“No, no, no, light speed is too slow; we’re gonna have to go right to ludicrous speed.”
– Lord Dark Helmet, on the Spurs’ first half offense.
That really was a sight to behold.
The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 111-92 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, as they now take a 2-1 series lead into Thursday’s Game 4. The Spurs beat the Heat with a combination of brilliant passing and fantastic shooting for most of the evening – clearly two things that Heat have never seen before, one would think if watching them play for the first time. Then again, they had been playing the Pacers and the Nets in the past two rounds, so maybe those are things they don’t recognize.
Things that pleased me: Offensively, the Heat shot well enough (52% from the field; 48% from 3) to keep the game interesting. Rashard Lewis played well (14 points) and has been a revelation for the Heat. He’s doing enough to make Miami fans forget about Mike Miller. Sadly, he can’t make them forget the Heat’s point guards.
Dwyane Wade had 11 points in the third quarter as the Heat were able to get San Antonio’s lead back down to 7 points, but that would be as close as they would get.
LeBron James and Wade overall combined for 44 points, on 17 for 26 shooting, while Chris Bosh made all of his shots. That last sentence would look amazing without any further information about the game.
Things that annoyed me: Where do I start?
Chris Bosh only shot it four times, while touching the ball 12 times. He’s been arguably the Heat’s second best player in this series, yet was limited on his possessions. Maybe it had to do with the deficit and the Heat trying to frantically come back, but there has to be a way to get Bosh involved.
Miami committed 20 turnovers. If you’re giving a team like the Spurs that many extra possessions, you might as well call it a night.
Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, as the Heat had no way to stop him. He played the game of his life. He was getting to the basket with ease, as anyone guarding him gave little resistance. Danny Green did the bulk of his damage in the paint, by scoring 12 of his 15 points from inside the free throw line. These are things you don’t expect from the Spurs.
Things that perplexed me: Now that we got the small stuff out of the way, we can acknowledge that the Heat allowed the Spurs to shoot 76% in the first half. That’s absurd. I don’t even think teams can do that during warm-ups. Around the midway point of the second quarter, the Spurs had been shooting 90% up until that mark. Read that again. 90% through about 17 minutes of play! Miami’s rotations were so slow that the Spurs had a field day finding open guys. They also gave the Spurs shooters way too much space because they were late on close-outs.
We can easily say this was an aberration, as it’s hard to imagine the Spurs shooting this well again. But they have been shooting well this whole series (53%) as the Heat have been trying to keep up with what San Antonio is doing offensively. The Spurs can clearly shoot it well enough where it becomes a track meet. They just happened to get really hot in Game 3.
Scale of 1-to-10, How badly did you want to throw a lamp because of Mario Chalmers?: 10. We’ve reached a point when we have to question whether Chalmers should be playing at all. Thing is, Norris Cole hasn’t contributed at all and Toney Douglas isn’t somebody that you want handling point guard duties. Chalmers had a turnover where he passed up an open 3-pointer from the top of the key, because he tried to dump it into LeBron in the paint. Two weeks ago he’s taking that shot. Sure, the Heat can find success without a true point guard in the lineup, with LeBron assuming the role, and Wade as his de-facto backup. But this can wear LeBron down, while Wade can be turnover prone when trying to handle the ball too much, so Miami needs something from Chalmers. But his confidence is gone and the Heat need him to regain it. He’s their only hope at the position.
What we learned: The Spurs play great basketball, as the ball zips across the court with ease. They know where to find the open spots and exploit them.
But if you throw out the first quarter, the Spurs only had a 70-67 advantage, so the Heat were able to keep up with them. Problem is, the Heat started flat (again) and had to force their way back into a game where the Spurs played out of their minds. The game was actually theirs for the taking, when they got to within 7 points in the third, but their own turnovers and offensive fouls derailed them.
Panic meter: 3. If the Spurs are going to shoot 75% for a half, and Leonard is going to score 29 points every game, then you might as well hand San Antonio the title now. I’m going to guess that neither of those things happens again this series.
Game 4 is a must-win and the Heat usually play well with their backs against the wall. Maybe it’s time they treated every game that way.