For the Heat to win an NBA championship, it has to take one game in Texas. That’s going to be tough.
After blowing out the Spurs in Game 2 of The Finals, the Heat experienced the sobering side of a rout on Tuesday in the Game 3. With LeBron James once again struggling offensively, Miami lost to the Spurs 113-77 at AT&T Center and fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. It was the largest playoff loss (36 points) in the Heat history.
Miami now has two days to somehow figure out how to steal a game in San Antonio and extend The Finals. Game 4 is on Thursday. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t mince words after his team’s poor defensive effort.
“I didn’t recognize the team that was out there,” Spoelstra said. “We deserved what we got.”
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James couldn’t find his rhythm for the second straight game but that really wasn’t the reason why the Heat couldn’t keep pace with the Spurs. San Antonio simply shot the lights out from three-point range. Sparked by reserve Gary Neal, the Spurs were 16 of 32 from three-point range.
Neal led San Antonio’s rout, scoring 24 points off the bench. He was 6 of 10 from three-point range and kicked off the celebration early with a pair of three-pointers to begin the fourth quarter. The second three-pointer put San Antonio ahead 84-63 with 11 minutes to play. From there, the Spurs just poured it on.
Fellow Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green was 7 of 9 from three-point range for 27 points. It was like Green and Neal couldn’t miss.
“Those guys shot it incredibly and gave us the breathing room we needed,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “We talked about it before the series started that we needed guys to step up.”
The hot shooting by Neal and Green made insignificant a brilliant shooting effort by Heat three-pointer shooter Mike Miller, who went 5 of 5 from three-point range. Miller is 10 of 11 from three-point range in The Finals.
“Collectively we didn’t do enough to make those matter,” Spoelstra said.
You know it’s a blowout when Tracy McGrady enters a fourth quarter. McGrady, who never advanced out of the first round of the playoffs until this season, stepped on the court with less than seven minutes to play and received a thunderous round of applause. Seconds later Green made his seventh three-pointer of the game to give San Antonio a 97-71 lead.
“Luckily I’ve been open and I’ve hit some shots,” Green said. “My teammates have been encouraging me to shoot it when I’m open. Coach [Gregg Popovich] just told me to let it fly.”
The final five minutes of the game were basically an exercise in trying to get McGrady some points. No wonder these Finals are have been a ratings bust for ABC. And like it was some kind of corny sports movie come to life, the AT&T Center played loudly Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” in the final minutes of the game.
Yes, the Spurs were a jingle jangling.
Meanwhile, James began the game 2 of 13 from the field after starting Game 2 just as poorly. He was 3 of 13 from the field in Game 2 before his teammates bailed him out. But there was no helping James in Game 3. There’s not really an offensive counter for a team that makes 16 three-pointers. James finished with 15 points on 21 shots to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists.
"I've got to be better,” James said. “No excuses."
James didn’t attempt a free throw for the first time this season.
“That’s a huge part of our game,” Bosh said.
And the Spurs took it away by simply packing the paint and daring James and Bosh to shoot. They combined to go 4 of 17 from mid-range.
“We know what kind of player LeBron is and we know he’s not at the top of his game right now,” said Green, the Spurs’ sharpshooting guard. “It’s not just us stopping LeBron. He’s stopping himself. You guys have seen him at his best all year ... and he’s not doing that right now.”
A reverse layup by Wade tied the game at 44-44 with 37 seconds left in the half. His 12 points in the first half, in addition to 10 points by Chris Bosh, kept the game close but an overall lack of energy—James seemed scared to drive to the basket—permeated throughout the team.
"They came out in the third quarter and they kicked our butt pretty good,” Wade said. “And then frustration started to set in."
Wade finished with 16 points, going 7 of 15 from the field, and Bosh had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem went scoreless.
Not that it mattered, but Duncan had another lackluster offensive game for the second game in a row. He finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. San Antonio outrebounded the Heat 52-36, including 19-9 on the offensive glass.
Tony Parker finished with just six points, injuring his right hamstring in the third quarter. He said after the game that he would have an MRI on Wednesday morning and is questionable for Thursday’s game.