Oct 20, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) reacts prior to to tip-off before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Even without James, Heat offense picks apart Spurs' defense

Even though Miami Heat forward LeBron James was absent from the Heat’s starting lineup with a case of “general soreness” as coach Erik Spoelstra put it — the offense hummed with peak efficiency in their 104-101 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

In the first half, Miami made 57% of their attempts and more than half of their field goals were assisted. Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller were in double-figures, accounting for 25 of 62 first half points.

The Spurs, meanwhile, were skipping the ball around the floor and scoring points in bunches, too. Turnovers were a problem for both teams but it wasn’t a result of either defense. While the Spurs didn’t have a scorer in double-figures at the half, Danny Green, who scored the team’s first five points, Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter and Eddy Curry were within two points of double-figures. A typically balanced offensive attack, top-to-bottom.

Miami’s offense — which was generating frequent 3-point attempts, especially from the corner, and slicing by the point of attack with ease — stalled in the third frame. In a development that would please Gregg Popovich, the Spurs caused 11 turnovers, leading to nine points, and altogether limiting the opposition to 31.3% shooting.

Frequently experimenting with smaller lineups, San Antonio was able to utilize their added athleticism to their advantage.

These smaller lineups backfired when an uber small lineup — consisting of Green, guards Nando De Colo and Cory Joseph and forwards DeJuan Blair and Josh Powell — was counted on to close the game. The Spurs’ lead was eight points to begin the final quarter but this group wasn’t strong enough on both ends of the floor to maintain the lead.

San Antonio dropped to 3-2 following the loss. Miami netted their first victory without James since Jan. 5, 2012, improving to 3-2 in exhibition play.

Curry strengthening case? Prior to the game, Popovich hinted that Curry and forward Derrick Brown differentiated themselves for the final roster spot. Curry entered the game with 7:22 to play in the second quarter while Brown did not leave the bench. Curry was active on the offensive end, promptly scoring nine points in his seven minutes of action. Rebounding still remains a problem.

Not exactly Manu: De Colo played 27 minutes, generally as the point guard. It was not one of his best showings: De Colo missed six of seven field goals, his lack of a perimeter shot hampering his confidence and he struggled to stay in front of quicker guards.

The heady Frenchman, who Popovich said is one of the most intelligent players on the team, was ran off the 3-point line by Josh Harrelson with less than 10 seconds to play in a three point game. Rather than stepping aside and shooting from behind the arc, a typical Manu Ginobili maneuver, he took an open 18-footer which didn’t find the net.

Fighting small with small: In response to Miami’s smaller lineups, the Spurs deployed a bunch of lineups with Stephen Jackson at power forward. These lineups moved the ball well but they struggled to live up to the task defensively.

Next opponent: The Spurs will play against former assistant coach Jacque Vaughn’s Orlando Magic tomorrow. The game will be televised on NBA TV at 5:00 p.m. CST.

Tags: Miami Heat San Antonio Spurs

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