Neal before the King? Fight for Finals MVP

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Prior to the 2013 NBA Finals, many were predicting a second consecutive Championship for Miami with LeBron James again claiming MVP honours. However, the series has not gone accordingly so far with San Antonio opening up a 2-1 advantage with the next two games on their home floor and ‘King James’ is being outshone.

Ultimately, you would imagine that the Finals MVP award will go to a player on the Championship winning side (Jerry West 1969 being the only exception) and were Miami able to turn the series around, LeBron seems to be the only viable contender from the Heat given the little support he has received so far.

There are several contenders for the Spurs with the creator in Parker, the shooter in Green, the defensive stalwart in Leonard and the solid veteran in Duncan, who does everything for Gregg Popovich. He might not be making a lot of shots but his defensive presence is huge for San Antonio especially when Thiago Splitter is not on the floor.

After helping to inflict the 3rd heaviest Finals defeat (36 points) on Miami in game 3, the experienced trio of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili recorded their 100th post-season victory together. An incredible achievement but San Antonio fans will take heart from the fact the trio combined for just 25 points while Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gary Neal contributed 65 of the 113 points in total.

Another stat: Leonard (33), Green (56) and Neal (41) have a total of 130 points in the series so far which is the same amount scored by the Big 3 of Miami: James (50); Wade (43) and Bosh (37) while Parker (40), Duncan (40) and Ginobili (25) have 106 points between them.  3 is the magic number.

Gracing home court for the first time on Tuesday, San Antonio made their mark from beyond the arc with a Finals record 16 made 3-pointers. Green followed up his 5-5 for night in game 2 with an even better 7-9 display while Neal connected with 6-10 from long range including a buzzer-beater to end the half and back-to-back triples to open up the fourth. Leonard continues to do a great job for the Spurs, excelling on defence, averaging 12 rebounds so far complimented by an 11 points per game average.

LeBron is not having a BAD series but given his high standards, the current MVP is way below par as he struggles to have his own way against the Spurs defence. James collected 18 rebounds on his way to a series opening triple-double under the radar but is yet to register 20 points in a game (3 straight games with less than 20 points is a first for LBJ this season) whilst shooting below 40% from the field and didn’t make it to the FT line in G3.

The required support has not been there for James with Chris Bosh looking uncomfortable resorting back to his trademark jumper after San Antonio were more than content watching the former Raptor put up shots from deep while Dwyane Wade continues his disappointing post-season (albeit largely due to a recurring knee injury). He began the last game with high intensity and purpose but faded immediately after as if to save himself for another heroic Game 7 performance.

Shane Battier has lost his confidence and lost his place in the Miami rotation with the ultimate team-man Mike Miller seizing his opportunity, and nailing 5-5 from 3-point range in game 3. Mario Chalmers insists he is a top 5 PG in the league and did well to argue his case in Miami’s win in game 2 before seemingly getting lost on the way to Texas.

Expect a response from Miami in game 4 and all eyes will be on LeBron to provide a spark and set the tone early on in hope of levelling the series and moving himself back into Finals MVP contention. If the Spurs continue to shoot the lights out from downtown, expect this series to be over in 5 and Green could well land himself a surprise MVP award. Duncan and Leonard are doing a great job on the boards whilst collecting double-doubles at will but if this series goes the distance then San Antonio will need a fully-fit Parker to orchestrate their offence..

NBA Finals Composite Starting Five

Tony Parker – Kawhi Leonard – Danny Green – LeBron James – Tim Duncan

The 2013 Finals MVP is most likely to come from one of these five players but which one?

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