Keep doubting Erik Spoelstra's coaching acumen all you want. If the Heat's performance in Game 3 did not convince you that Spoelstra is up to the challenge of coaching the Big Three, then nothing will.
Heading into Sunday's pivotal Game 3, Spoelstra and the Heat needed to make a number of changes to ensure they did not fall behind 2-1 in the NBA Finals. They succeeded in just about every regard.
Points in the paint: Dallas was able to make its Game 2 comeback in large part because they forced the Heat to settle for outside jump shots instead of attacking the rim. In Game 3, Miami outscored the Mavs 40-22 in the painted area, and only attempted 19 three-pointers (compared to 30 in Game 2). Dwyane Wade came up big in this area, scoring early and often in the paint. He went 8-11 from within five feet of the rim.
On the other end, Dallas scored 36 points in the paint in Game 2, but was held to 22 in Game 3. Dallas attempted nearly as many three-pointers (19) as they did shots in the paint (21), never a good sign for an offense.
Shutting down Jason Terry: Terry scored 8 points in the Mavs' Game 2 comeback, as Miami seemingly did not know how to guard him. It was a different story down the stretch in Game 3, as the Dallas guard was held scoreless. Spoelstra had LeBron James defend Terry in the fourth, and he missed all four of his fourth quarter shots.
Defending Nowitzki: After watching Dirk Nowitzki blow by Chris Bosh for the game-winning score in Game 2, Spoelstra put Udonis Haslem, his defensive ace, on Dirk in the final minute with a 2-point lead. Haslem forced a Nowitzki turnover with 30 seconds left, then stayed absolutely glued to Dirk in the final seconds, forcing him into a tough jump shot which clanged off the rim as time expired.
Beyond X's and O's, Spoelstra's influence on the team is evident in the fact that James, Wade, and Chris Bosh all seem to echo each of Spoelstra's talking points.
James said of his decision to pass to an open Bosh for the game-winning shot, "I don't care if he missed 15 in a row, he was wide open and that's his sweet spot." He added, "It's the trust we have in each other's ability," that enabled him to hit Bosh for the jumper.
Spoelstra has been preaching trust in the process and teammates all season. The fact that the Big Three are nearly plagiarizing him on those subjects speaks to his skill at getting his superstars to buy into his system.
Though the series is still far from over, Spoelstra and the Heat seemed to have all the answers against the Mavs in Game 3. In the biggest chess match he's ever competed in, Spo is easily handling Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
David Hill is a Miami native and the former owner of a youth replica Rony Seikaly jersey.