The San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic in Tuesday night's Game 3 en route to an impressive 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat to take a 2-1 series lead. The team made 19 of its first 21 shots and shot 75.8 percent from the field in the first half.
That kind of efficiency is unheard of, except for maybe in a video game.
According to Manu Ginobili, the result was just a combination of hot shooting and typical San Antonio offense, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “It's not something you can plan for. There was no magic plays. We just moved the ball, and every shot went in.”
Who will win Game 4?
But we have seen this efficiency before, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. In the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Spurs outscored the Heat 36-17 by converting 14 of 16 shots, including all six from deep.
The San Antonio offense is good. Really good. The team always seems to make the extra pass, and it's beautiful to watch.
But the Heat’s defense isn’t that bad. If Miami wants to prevent a daunting 3-1 deficit, it must bring the same defensive intensity it brought in the third quarter, when it only gave up 15 points after allowing 71 in the first half.
Heading into Thursday, take a look at the most recent championship odds and Game 4 line.
|San Antonio Spurs||1-2|
|San Antonio Spurs||+5.5|
Miami is down 2-1, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, history is not on its side.
Game 3 winner of a tied NBA Finals series goes on to win the series 83 percent of the time (30-6)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
Spurs: 15-3 in best-of-7 series when leading 2-1 in the Gregg Popovich era— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
Yet, in a way, it kind of is. The Heat have been in a similar situation before. During the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs won Game 1, Miami responded with a victory in Game 2 and San Antonio blew out the Heat in Game 3. The Heat then went on to win Game 4 by 16 to even the series at 2-2, eventually winning the championship in seven games.
On Thursday, the two-time defending champions simply need to play better and harder. They must prevent the Spurs from dribbling into the paint with such ease, and they have to do a better job taking care of the basketball. The Heat committed 20 turnovers in Game 3, which is far too many empty possessions against a team as good as San Antonio.
LeBron James had seven by himself—a Finals career high—which hasn't bode well for his team in the past.
LeBron James' teams are now 2-7 in the NBA Finals when he has at least five turnovers (2-3 with Heat).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
In particular, the Heat will need to be more prepared to contain Kawhi Leonard, who took Miami by surprise with his increased aggressiveness. He shot early and often, finishing with a career-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
Not only was Leonard effective on the offensive end, but he also excelled defensively. He made James work extremely hard for his 22 points, and he had a hand in creating many of James’ turnovers.
ESPN’s Jay Williams had high praise for Leonard after his Game 3 performance.
Kawhi Leonard = current day Scottie Pippen.— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) June 11, 2014
Closest thing to Pippen I have ever seen. Not comparing Rings or hall of fame status but when Leonard plays like that = Pippen status— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) June 11, 2014
Miami doesn’t lose back-to-back playoff games. Per Dan Feldman of NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk, “The Heat are 13-0 following their last 13 playoff losses – forming a streak of 47 straight postseason games without consecutive losses. That ranks third all-time.”
Expect the streak to continue Thursday night.
Miami’s team defense will more closely resemble its Game 2 form and will prevent the Spurs from getting into the lane as easily as they did in Game 3. James will bounce back with a terrific performance—both offensively and on Leonard—and Chris Bosh will have his best game of the Finals, allowing the Heat to even the series at two games apiece.
Final Score: Miami 99, San Antonio 94
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