Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich speaks with forwardKawhi Leonard
(2) during the fourth quarter of game thre against the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. San Antonio defeated Miami 111-92. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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In what will be remembered as the greatest shooting half in NBA Finals history where the Spurs shot an unbelievable 75.8 percent from the field, the Spurs were still in danger of blowing a lead that at one point ballooned to 25 points.
Nonetheless, the Spurs got a huge bounce back victory at the American Airlines Arena and will look to build off their success in Game 4.
The first quarter was an absolute doozy to watch.
San Antonio sprinted out of the gates fast, led by Kawhi Leonard. After being a no-show in Games 1 and 2, Kawhi looked to make his imprint on the game early and often. By the end of the first quarter, he had 16 of the Spurs 41 points (he finished the night with a career-high 29 points).
It was refreshing to see the aggressive Kawhi Leonard that Spurs fans have grown accustomed to watching, especially when his play exceeded LeBron James‘ throughout the game.
If it wasn’t for LeBron in the first quarter, the Heat would have been buried from the start.
The Spurs did an excellent job of making Miami pay for running the Spurs off the three-point line by attacking the rim. At the end of the first quarter, this is what San Antonio’s shot chart looked like:
The Spurs had a REALLY hot shooting 1st quarter. Take a look– pic.twitter.com/0EhDriWRJl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
At one point in the second quarter, the Spurs were shooting 19-of-21 from the field, with almost all of that damage coming without Tony Parker making any distinguishable impact.
With 8:09 left in the second quarter, the Spurs led 55-30 in what would be their largest lead of the game.
Of course, being the NBA defending champions, the Heat managed to chip away at the Spurs lead and get it down to 14 points with a few minutes left in the second Q; but San Antonio did an excellent job of weathering the storm and building up the lead to 21 points going into the break.
Here’s a look at the historic shooting performance from San Antonio in the first half:
The Heat managed to make their run in the second half; and with 1:59 left in the third quarter, they were somehow only down 81-74.
You knew that San Antonio would eventually come back down to earth after their amazing first half performance, which was evidenced by their 15-point third quarter, but the Spurs were on the brink of blowing the game after their historic first half.
Right after the lead had been whittled down to seven points, Marco Belinelli scored his only points of the game: a huge three pointer that temporarily stopped the bleeding for the Spurs. At the end of three the Spurs led 86-75.
Belinelli hit a big 3-pointer when the Heat cut the lead to seven points. Then that was it. But that shot stopped the wave of momentum.
— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) June 11, 2014
Danny Green started off the fourth quarter with a nice and-one left-handed layup over LeBron James that set the tone for the rest of the quarter.
Even though the lead would get cut down to 10 a few possessions later, the Spurs, like any good team should, held off the rallying Heat and were finally able to give their starters a rest with 1:36 left in the fourth.
The Spurs now will look to seize hold of this series by stealing another win in Miami on Thursday.
It was obvious from the outset of the game that San Antonio was the more desperate team.
Come Game 4, the Spurs know that the Heat will be the desperate team and will give them their best punch in an effort not to fall into an unfavorable 3-1 hole going back to San Antonio.
Here’s a few more quick thoughts from Game 3.
Will The Spurs Be The 2013-2014 NBA Champions?
Jun 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs forwardBoris Diaw
(33) looks to pass while guarded by Miami Heat centerChris Bosh
(1) during the third quarter of game three of the 2014 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
- Chris Bosh was heavily underutilized this game.
Although Bosh was a perfect four-for-four from the field in 34 minutes, he didn’t make any impact on the game.
True, he was plagued with foul trouble for most of the game, but he still managed to play 34 minutes. That’s more time on the floor than Tim Duncan, Parker, and Danny Green, yet he seemed invisible. This stat tells it all:
Chris Bosh Touches Game 1: 39 Game 2: 40 Game 3: 12 — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
Bosh is such an important cog in the Heat’s “spread and shred” offense, but in Game 3 the ball avoided him much in the same manner as Spurs Coach Pop avoids answering questions.
Luckily for the Heat, Lewis shot well again (five-of-seven overall, four-of-five from three), so he seemingly took some of Bosh’s slack. Expect to see an effective Bosh who actually touches the ball in Game 4.
- LeBron and Wade combined for 12 of Miami’s 20 turnovers.
As much as these two have the ball in their hands, this was an outlier night for them in regards to coughing up the ball.
Kawhi made LeBron work for everything and, with the exception of the first quarter, he flustered him into a below average game for the greatest player in the world.
LeBron is going to play Game 4 with a head full of steam, so don’t expect 7 turnovers again from him.
As well as the Spurs shot, the turnovers didn’t really give the Heat too much of a chance as they basically were spoon feeding the Spurs offense.
The Heat will likely have one of their patented bounce back games, and it’ll start with them taking care of the ball.
- Boris Diaw is a game changer for San Antonio.
Much like in Games 1 and 2, Diaw led the Spurs with a plus/minus of plus-20.
Spurs have outscored Heat by 45 points in this series with Boris Diaw on the floor. He was +20 in Game 3
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 11, 2014
The best part about Diaw’s game is how he is always keeps opposing defenses on their feet.
Most of the time after he catches a pass, he isn’t getting into a fundamental triple-threat possession. Instead, he’s immediately putting the ball on the floor in an effort to put defenders on skates and force the Heat defenders to rotate.
This simple tendency has certainly helped open up San Antonio’s offense and helped initiate their ball movement.
Diaw played a lot in Game 3 (37:17 minutes), but he’ll surely be back in the starting lineup to counter Miami’s use of Rashard Lewis at the 4-spot.
- The Spurs dominated in the paint.
San Antonio made its fair share of threes (nine), but the reason they won this game so handily was because they won the battle in the paint.
The team that has won the Points in the Paint Margin has won 7 of the 9 #NBAFinals games between the Heat & the Spurs since last year
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) June 10, 2014
Just like in their Game 1 victory, the Spurs scored 48 points in the paint. In comparison with their Game 2 loss, the Spurs only scored a paltry 34 points.
At halftime, the Spurs were an efficient 14-for-18 in the paint and were living at the free throw line, a stark contrast from their performance in Game 2.
Heck, five of Green’s field goals were either layups or floaters. If Green is finishing in the lane, then you know that your team is going to have a good game in the lane.
For the Spurs offense to run at its highest possible efficiency, they must make a concerted effort to attack the rim. This will open up their shooters and make the Heat pay for running San Antonio off the three-point line.
Miami will make their adjustments, but the Spurs must continue to attack the small-ball lineups that the Heat love to use.