What was supposed to be one of the most thrilling Finals matchups in recent memory has suddenly turned into one of the most lopsided in history.
It set up perfectly. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, who went seven scintillating games during last year's matchup, were both arguably better this time around. It was supposed to be like last year's Finals, but on steroids.
Instead, it has been like last year's Finals, but with Miami on NyQuil.
After the Spurs won Game 1 with an assist from a broken air conditioner and the Heat bounced back with a narrow Game 2 victory, it looked like we were in line for another instant classic series. But San Antonio put in the cheat code in Games 3 and 4, dominating every aspect of the game en route to 19- and 21-point wins.
With a 3-1 series lead, the Spurs have outscored Miami by 53 points, a record through four games, per ESPN's Kevin Pelton:
Per @bball_ref, the largest margin through four games of a Finals is +53 (1961 BOS-STL). Spurs are currently +54.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) June 13, 2014
With LeBron James and Co.'s backs against the wall, and the Spurs clicking on cylinders that don't even exist, let's take a close look at Game 5.
Date: Sunday, June 15, 2014
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Following Game 4's shellacking, LeBron James, via SportsCenter, didn't sugarcoat it during his press conference:
"They smashed us... They came in and were much better than us in these two games. It’s that simple." – LeBron James #LIVEonSC— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 13, 2014
The Spurs have been able to do whatever they want. After shooting 59.4 percent—thanks to a record-setting first-half performance—in Game 3, they were nearly as good in Game 4, connecting on 57.1 percent of their shots.
They are team basketball personified. That's evidenced by the fact they had 25 assists on 40 baskets Thursday, but it's also evidenced by the fact that you can make an argument—some stronger than others, mind you—for every starter as MVP should they close out the series.
Tony Parker leads the team in points per game (18.5). The wonderfully flowing offense starts with his ability to get into the lane and distribute, as Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix noted:
Most misleading stat of the night: Two assists for Tony Parker. His dribble penetration was instrumental in creating the Spurs open looks— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 13, 2014
Kawhi Leonard is averaging 16.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, but he has been the best player on the floor in San Antonio's two biggest wins. In Games 3 and 4, he averaged 24.5 points on 68.0 percent shooting to go with 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks. Moreover, his defense on James goes far beyond the box score.
Boris Diaw, via ESPN, put it simply:
"When he's more aggressive, we're a better team and I think that showed in the last two games." - Boris Diaw on Kawhi Leonard— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 13, 2014
Tim Duncan has been his normally consistent self, averaging a double-double (15.8 points and 10.5 rebounds) and entering the record books in the process:
Tim Duncan: 158th career postseason double-double, passes Magic Johnson for most all-time— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 13, 2014
Diaw, who not coincidentally entered the starting lineup at the same time the Spurs became unstoppable, does a little bit of everything. He leads all starters with a plus/minus of plus-60 and all players with 5.8 assists per contest.
And he does things like this:
Danny Green has poured in nine three-pointers and provides solid defense. Even Manu Ginobili (team-high plus-62) and Patty Mills (instant offense off the bench) deserve mention.
Put it all together, and it produces some numbers that coach Norman Dale would be proud of:
The Spurs passed the ball 113 more times than the Heat tonight (380-267). Don't know if I can comprehend that stat. #NBAFinals— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) June 13, 2014
Related: Four games, 102 assists for San Antonio.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) June 13, 2014
It's a stark contrast to the other side of the court. LeBron James is doing LeBron James things, averaging 27.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals, but he's also getting no help. In the third quarter of Game 4, he scored 19 points and his teammates scored two.
Chris Bosh has disappeared the last two games. Dwyane Wade looks exhausted and was 3-of-13 Thursday. The role players who have been so vital in the past aren't doing much. Mario Chalmers has been terrible.
The Heat are too good to keep getting blown out like this, but the Spurs are playing too well to lose at home.
Prediction: Spurs 96, Heat 90