Watch San Antonio’s historic hot shooting, 41-point first quarter

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You are never going to see a better shooting first half. Not in the NBA Finals anyway.

San Antonio’s first quarter was historic — the Spurs scored 41 points on 86.7 percent shooting. They started out 13-of-15 shooting from the floor (and they were 7-of-10 from three in the first half). In that first quarter the Spurs hit 9-of-10 inside 8 feet, 4-of-4 from three, and missed their only shot from the midrange, but they weren’t getting forced to the midrange like Game 2.

Kawhi Leonard was 5-of-5 in the quarter and was not hesitating as he did due to foul trouble in the first two games.

It was just beautiful to watch, and you can see it again here.

Spurs blistering, historically hot first half shooting gives them 71-50 lead

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If you thought the Spurs hot fourth quarter of Game 1 was just all about LeBron James being off the court, I hope you were watching Game 3.

San Antonio shot an NBA record 76 percent for an NBA Finals half — they started out 19-of-21 in the first quarter, “cooled off” to shoot 25-of-33 for the half, they were 7-of-10 from three and Boris Diaw, inserted into the starting lineup for Tiago Splitter, was +22 in the first half.

The result was a 71-50 San Antonio lead at the half. Which is even more impressive when you remember they are on the road.

The Spurs first quarter was insane as they hit 9-of-10 inside 8 feet, 4-of-4 from three, and missed their only shot from the midrange (remember the Heat forced the Spurs into 23 midrange shots in Game 2, but they were getting to the rim again in Game 3.

Kawhi Leonard, who had not stood out in the first two games, had 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first half. Danny Green added 13 after starting 6-of-6 shooting.

The Spurs at one point had the lead up to 25.

The Heat defense was not sharp, although it wasn’t as bad as the Spurs made it look — Miami miss some rotations and were late on some closeouts, but even when they defended the pick-and-roll well (as they did for stretches) it didn’t matter. San Antonio just hit the shot.

The Heat shot 56 percent themselves and got 16 points out of LeBron James, but they also had 10 turnovers.

The Heat went on a run at one point getting the lead down to “just 14” but the Spurs had pushed it up by the half again.

LeBron James virtually unstoppable inside, outside, drops 35 (VIDEO)

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SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs remain the team that better uses their system to extract the most from their players, they are the coach’s dream where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

But the Heat have LeBron James.

That was enough to even the NBA Finals at 1-1. LeBron went off for 35 points on 64 percent shooting and carried the Heat to the Game 2 win.

In the video above you see how LeBron’s game just took what the Spurs gave him. In the first half they were more up in his face, playing him tight, so he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. At halftime the Spurs adjusted, played back on him to take away those drives and he just drained jumper after jumper. What else can the Spurs do?

“Well, you can go double him if you want,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game, when asked why they didn’t. “He’s a pretty good player.  I’m going to guess he’s going to find the open man.”

LeBron did that too, with Chris Bosh in the corner for a three that put Miami ahead for the night.

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in NBA Finals now?

Rashard Lewis becoming key fourth contributor for Miami Heat

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SAN ANTONIO — Rashard Lewis has been on the big stage before — he dropped 34 points (plus had 11 rebounds and 7 assists) in the NBA Finals as a member of the Orlando Magic.

But that was five years ago. That was a very different Rashard Lewis. The Rashard Lewis of 2014 could barely get off the Heat bench much of the season. He looked to be one of those Heat veteran gambles that didn’t pay off. He didn’t figure in the Heat’s playoff plans…

Until Erik Spoelstra started him at the four to space out the Pacers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It worked.

And it has continued to work in the Finals against the Spurs.

Lewis had 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 3-of-7 from three in the Heat’s Game 2 win. Nobody really saw this coming, but Lewis has taken over the role Mike Miller did for the Heat last year — not in terms of role within in the offense, but in terms of being a trusted fourth scorer and someone who can space the floor with threes.

