For a series that's featured two blowout wins in three games, including a Game 3 that was pretty much over midway through the third quarter, there have been some pretty compelling storylines in these NBA Finals.
We've had the disappearance (or maybe better worded, the sporadic appearances) of LeBron, we've had three Spurs outside of San Antonio's perceived Big Three emerge as a collective group nearly as important as said perceived Big Three, and after the aforementioned Game 3, we had our first major injury concern of this year's NBA Finals.
Yes, Tony Parker's hamstring is now the most important hamstring in the sports world. It's trending on Twitter, and might even have its own account.
As much as we talk about the emergence of Danny Green (leading scorer in the series through three games), the church bell sized balls of Gary Neal, and the impact of Kahwi Leonard defensively on LeBron James these first three games, Parker is the one guy the Spurs can't afford to lose.
If Tim Duncan went down, Popovich would cobble something together on both ends of the floor. Manu Ginobili? The Spurs have played through to the Finals despite Ginobili, not because of him. And as well as the Spurs' supporting cast has played, none of them individually -- not Green, not Neal, not Leonard (although admittedly, he's close) -- are irreplaceable.
As organized and precise as the Spurs are with ball movement and finding the open man, they also have their fair share of possessions that consist of the ball winding up in Parker's hands and Parker making a play that only Parker (and maybe three or four other point guards in the league) can make.
Just go back and watch the last ten seconds of Game 1 for one piece of evidence.
Yesterday, Parker came out and said that if Thursday's game were a regular season game, he wouldn't be playing, which in context means absolutely nothing considering we are talking about the Spurs, a team that treats regular season games as disposable commodities anyway.
As it turns out Parker will play, which should elicit a "Daniel Larusso's gonna fight? DANIEL LARUSSO'S GONNA FIGHT!!" reaction from Spurs fans and any NBA fan who wants to make sure the biggest stars are playing in this series.
Hopefully, Parker is moving a little better than Larusso was in that clip, because I'm pretty sure a crane kick to Mario Chalmers face would result in at least a Flagrant 1.
Regardless, this sets up for a phenomenal game of cat-and-mouse when you consider that Gregg Popovich runs the Spurs almost like they're an extension of the CIA. As my buddy Rick (lifelong Spurs fan, and educated NBA fan) pointed out to me, we have literally no idea just how healthy Parker is. What if he's actually fully ready to go? Does this change how Miami was planning to defend or attack the Spurs in Game 4? What if Parker is actually very limited? How does Pop adapt to that?
And then, oh by the way, there's that little bit of intrigue as to whether or not we get "Cleveland Mode" LeBron tonight.
Game 4 should be bananas, at least from an intrigue standpoint. The two most important players have the two biggest storylines revolving around them. That's good shit.
By the way, a few quick gambling notes as long as we're on this:
1. If you're looking for validation that LeBron and Parker are the most important players, look no further than Vegas, where my man R.J. Bell of pregame.com tells us that Tony Parker is worth 3 points to the line on the Spurs, and LeBron James is worth 6 points to the line for the Heat, which frankly sounds about 6 points to few for James.
Seriously, even with LeBron playing as detached as he's been playing this series, without him and with the way Wade and Bosh have regressed, the Heat are the equivalent of about a 30 win team. (Yes, LeBron is literally worth about 35 wins to them during the regular season with this dilapidated version of Wade. On this, there can be no debate.) As for this game, the line has settled in at Heat -1, and I just know that if all of a sudden it was announced LeBron is out, and the line only moved to Spurs -5, Vegas would get flooded with Spurs action. FLOODED.
2. Danny Green is the leading scorer in this series, three games in. DANNY. GREEN. Seriously, read that again. Three games into a series that includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker, Green's 18.7 scoring average leads the way, a full two points better than James' 16.7 per game average.
You want crazy, here's some crazy from NBA.com:
The Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan (12), Tony Parker (6) and Manu Ginobil (7) combined to score 25 points in Game 3. The Heat's Big Three of LeBron James (15), Dwyane Wade (16) and Chris Bosh (12) combined to score 43 points.
The Spurs' unlikely Big Three of Danny Green (27), Gary Neal (24) and Kawhi Leonard (14) combined to score 65 points.
Through three games of the Finals, the Heat Big Three has combined to score 130 points. The exact same amount as the Spurs' other Big Three of Green, Neal and Leonard.
3. Somewhere, Danny Green's family has to be salivating over the NBA Finals MVP prop bet they placed on him at 80/1 before the series. He's down to 5/1. I'll say it again...DANNY. GREEN. Incredible story.
(Point of parliamentary procedure: Doesn't every family member of every professional athlete place a little something down when a relative is listed for an MVP prop bet? Hell, if I had a relative who played sports, I'd bet on "Field" if that family member wasn't specifically listed as an MVP option. But then again, I bet on everything.)
Game 4 Prediction: Heat have to have this one, LeBron's legacy really has to have this one. Heat 98, Spurs 93.
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