There was a fleeting moment in the first half of Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, where ESPN commentators forgot that their lips were SUPPOSED to be permanently stitched to LeBron James’ jockstrap and marveled in the unexpected glory of the Spurs’ unreal shooting percentage during the first two quarters: 75.8%
One has to wonder if that particular percentage is what Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had in mind when conjuring up who would be his Game 3 starters – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Boris Diaw… wait, what? This seems slightly odd since fans are familiar with the fact that the last time Diaw started a postseason game, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” topped the charts. The move was finalized as fans looked on, bewildered by the odd wrench that was cast into the mix by Pop, and his Spurs hit the ground running in Miami. Leonard violently aggressed the Heat defense and put up 10 points on three shots in less than five minutes for his visiting team. With just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter, Miami trailed the visitors 12-22. It would be James (whose back was obviously sore from carrying the rest of his team in the first) who favored the strife and scored 12 straight points for his team. Spurs would lead 27-20 while shooting 82% from the field with 3:38 minutes left in the first. A lot can happen in three minutes, however. In the midst of a stentorian roar, the Spurs, salient in their unwavering ambition, made the first 12 minutes their personal bitch, leading 41-25 headed into the second.
Unfortunately for the Heat and their recreant fans, the second quarter didn’t fare any better. San Antonio was shooting an impressive 90% at the start of the quarter and showed no signs of slowing down. Spurs led the Heat 55-30 with 8:08 remaining in the half, but after an extremely scanty couple of minutes (and two back-to-back 3-pointers from Rashard Lewis), Miami managed to shave a 26-point deficit to 18.
San Antonio sent a message to Miami in those final minutes of the first half: Intransigent in their quest for greatness, this postseason will not end like last year’s. The Spurs put up the highest first half FG% in NBA Finals history (75.8%), and led 71-50 heading into the third.
Unlike their fans, who were already sheepishly staggering to the nearest exit, the restive Heat would not completely bend over and went on a 6-0 run to open up the third quarter, cutting down the 21-point deficit to trail by 15 in 54 seconds. Regardless of this play, the third quarter was not nearly as exciting as the first two due to San Antonio slowing down considerably as they shot a measly 31.6%. They took the lead into the final quarter, but now only head by 11 points (86-75) after missing 13 field goal attempts.
Looking to extirpate Miami, Leonard put up some quick points in order to get his team back up 14 points with 7:30 remaining in the game. It only got worse from there for the Heat, who appeared to have lacked in harmony in regards to their particular skill set, could only shake their heads at the 107-90 score with 1:36 left. They knew it was over, and Game 3 would go to their rivals who out-matched, out-played, and out-smarted them in every way possible. San Antonio would lock down the game, winning 11-92, with Leonard dropping a career-high 29 points. Spurs now lead the series 2-1.
Game 4 airs on Thursday evening in Miami.