Tim Duncan Chris Bosh June 2014

In Game 3, the Miami Heat returned home with hopes of locking down the home-court advantage they gained from the Spurs when they won Game 2 in San Antonio.

The Spurs had other plans.

San Antonio came out of the gate in Game 3 and put on one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA Finals history. Right away, Kawhi Leonard set the tone for the Spurs. Leonard drained everything early, collecting seven points in the opening four minutes.

LeBron seemed to be the only Miami player playing with any urgency as he scored 12 straight points for the Heat in the opening period. Leonard ensured that any run sparked by James would not only be matched, but bettered.

Kawhi finished the quarter with 16 points to LeBron’s 14, and when Manu Ginobili rattled home a deep 3 to beat the buzzer at the end of the quarter, the Spurs had 41-25 lead. San Antonio finished the quarter 11-13 from the field and continued their hot streak into the second period.

The Spurs hit their first eight shots of the second quarter and were shooting an absolutely ridiculous 90.5 percent from the field in the middle of the second quarter. San Antonio used their grinding defensive efficiency and virtuoso shot making to grow their lead to 71-50 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Heat used a 10-0 run to cut the lead to seven with two minutes to play in the period. Marco Belinelli put an end to that run with a 3 that brought the Spurs lead back to double-digits.

In the final period, Ray Allen hit a 3 to cut the Spurs lead to 90-80 with 8:53 to play, but that was close as the Heat would ever get from that point on.

The Spurs passed and shot the Heat to death, led by Kawhi Leonard and his career high 29 points as they closed out the 111-92 Game 3 win. San Antonio finished the game shooting an NBA Finals record 76 percent from the field.

The Heat had no answer on offense as James only scored eight points after putting in 14 in the first quarter. Chris Bosh was virtually ignored on offense.

And then there was Mario Chalmers, who continued to hinder more than help. In the last 30 years, Chalmers is the only starter to play 50 minutes or more in the Finals and score 10 points or fewer and shoot 25 percent or less from the field.

One adjustment that paid immediate dividends for the Spurs was the insertion of Boris Diaw to the starting lineup. Diaw is a threat to shoot it from deep, and his passing ability opens up a lot of options for the Spurs offense. His ability to defend LeBron in the lane can’t be overlooked either.

The Heat had a tall task ahead of them going into Game 4.


manu ginobili game 4 june 2014

Lucky for the Heat.

Early on in Game 4, San Antonio seemed to stagnate on offense early. The Spurs were not making the quick decisions with the ball that they did in Game 2. San Antonio resorted to dribble drives and one-on-one playmaking rather than finding the open man.

Bosh led the Heat early as Miami seemed intent to feed the big man after he had few opportunities on offense in Game 3. Bosh had as many shots in the first 7:30 of Game 4 as he did in all of Game 3.

The Spurs settled into their offense midway through the opening period and moved the ball well on their possessions. Parker, Mills and Green combined for 17 points and seven different Spurs players recorded a point in the first quarter as San Antonio again jumped out to an early lead at 26-17.

The Spurs led by as many as 12 in the early parts of the second period, but Miami was able to trim the lead back to nine thanks to two 3-pointers from Ray Allen and Chris Bosh’s continued aggressiveness.

But after Allen’s second 3 went through, Miami experienced a three-and-a-half minute scoring drought that featured three missed shots and two turnovers. Over the same period, the Spurs experienced no such drought, raining in nine points to take a 46-28 lead.

With both Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers rendered ineffective or worse thus far in the series, head coach Erik Spoelstra experimented with the point guard rotation by putting Tony Douglass in the game.

The change did not have the desired effect as the Spurs closed the half with a 19-point lead as the Miami fans voiced their displeasure with their team. Wade and James combined to go 4-14 from the field and score a mere 13 points combined in the first half.

In the second half, the Heat seemed intent on getting to the basket and taking high percentage shots, and by the Heat I really just mean just LeBron James. James took charge for the Heat on offense, scoring 19 of Miami’s 21 third-quarter points.

But as they have continued to show to this point in the series, San Antonio’s team-oriented style can overcome the greatness of a single player. The Spurs finished the third quarter with a 24-point lead and the stunned Miami crowd sat in silence, contemplating the utter destruction of their team in two straight home games.

In the final quarter, the Spurs held serve and each teams’ starters played up until the five-minute mark when the Heat threw in the towel by taking out James, Wade and Bosh.

San Antonio again handed the Heat a historic beat-down in their own building, taking Game 4 by a score of 107-86. The Heat were once again the victims of a top-five most lopsided Finals game ever just as they were in their 19-point Game 3 loss.

San Antonio got yet another stellar game from Kawhi Leonard as the small forward finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds to go along with three steals and three assists.

Boris Diaw, in the starting lineup for the second straight game, put his stamp on the proceedings. Besides a highlight real behind the back assist to Tiago Splitter, Diaw finished the game with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Leonard and Diaw should be considered for Finals MVP should the Spurs close out the Heat. San Antonio finished Game 4 with six players scoring eight points or more, compared to only four for the Heat.

LeBron James scored a game-high 28 points in Game 4, but the rest of the Heat starters combined for just 28 points on 32.4 percent shooting. Dwyane Wade in particular finished the game a paltry 3-13 from the field

Prior to their Game 4 loss, the Heat had not lost consecutive playoff games since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami must break their longest playoff losing streak in years if they hope to extend the series and get one more game in front of their home fans before what could be a tumultuous offseason for the franchise.


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