The Spurs were historically efficient and pulled out an early lead that never seemed to be in jeopardy throughout the game. The Heat struggled with turnovers and were never able to stop the Spurs from doing what they wanted offensively.
With that said, the series is still up in the balance as we approach Game 4 on Thursday. The Heat look to send the series back to San Antonio tied at two. Here are my five takeaways from Game 3.
The phrase “poetry in motion” must have been thrown around all night during Game 3 when describing the Spurs offense. Passing, screening, cutting—no team does it better than San Antonio. Watching the Spurs play offense must be what every coach dreams of: every player doing their job for the betterment of the team without a single act of selfishness.
The Spurs get a bad rap for being a “boring” team to watch. There wasn’t a single Spurs possession during Game 3 that seemed the slightest bit boring to me. This team scores efficiently and with flawless fundamentals of the game. Nothing about that is boring.
Everyone was of the opinion that the Spurs were a deeper team than the Heat going into this series. Game 3 was a clear indication that this was fact. The Heat played with an eight-man rotation, save for the last two minutes when both teams cleared their benches. The Spurs, on the other hand, played a 10-man rotation.
When the Spurs are playing their best, their role players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter are contributing. When the Heat cut the deficit to seven in the second half, Marco Belinelli hit a three to push the lead back to double digits.Those were his only points of the game.
None of the three stars of San Antonio scored more than 15 points. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green combined to score as many points as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
How can anyone not like this guy? Kawhi Leonard is the anti-diva. He is the anti-self-promoter. He is the anti-superstar.
Not to say that his game won’t be on par with superstars of the league at some point, just merely to say that the man goes about his business without emotion. He plays the game like a giant-handed cyborg created by Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford in the likeness of everything the Spurs stand for.
In Game 3, Kawhi silenced his critics by defending LeBron James fairly well (seven turnovers) and outscoring him on the other end. He shot 10-13 from the field and passed James Worthy as the youngest player in NBA Finals history to score at least 25 points while shooting 75 percent, according to NBA.com.
Many experts want to hold Leonard up to superstar standards without acknowledging the fact that he’s only 22 years old and is in his third season. His head coach understands his importance, especially in this situation: "He's got to be one of our better players on the court, or we're not good enough," Popovich said. "That's just the way it is. He's got that kind of talent."
Wow. And no, I’m not referring to Way of Wade. I’m referring to the Spurs’ unbelievably hot start in the first half of Game 3.
San Antonio shot 75.8 percent from the field in the first two quarters, including 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. It just felt as if every shot was going in, regardless of the defense Miami was playing, even contested shots were hitting nothing but net.
The Spurs edged the 2009 Orlando Magic team, which shot an amazing 75 percent against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Finals. The Magic won that game but eventually lost the series in five. The Spurs may have put on an offensive clinic in Game 3, but this series is far from over.
Still Anyone’s Series
The Spurs executed masterfully in Game 3 and convincingly defeated the Heat. So what? Their points total doesn’t carry over into Game 4 and anyone who believes the Spurs now have momentum hasn’t been paying attention.
The Heat have played 48 consecutive playoff games without consecutive losses. They’re 13-0 following their last 13 playoff losses.
If the Heat win Game 4, which they most likely will, then the series shifts to San Antonio tied two games apiece because of the 2-2-1-1-1 format.
Both teams have already shown that they can win on the other’s home floor, so home court seems to have no advantage in this matchup.
I believe the Spurs will pull out all the stops to win Game 4 and try to put this series away as quickly as they can. In that scenario, the Heat would have to win three games in a row, something that seems damn near impossible in this stalemate of a series.
The winner of Game 3 of a tied series in the Finals has gone on to win 83.3 percent of the time. The Spurs won Game 3 last year when the series was tied. You remember the outcome.