After LeBron James took over in Game 2, many believed it was going to take something special from the San Antonio Spurs to steal one in Miami.
Well, a historically great shooting performance is something special.
The Spurs shot a record 75.8 percent from the field in the first half and held off a late Heat comeback to grab a 111-92 win and a 2-1 series lead.
James, via Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick, talked about his team's lackluster start, which saw the Spurs jump ahead by more than 20 in the first half:
LeBron: "They had us on our heels from the beginning. That's something, at this point of the season, that shouldn't happen."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 11, 2014
Kawhi Leonard led the way with a career-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and San Antonio finished 59.4 percent from the field, handing Miami its first home loss of the postseason.
Spurs deal Heat 1st home loss of this postseason. Miami had not lost at home in playoffs since Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals… to Spurs.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 11, 2014
In addition to providing tremendous defense on James, the third-year small forward entrenched himself in a prestigious group with his offensive outburst, per ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
In 3-point era, players who have scored 29+ in a Finals game by age-22: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant ... Kawhi Leonard.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 11, 2014
James and Dwyane Wade each had 22 points for the Heat, who shot an impressive 51.6 percent from the field themselves, but they committed 20 turnovers, and Chris Bosh—who was so critical in Game 2—was mostly invisible in 34 minutes, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
Chris Bosh Touches Game 1: 39 Game 2: 40 Game 3: 12— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
LeBron James: 7 turnovers is a Finals career high— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
Bosh, via Skolnick, put it simply:
Bosh: "You can't win a championship with that kind of effort, home or away... We did nothing right, & we deserve what we have."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) June 11, 2014
Following a Game 2 loss in which his team shot just 43.9 percent from the field, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich wasn't happy with his team's offensive performance.
“The ball stuck,” he told reporters, via the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. “We didn’t do it as a group. We tried to do it individually, and we’re not good enough to do that. You move it or you die.”
Well, it's safe to say his players weren't interested in the afterlife quite yet.
The Spurs couldn't miss—very nearly literally—to start the game. Leonard and Danny Green connected on their first 12 shots (four from beyond the arc) and San Antonio had a stretch spanning the first and second quarters when it didn't miss for over 10 minutes of game time.
It led 41-25 after the opening period, a historically potent start on the offensive end, per ESPN Stats & Info:
The 41 first-quarter points were the most scored in 1st quarter of an NBA Finals game since it happened in 1967 Finals (76ers/Warriors)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
The unstoppable performance bled into the second quarter.
A Leonard jumper at the 8:08 mark put the Spurs ahead by 25 and pushed their field-goal percentage up to an absurd 90.5 percent after 21 shots. NBA.com provided a glance at the unbelievable shot chart:
With what would typically be seen as a dominant offensive showing, Miami stuck around the best it could. James had 16 points and five assists, Rashard Lewis hit three treys and the Heat shot 55.9 percent from the field in the half on their way to 50 points.
And yet they were down by 21 at the break, as the Spurs scored 71 on 44 possessions—an otherworldly offensive rating of 161.4.
Unsurprisingly, a slew of records and milestones were achieved along the way:
Spurs are 1st team to score at least 70 points in 1st half of a playoff game since 1987 Lakers did it in this game http://t.co/pQXdqIeKCg— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
Spurs missed 8 (eight) shots in the entire first-half. Spurs' previous postseason halftime low in Tim Duncan era? 11.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 11, 2014
The Heat tightened the clamps defensively in the second half, though, and it took less than seven minutes for San Antonio to duplicate its first-half missed-shot total. As a result, Miami slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 13 at the 6:35 mark.
San Antonio seemed to have weathered the storm, but with James on the bench, the Heat continued to creep closer, trimming the deficit down to seven points. ESPN's J.A. Adande noted a reason for the run:
It's not that this Heat lineup is so great…it's just that it doesn't have Chalmers in it— J.A. Adande (@jadande) June 11, 2014
After shooting just 31.5 percent in the third quarter, though, the Spurs got back to their efficient ways in the final period.
They hit six of their first eight shots, pushing the lead back to 16 points and sealing the win.
With James' transcendent performance in Game 2, Bosh's clutch play down the stretch and Miami's dominance at home this postseason, many thought the Spurs were in trouble.
But this was about as emphatic of a response as possible.
A win in Game 4 on Thursday, and San Antonio will have three chances—two at home—to close out the series and hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Who will win Game 4?
The Heat have been essentially unstoppable in the playoffs following a defeat, however, and an assertive counterpunch of their own is likely on the horizon.
With each new, unbelievable moment in this war of a series, it seems inevitable that these teams are headed for seven games. Again.