The San Antonio Spurs used a dominant 2nd half to put away the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals winning 113-77. The Spurs 26-point victory is the 3rd largest in Finals history. Teams that win game 3 of the Finals after being tied 1-1 during a 2-3-2 format have won the series 92 percent of the time (12/13). The Heat had never previously lost a game 3 in the NBA Finals.
The Spurs were in control early, building an 11-point lead with 3 and a half minutes left in the first half. Miami responded by going on a 12-1 run to tie the game at 44 with 37 seconds left. San Antonio came right back though with Tony Parker hitting a tough fade away 3, and Gary Neal hitting a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Spurs a 6-point cushion at the break. Miami never recovered. In the 2nd half, San Antonio cruised outscoring the Heat 63-33.
Danny Green and Gary Neal were the un-questioned players of the game. Green was 7/9 from 3 scoring 27 points, and Neal was 6/10 from distance finishing with 24 points on the night. San Antonio made an NBA Finals record 16 three’s on the night, 13 combined from Green and Neal. In the previous 2 games of the series, Neal was averaging 8.5 points per game, shooting 6/16 from the field, and was 3/8 from deep. It’s remarkable how far Green and Neal have gone since it wasn’t too long ago Neal was playing in Turkey, and Green couldn’t crack the lineup for the Cavaliers. It’s a different story now.
Tim Duncan played well scoring 12 points and adding a game high 14 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard had another stellar defensive game, and contributed offensively scoring 14 points to go along with 12 rebounds. For the game, the Spurs out-rebounded the Heat 52-36, and Duncan and Leonard played a major role on the glass.
Tiago Splliter had 8 points, Manu Ginobili had 7 points, and Dejuan Blair scored 9 points in garbage time in the 4th. The only concern for San Antonio in game 3 was Tony Parker who’s hamstring injury came back in the 2nd half. Parker briefly went to the locker room, but returned to the game and looked fine. His health going into Thursday’s game four will be a major topic of discussion. Parker is scheduled to undergo an MRI Wednesday.
As for the Heat, this was one of the ugliest games they’ve played all year. LeBron James strategy of trying to get everyone involved early backfired. In the first half, LeBron scored just 4 points on 2/8 shooting, and missed 11 of his first 13 shots. He came to life in the 2nd half scoring 11 points, including 9 straight at one point. James finished with 15 points on 7/21 shooting and has yet to crack 20 points in the Finals. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Kawhi Leonard who continues to lock down James defensively. Leonard has been exceptional staying in front of LeBron not allowing him to drive to the basket. James will certainly face a lot of criticism for not taking control early. He might be better off establishing himself first, and then getting his teammates involved.
Dwyane Wade was once again hot early scoring 8 of the Heat’s first 16 points, but faded late finishing with 16 for the game. Chris Bosh continued to struggle scoring 12 points on 4/10 from the field, and Mario Chalmers was held scoreless following his 19-point game 2 performance. The only Heat player who played well was Mike Miller who did his best to keep the Heat in it going 5/5 from deep for 15 points. Miller has hit 8 consecutive 3’s, but his shooting wasn’t nearly enough for Miami in this one. The role players for the Heat were huge in Game 2, and besides Miller, were all no shows in Game 3.
Heat fans should be optimistic as they look towards game 4 on Thursday. Miami is 5-0 this post-season following losses, and won each game by double digits. It would be hard to see Gary Neal playing this good again, but if he does, the Heat will be in trouble.
The key for the Heat is the play of LeBron James. No one else on the Heat seems capable of taking over a game, and LeBron must play better.
Miami’s won when they’ve had to all season, and game 4 is looking like a game the Heat have to have.