Although this year’s version of the NBA Finals are following the same trend as last summer — aside from the venues — San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday he’s definitely not comparing the two situations.
Last year, the Spurs won Games 1 and 3 of the series with Miami winning Game 2. Sound similar?
San Antonio goes into Thursday’s Game 4 holding the same 2-1 series lead it did last year. The Heat won that fourth game in San Antonio, but has the Spurs are at home this time around.
“I don't think about last year at all at this point,” Popovich said “I don't think about last year Game 3, Game 4 at all. This is a different animal, and I’m just concerned about the game [Thursday] night. So that’s the way I look at it. I don’t go back in time. Just figure out what’s going on now.”
Tuesday’s blowout win came in San Antonio’s first postseason visit to Miami since last year’s failure to close out the Heat after coming back for Game 6 while holding a 3-2 series lead. Miami was down five with 29.2 seconds left in Game 6 before Ray Allen famously tied the score on a three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Miami won Game 6 in overtime and took the title a few days later in Game 7. San Antonio holds home court advantage in this series, although if there is a Game 6, it would be in Miami again since the NBA changed the format from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1.
Tony Parker said the Spurs haven’t talked about losing in Miami in quite some time.
“The only time [Popovich] reminded us of that was Day One in training camp,” Parker said. “That’s it. It’s a new year. That’s why I don’t like revenge. It’s a rematch. We’re playing a great team. They’re two-time champions, and we didn’t even talk about that.
“We think we can win on every court. We have the best record on the road, and we love playing on the road. Sometimes I feel like we play better on the road than at home. So I don’t think we had doubts that we can win in Miami.”
Parker and Boris Diaw helped lead France to the FIBA EuroBasketball championship last year and would like to add to their championship stash.
Diaw scored nine points with five rebounds when inserted into the starting lineup Tuesday.
“I’m so happy for him to see him blossom on the big stage and everybody can see now what he's doing and what he’s capable of,” Parker said.
“He had a big summer with us last summer with the national team. He played great basketball, and we finally won our first gold medal, and it was a big thing for us. … It’s just like a dream to be able to win the gold medal with the national team and then this year have another opportunity to win a championship.”
With Diaw back in the starting lineup, San Antonio brought Tiago Splitter off the bench and he gave the Spurs six points and four rebounds.
“Tiago’s one of those solid guys that gives us minutes, he does all the blue-collared stuff,'' Popovich said. "Those are the kind of guys coaches love.''• Kawhi Leonard had a career night Tuesday with 29 points. On Wednesday, Leonard said he couldn’t recall scoring that many points in a game. Last year, his lone 20-point game of the playoffs came when he scored 22 in the Game 6 loss in Miami.
Leonard’s previous high in the NBA was 26 points.
“I’ve played so much basketball,” Leonard said, “I don't know. I got pretty close in college, I think, and in the NBA, also. But I don’t remember.”• Guard Marco Belinelli only played six minutes in Tuesday's win after averaging 20 minutes in the first two games of the series.
Belinelli did have a big shot, however, drilling a three-pointer with 1:37 left in the third after Miami had cut the Spurs' lead to seven off a driving layup from Norris Cole.
The Heat never got any closer.
"Each game is different, different people will play based on what's going on in the game on that particular night,'' Popovich said. "[Belinelli] hasn't gotten very many minutes in this series, so it's kind of tough for him to get a rhythm. But he'll be ready if we call on him for more minutes.''