History now smiles upon Miami’s championship chances. In NBA history, 29 of 34 Finals that were tied 1-1 have been won by the team that won Game 3 for a 2-1 lead. That’s 85.3 percent. The bad news? One of the exceptions was Miami just last year, when a 2-1 series lead over Dallas was engulfed by three straight losses.
But that’s nearly impossible to fathom happening again. Not with two more of those big three home games to follow. And not the way LeBron James is driving himself to his first career championship and taking the Heat with him.
James is enjoying a fantastic postseason, averaging 31 points per game, and that includes games of 30, 32 and 29 in these Finals.
That’s consistent excellence.
That is the league’s MVP making memories of last season’s Finals defeat, and his role in it, slowly disappear — replaced by relentless dominance.
“I never got fully adjusted last year,” James puts it simply. “This year I’m more comfortable with the system, my teammates, the city — everything.”
Points in the paint — dunks, layups, short baskets — help define the physical toughness the Heat likes to think of as their identity, and led the Heat to a fast start Sunday. Those points mean powering the ball inside, not settling for outside jump shots. It means dirty work, no fear of bruises.
“It’s who wins the line of scrimmage,” as Spoelstra described the battle for the paint.
So this was the Miami mindset. And these were the Heat’s first five baskets: Dunk by Bosh. Dunk by Wade. Another dunk by Bosh. Driving layup by Wade. And a layup muscled in by James through heavy traffic after an offensive rebound.
I’m not sure if Renoir ever had better control of the paint than that.
The thing is, the paint slowly dried for the Heat.
Miami scored 20 paint-points in the first quarter on 10-for-14 shooting inside, but in the second and third quarters combined managed only 16 on 8-for-20 shooting before persisting and managing 10 close-in points in the telling final quarter.
“We had to continue to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the style we want to play.”
That style was not particularly pretty Sunday night. Neither was this victory.
But a 2-1 Finals lead with the next two games at home?
To a Heat fan, that’s a beautiful thing.
with the next Tuesday, and then Thursday.