“Rashard has been huge for us ever since he’s been inserted into our starting lineup, from the Indiana series,” LeBron James said. “He’s been in this position before. He’s been to the Finals with the Orlando Magic. He’s been in huge playoff games, and his experience and ability to knock down shots helps us out a lot. It spreads the floor for us, and every time he catches the ball, we tell him just to shoot it. Don’t think about nothing else besides shooting the ball, and we live with his results.”

Lewis spaces the floor and pulls a potential rim protecting big out of the paint. He’s a pressure release valve, one the Heat have gone to a few times this series.

What’s impressive is that he was ready to go when called upon.

“Rashard at times this year wasn’t playing, but he kept himself ready,” Spoelstra said. “And you can’t just step into an environment if you’re not putting in hours and hours of time behind the scenes.”

Lewis, at age 34, has accepted his role on this Heat team.

And that could be key to the Heat getting a three-peat for Pat Riley.

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in NBA Finals now?

Spurs “beautiful game” offense turned ugly in fourth quarter

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SAN ANTONIO — There were points during Game 2 of the NBA Finals where you just had to be in awe of the Spurs ball movement. On one possession they got the ball to Tim Duncan on the right block then he swung it to three point line on the left side, then the ball was whipped the right top, then back to the right block — all in about three seconds.

When the Spurs play like that, it’s the beautiful game.

Then in the fourth quarter they stopped.

“The ball stuck to us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “I think we were trying to do it  we didn’t do it as a group. We tried to do it individually and we’re not good enough to do that.”

San Antonio scored 18 fourth quarter points on 35.3 percent shooting, and they had an offensive rating of just 90 points per 100 possessions in that frame. The Spurs were up one with less than three minutes to go, they got some stops, but they just couldn’t get the ball inside or score.

That cost them Game 2.

Miami made one key defensive switch in the fourth quarter — they put LeBron James on Tony Parker. His size took the focal point of the Spurs offense out of the game, he was 1-of-2 shooting for 3 points with one assist in the final frame. LeBron also didn’t need help on Parker, which allowed the other Heat defenders to stay at home with their men. Also, Miami switched a lot more picks in this game, which threw the Spurs off it seemed.

But that still shouldn’t have negated the Spurs’ ball movement like it did.

“We stopped the ball,” Manu Ginobili said. “Against a team like them, we are not going to score much if we do stop the ball… But, yeah, there are moments where we forget what got us to where we are now. It happened also in Game 1. The only thing that we were perfect for moments in Game 1.”

Take a look at the Spurs possessions in the final 4:30 of the game:

• Danny Green misses driving, twisting, contested lay-up.

• Ginobili missed a deep three he had to race up because the shot clock was about to expire.

• Parker hit a three pointer — Ginobili drove and got into the paint, the defense collapsed and he kicked it out to Parker. Chris Bosh was hesitant and slow on the close out. (That shot put the Spurs up one with 2:25 left).

• After the Spurs first couple actions got nowhere Parker drove the ball in but got stripped by LeBron. The Spurs retained the ball but with just 0.8 seconds left they did not get off a good look.

• Ginobili made a hard pass inside to a cutting Duncan, but it bounced off his hands out of bounds.

• Ginobili missed a step-back 18 footer.

• The Spurs got a Ginobili three at the buzzer to make it just a two-point loss.

Notice with those shots, not one was in the paint. Green missed his and Parkers’ three came off penetration and a kick-out.

Miami did well overall on defense, their rotations were sharper and they played with much more aggression. Heat coach Eric Spoelstra had said they just needed to do what they normally do for a full game, and to do it harder. Miami was far better defending the pick-and-roll and cutting off penetration before it got going.

“We had to take the challenge one-on-one and do a better job with that, contain the pick-and-rolls two-on-two to give our backside defense more help and more opportunities to make plays,” Chris Bosh said.

The question for the Spurs is how they adjust — you can bet LeBron will be back on Parker for key stretches, that can’t kill the ball movement.

For the Heat, the question is consistency — they haven’t done that these playoffs. They have been great for stretches but not entire games, or after a good one they have a bad one. Miami can’t do that against San Antonio.

We will get our answers Tuesday night.