Famed NBA coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown has a theory (that I love) — NBA role players perform better at home.
The Spurs played at home for the first time in three weeks and their role players stepped up and owned the Heat. Owned.
Gary Neal (24 points, 6-of-10 from three) and Danny Green (27 points, 7-of-9 from three) led the Spurs to an NBA Finals record 16 threes in a game. The Heat defense was less aggressive, the Spurs moved the ball to the open man then knocked down shots, and the result was a blowout 113-77 Spurs win. San Antonio won the second half 63-33.
The result is a 2-1 Spurs lead in the series with a big Game 4 Thursday night in Texas.
San Antonio has taken the Heat’s haymaker and come out more focused the next game. The Heat have done the same all playoffs and must again, but they have not taken a punch like this one.
“We got what we deserved,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra repeated many times after the game. “They played with more force, more focus, the teams that do that typically get what you deserve. They outplayed us, out classed us from the very tip.”
Actually, the first half was much closer. The Spurs led most of the way behind Neal’s 14 points and Tim Duncan getting 10 while attacking the paint. The Spurs were getting the shots they wanted, shooting 61.1 percent in the first quarter. Still, it was a 44-44 game when just before the half Tony Parker hit a leaning three from the corner and Gary Neal beat the buzzer with one, resulting in a six point halftime lead.
But it was already clear where this could be going — San Antonio was outworking the Heat all over the court. The best evidence of that was San Antonio having 19 offensive rebounds on the night — they grabbed the offensive board on 42.2 percent of their missed shots. That is all effort and desire.
Then in the second half the Spurs shooters caught fire — they shot 51.1 percent overall, 9-of-17 from three and Green had 22 of his points in the half.
The Spurs were moving the ball and making the extra pass — 29 assists — and the Heat defense was not making the extra effort.
“When we’re moving the ball like that, trusting each other to knock down shots, make plays, it makes the defense work,” Green said. “It makes them move, rotate. The more you make a defense move, the more they’re liable to make mistakes.”
While no doubt the Spurs shooters were hot, the Heat suddenly less aggressive defense helped them get that way.
“They have great shooters…” Spoelstra said. “If you’re not doing your job, and doing it early, and doing it with focus and discipline guys get open. And that’s what happened. They got all the easy ones they wanted first. And same thing with our shooters when you get easy ones the basket starts to look bigger and bigger.”
The Heat were also passive on offense. The Spurs packed the paint again and did a good job of encouraging the Heat to shoot from the midrange. So the Heat settled — Miami was 7-of-32 from the midrange. That’s 21.9 percent. Not only did the Heat settle, they missed the shots they were settling for. LeBron James was not himself and was 7-of-21 for 15 points.
“I can’t have a performance like tonight and expect to win,” LeBron said.
He wasn’t alone. Chris Bosh was 4 –of-10 and as a team the Heat shot 40.8 percent. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 16 points, the lone real bright spot for the Heat was Mike Miller going 5-of-5 from three.
San Antonio simply outworked and outplayed Miami all night long. If Miami is going to bounce back it is going to have to start with energy on the defensive end of the floor. From there, get some rebounds and make some of their open shots. Then attack the paint with the ball.
What you can be sure of on Thursday night is the Spurs will continue to be the Spurs — make a mistake, don’t make the extra effort and they will make you pay. Miami is going to have to take this one from San Antonio, because the Spurs are not going to beat themselves and hand a win over.