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Why NBA Finals Game 3 is a Must-Win for San Antonio

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If Tim Duncan and crew can't pull out Game 3, they hold only a one-in-five chance at winning it all.

Seeing the Heat take Game 2 didn't exactly surprise me. Especially after all of the outlier stats in Game 1, the stats said it would be tough for San Antonio to have a repeat performance.

In Game 2, almost all of those outlier stats I mentioned went away. The Heat forced Spurs turnovers on 16.0 percent of San Antonio possessions, over 11 percent higher than the Spurs' unbelievable Game 1 rate. The Heat shot a .554 effective field goal percentage (eFG%), very close to the team's .552 eFG% average during the regular season instead of their poor first performance. And Miami collected only 64.3 percent of defensive boards, although just like most of the season their rebounding didn't matter in the face of other stats.

This was normal. This was statistically expected. And this made the Heat the favorites in the series once again heading into Game 3.

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Miami0.00%10.04%23.83%25.78%59.65%
San Antonio0.00%15.24%12.91%12.20%40.35%

The Heat hold the highest chance of winning in Game 7, which makes sense considering the back-and-forth nature of the series thus far. With the Spurs' next three games are all at home, however, their highest chance of winning comes in sweeping each of the next three games before having to head back to Miami.

And if the Spurs can't take even the first step towards a home sweep? Our odds say it could be a rough time for the Texas boys.

If Miami Wins Game 3

So picture that Gregg Popovich's worst nightmare occurs, LeBron decides that scoring more than 20 points in a Finals game might be useful, and the Heat steal Game 3 on the road. That's not an unrealistic scenario, but it's one that could have absolutely dire consequences for the Spurs.

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Miami0.00%22.09%33.41%23.57%79.07%
San Antonio0.00%0.00%9.00%11.93%20.93%

If the Heat take Game 3, then San Antonio holds only about a one-in-five chance of coming back to take the series. The potential for the three-game home sweep would be shattered, and San Antonio's most likely hope would be holding on for a seven-game victory.

Meanwhile, winning Game 3 could be the dagger the Heat are searching for. If Miami takes Game 3, then the team's most likely scenario would be closing the series out in their first game back at home in Game 6. As you may or may not remember, Miami winning in six was numberFire's most likely outcome entering the entire series. With a Game 3 Miami victory, it would hold above a one-third chance at becoming true.

If San Antonio Wins Game 3

On the flip side, losing Game 3 wouldn't be nearly the detriment to Miami that it would be to San Antonio. Sure, the Spurs would become the overall series favorites and inch one step closer towards that home sweep. But even with a loss, Miami would still hold better odds of winning it all when down 2-1 than San Antonio even holds with the series currently tied.

4 Games5 Games6 Games7 GamesTotal Win Odds
Miami0.00%0.00%14.50%27.91%42.41%
San Antonio0.00%27.62%16.02%13.95%57.59%

San Antonio held 51.51 percent odds of winning it all after Game 1, so at least a 1-1 draw in Games 2 and 3 would be progress. They also would hold over a 25 percent chance overall at ending the series in 5 games, an outcome that only had a 9.59 percent chance of occurring before the start of the series.

Strangely enough, the Spurs would be the clear favorites after winning Game 3, but the single most likely series result would be the Heat winning in seven games. If the Heat could simply extend the series back past Game 5, even if down 3-2, they would hold a solid chance heading back home.

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In This Article

Tim Duncan
FC, San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker
PG, San Antonio Spurs

Chris Bosh
FC, Miami Heat

LeBron James
F, Miami Heat

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