In My Opinion

San Antonio Spurs bury Miami Heat early in Game 3

 
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 <span class="cutline_leadin">Hurt in the paint: </span>LeBron James gets in front of a shot by Spurs backup Manu Ginobili during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.
Hurt in the paint: LeBron James gets in front of a shot by Spurs backup Manu Ginobili during Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.
CHARLES TRAINOR JR. / Staff Photo

bjackson@MiamiHerald.com

The Heat has played more than 2,250 games in its 26-year history.

Never has a Heat opponent shot as high a percentage in the first quarter or first half of a game as the Spurs did on Tuesday.

Let that marinate for a minute.

So how could this happen, this remarkable offensive display by a team that the Heat had limited to 18 points and 6 of 17 shooting in the fourth quarter just two nights earlier?

How could the Spurs shoot an unfathomable 13 for 15 (86.7 percent) in the first quarter and a sterling 75.8 percent (25 for 33) in the first half?

“We did nothing right; we weren’t focused at all,” Chris Bosh said. “One on one defense was really bad. Help was bad. Containments were bad. Everything was bad. Our rotations were late. They got everything they wanted. We can’t do this. It’s the Finals! We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to win a championship playing like that.”

Yes, some of this was otherworldly shooting, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green sinking long jumpers as if they were layups, as if the basket had been expanded to the size of Biscayne Bay.

But there was far more to it than that. This was sloppy, deplorable defense, as the Spurs scored on 19 of its first 23 possessions.

Dwyane Wade was beaten off the dribble by Leonard and Tony Parker, among others, and left in the dust in transition. Yes, even LeBron James was beaten off the dribble, by Tim Duncan and Green.

Of the Spurs’ 10 first half three-point attempts (seven makes), Spurs shooters were given too much airspace on at least half of them, with Chris Bosh not even in the same zip code as Boris Diaw on one of them. One issue was the Heat wasn’t quick enough in its rotations, leaving too many uncontested threes.

Heat point guards couldn’t keep Parker from penetrating, or even Patty Mills, for that matter.

Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen and Bosh were flummoxed by crafty moves by Duncan and Diaw under the basket.

This was most telling about the Spurs’ 19 for 21 start: Eleven of those shots were in the restricted area directly under the basket. Thirteen were in the paint, with the Spurs making 12 of them.

Of the other eight shots in that 19 for 21 start, six were threes (one in the corner) and two were jumpers from the top of the key.

“There were a lot of breakdowns early,” Ray Allen said. “Wasn’t any urgency. We yelled at each other, encouraged each other, a range of emotion, trying to find anything to spark us.”

Want some historical perspective? Consider:

• The Spurs’ 41 points were the most by any team in the first quarter of a Finals game since Game 6 of the 1967 Finals.

• Their field-goal percentage both in the first quarter and first half were NBA Finals records.

• The 71 points allowed were the most the Heat has ever relinquished in the first half of a playoff game, smashing the old record by seven. It was also the most Heat points allowed in any half of any playoff game. Previous record: 68 by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1992.

If you’re wondering, the most points the Heat has ever allowed in a first half were 80 against Philadelphia in a regular season game in 1992.

• The highest shooting percentage in a half that the Heat ever yielded before Tuesday was 72.1 percent by Seattle in 1990 (regular season) and 68.9 percent by the Spurs in the second half of Game 1.

The Heat’s defense was sharper at times after halftime, but there were still too many unchallenged Spurs threes, and the Heat was fortunate that San Antonio missed at least four of them.

The Heat’s switching on defense left Miami vulnerable, with Leonard slashing past Allen for a dunk on one such fourth-quarter sequence.

Other observations from Game 3:

• Clever move by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to start Diaw, who has a diverse offensive game and the versatility to play any position. The Spurs were a team-high plus 18 with Diaw on the floor, and he made several key plays, including a drawn charge from James.

• If Mario Chalmers cannot snap out of this miserable funk (0 for 5 shooting, three turnovers on Tuesday), Spoelstra needs to consider playing more without a natural point guard, especially because Norris Cole is just 10 for 39 in 10 Finals games against the Spurs.

Spoelstra did that for two stretches in Game 3, for five minutes in the second quarter and again for a brief stretch of the fourth. But the Heat was outscored during both of those stretches.

The problem with playing without a point guard for long stretches is that it usually requires James to defend Parker, which expends a lot of energy.

• Spoelstra again bypassed Shane Battier for James Jones. Again, it didn’t go well, with Jones picking up three fouls and not even taking a shot in two first half minutes of Game 3.

• The Spurs’ 25 point-lead tied for the largest deficit ever for a Heat home game during the Big Three era… Highest price ticket sold Tuesday: $25,000 for a courtside seat, according to Ticket of America’s Michael Lipman.

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