Welcome to the Daily NBA Fix for Jun. 11, 2014, the night after the San Antonio Spurs opened up Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals by going 19-for-21 from the floor. Kawhi Leonard, after scoring a combined 18 points in Games 1 and 2, put up a career high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting. The Spurs opened up a 25-point lead and had a 71-50 advantage at the break, thanks to San Antonio shooting an NBA Finals record 75.8 percent from the floor in the first half. Miami cut the lead back to single digits in the third, but San Antonio escaped with a 111-92 Game 3 victory on the road. Yes, you read all of that right.
Tony Parker and Danny Green had 15 points apiece (with Green chipping in five steals), Manu Ginobili added 11 off the bench and Boris Diaw finished with a plus/minus differential of +20 despite only scoring nine points. LeBron James got off to a hot start, carrying the Miami Heat in the first quarter with 14 points, but he trailed off from there and finished with 22. Dwyane Wade matched James with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but the Heatles got little help from their supporting cast, made all the more painfully obvious that Rashard Lewis (14 points) was Miami’s third-leading scorer.
Ray Allen had 11 points off the bench, but was -19 for the game. Norris Cole had eight points, but Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers were extremely quiet, combining for 11 points. The Heat committed 20 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Spurs. LeBron had seven of them and Wade had five of his own. It’s not that Miami played a bad game necessarily, but any time you let a team start 19-for-21 from the field, your defensive intensity isn’t at a level it needs to be.
Things started to look bad near the tail-end of the first quarter, when it became apparent that the Spurs simply were not going to be denied. The Heat gave up 41 first quarter points, the third-most in any quarter in NBA history. After being a bit passive playing with foul trouble in the first two games, Leonard came out aggressive and put up 16 points in the opening period. When Ginobili banked in a three to close the first quarter, it was a deflating blow to the home team’s confidence.
LIVE from Gregg Popovich’s postgame press conference… pic.twitter.com/MpX9FqvwcS
— SportsNation (@SportsNation) June 11, 2014
Still, any time you’re talking about these Miami Heat and these San Antonio Spurs, a comeback is always on the table. You have to give credit to Miami for battling back in the third quarter to cut the lead to single digits. But San Antonio stayed composed, extended the lead back to double digits entering the fourth quarter and ended up finishing the Heat off by 19 points. It was Miami’s first home loss of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, and it was all thanks to 22-year-old Sugar K Leonard.
So far, the 2014 NBA Finals have gone exactly the same way they did in 2013: The Spurs win Game 1, the Heat take Game 2, the Spurs win Game 3. Once again, Miami’s backs are against the wall in a must-win Game 4. Should the Spurs somehow hold off the Heat in Game 4, it’d be hard to find many people to pick Miami to stave off elimination in Game 5 back in San Antonio. But if we’ve learned anything about LeBron James in the Miami Heat these past few years, we know it probably won’t even come to that.