all the other guys, get touches and clean looks will be critical. Unless Jimmy finds that spark and a healthy ankle and goes for 40, then it doesn’t really matter.
- Still no Tyler Herro tonight. I’m not a huge fan of bringing a player like that late into the Finals after being out so long, but I do think he can be useful in small spurts. Throw him out there in the non-Jokić/non-Jimmy minutes, see if he can get hot, and if not, yank him and try next game. Alas, we won’t get to see tonight and the later in the series it gets, the harder it is to bring him along.