The Miami Heat came into Game 3 of the 2014 NBA Finals full of confidence and to be fair, they had every right to be. After all, they had just handed the San Antonio Spurs only their second home loss of the playoffs. Plus, they were heading back to their home court, where they boasted an 8-0 record in the postseason. Unfortunately, that may have been their undoing in the end as they were thoroughly beaten 111-92.
With a chance to take what could have been a decisive lead in the series, Miami instead came out sluggish and sloppy in the opening minutes. San Antonio on the other hand were treating it like a Game 7, which resulted in them pouring in 41 points in the first quarter and 71 points by halftime.
The worst thing about it though is that the Spurs’ “Big Three” weren’t even the ones that did the damage. Nope, swingmen Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard did the honors and the Heat simply had no answers.
Leonard had the whole arsenal on show as he notched 18 of his 29 points in the first 24 minutes. He had it going from outside, hitting 3-of-4 in addition to being aggressive with his approach. As a result, he had plenty of easy looks near the basket and a few trips to the foul line. Green, a lethal 3-point shooter by trade, also contributed 13 points, yet only three of them came from beyond the arc. Instead, he was using Miami’s aggressive closeouts against them by driving past his scrambling defender for an easy finish in the paint, time and time again. Such looks led to more avenues for the rest of the team and San Antonio finished the half with a 75.8 percent conversion rate – which was yet another Finals record. At one point, they even hit an amazing 19 of their 21 attempts from the field.
The duo’s aggression also paid dividends on defense and it was a huge factor in coercing Miami into careless mistakes. Their activity brought about five of the team’s seven steals at the half and helped to put the Heat’s turnover figure at 10. With such outstanding shooting, disruptive defense, as well as the Miami Heat’s lackadaisical play, perhaps it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that much of surprise the home team were down 21 come halftime. And Coach Erik Spoelstra was not at all pleased.
“They came out at different gear than what we were playing at and it just seemed we were on our heels in the first half,” he said, during the post-game press conference. “You have to give them [San Antonio] credit for coming out with an aggressive mind-set on both ends.”
Ray Allen wasn’t a happy bunny either.
“It sucks,” said the 3-point shooting maestro. “It really sucks. We didn’t bring any urgency to this game tonight and we were too casual.
“He [Kawhi Leonard] attacked us. They got the ball inside the paint early and you could tell they were going to be aggressive. They were going to force the action and we weren’t ready. …We have to improve.”
Well, in the second half they did improve. Immensely. The lead that had once peaked at 25points was cut down to just seven in the third quarter. And like we have seen them do on so many occasions, the Heat were on the cusp of pulling out a herculean effort to save their skin once more.
But this is San Antonio we’re talking about. They do not wilt so easily.
After a defensive breakdown, Marco Belinelli stepped up to nail a wide open 3-pointer. Not only did it stretch the lead back to double digits, it also buried any momentum Miami had built.
Still, that attempt to claw back into the game was enough for Coach Spo to take some positives from the loss.
“We played a lot harder [in the third quarter],” he said. “It’ll take four quarters of that type of effort in this series and even then, you’re not guaranteed anything. You still have to play well on the other end and the empty possessions are very tough to overcome.”
Likewise, Dwyane Wade is trying to stay positive. He added: “It’s the nature of the playoffs – it’s not always good. This time of the year is dark days for us and tonight. They came here and took care of business. We’ve got to just learn from it, make adjustments and come out early in Game 4.”