MIAMI — The San Antonio Spurs have taken the Miami Heat to the woodshed.
For the second game in a row the ball-moving, energized Spurs dominated a Heat team that played stagnant, uninspired basketball on their home court. The Spurs grabbed a lead in the first quarter, pulled away in the second and cruised to a 107-86 win.
San Antonio now leads the NBA Finals 3-1 and heads home with a chance to close it out Sunday night at the AT&T Center.
San Antonio took both games in Miami by a combined 30 points — they fully exorcised any demons left over from Game 6 in American Airlines Arena from last season.
“I mean they smashed us, two straight home games,” LeBron James said.
Most people — including Heat coach Erik Spoelstra — expected a lot more energy out of a Heat team that needed a win, but it was the Spurs that played like the more desperate team.
“I can honestly say I don’t think any of us were expecting this type of performance,” Spoelstra said.
“Well, I think (the Heat’s) reaction was there but we matched it,” San Antonio’s Boris Diaw said after another impressive game with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
The Spurs did it with the balanced, team game they have shown all season (and for several seasons). San Antonio shot 57.1 percent, and 51 percent of the Spurs shots were uncontested (according to SportVU cameras). For comparison 39 percent of the Heat shots were uncontested. Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and 14 rebounds plus played fantastic defense against LeBron James (Leonard will be in the mix for series MVP), Tony Parker had 19 points, Patty Mills added 14 and the Spurs as a team had 25 assists on 40 baskets. They were again playing “the beautiful game.”
“I’m pleased that they performed as well as they did while we’ve been in Miami,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “And that’s about as far as it goes. Now we’ve got to go back home and play as well or better.”
As good as their offense was, the Spurs defense was much sharper, much improved compared to Game 3. The Spurs were smart and aggressive defending the pick-and-roll, and the Heat made it easy on them with a lot of pick-and-rolls or isolations and almost no weakside movement.
LeBron did all he could — he had 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting — but he got no help. Dwyane Wade was 3-of-13 shooting, 1-of-8 inside 8 feet. Chris Bosh was 5-of-11. Heat players not named LeBron shot 27.8 percent through the first three quarters (the fourth quarter was essentially extended garbage time).
“They played great and I can honestly say I don’t think any of us expected this kind of performance…” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just couldn’t get into a rhythm on either side of the ball.”
Like the Spurs, it was the defensive end that was the bigger deal for Miami — they again played without energy, not closing out on shooters, their traps on the pick-and-roll were half-hearted and the Spurs shredded it with their passing.
Erik Spoelstra was looking for answers, so much so that he tried Toney Douglas starting in the second quarter looking anywhere for a spark.
“Our group has been through everything you possibly can be through except this circumstance, so why not?” Spoelstra said. “Why not test ourselves right now collectively?…
“All it is, is let’s get this thing back to Miami. When we’re right mentally, emotionally, collectively there is a real strong spirit to us. We feel we can win anywhere, and that’s what we’ll work on for the next two days.”
There is a lot for the Heat to work on. The Spurs have executed their game plan at a high level, the Heat have looked like a team that can’t find the switch to flip.
And now, even if they found it, it would be too late.