What the hell was that, San Antonio? Nineteen of your first 21 shots in the bottom of the net? Seventy-six percent shooting in the first half? That shouldn't be possible in 5-on-zero practice drills, yet you made it possible in a pivotal NBA Finals game on the road.
Sure, we know intellectually that you're capable of ruthless, efficient offense. We know you're responsible for the most beautiful possession in the playoffs and the best video tribute of all time. But it's one thing to know you can do it and another to see you actually do it. Watching you depants the defense responsible for the most effective organized chaos in recent league history was a sight to behold.
We know you made adjustments. We saw the way you added in very specific weakside misdirection, particularly by sending the wing player up from the corner to the wing as pick and rolls were happening. We saw how you inspired Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to make decisive attacks into space when they had even a sliver of daylight. We can also acknowledge that you benefited from some obvious Miami breakdowns, particularly on botched switches.
But we may never see anyone else match the offensive performance that you put forth to win Game 3. For that, we applaud you. -Mike Prada
The silent assassin
Kawhi Leonard is the type of person who tries to spend every moment away from the court in the shadows. He's known as much for brief interviews and his quiet demeanor as he is for his monstrous hands and pterodactyl-like wingspan.
There are times, though, when Kawhi the player is Kawhi the person's worst enemy. When he's as dominant as he was in Game 3, there's little Leonard can do to divert attention away from himself.
Leonard hadn't played well in the first two games of the Finals, but roared back on Tuesday with the best game of his career at any level. Leonard's 29 points were more than he had ever scored in the NBA or at San Diego State, and it even doesn't capture the full brilliance of his performance. On one end, Leonard either knocked down threes or aggressively attacked closeouts to get to the rim or the foul line. On the other, he helped hassle LeBron James into an awfully quiet effort after the first quarter.
When the game was over and it was announced that Manu Ginobili, not Leonard, would speak to reporters at the podium, many felt robbed. We wanted to see Kawhi redefining the constructs of brevity even if he would have hated being up there. On this night, literally everything was going his way. -Ricky O'Donnell
Kawhi also neutralized LeBron
LeBron James began right where he left off in the early stages of Game 3. In fact, if the Spurs had one worry during that incredible 41-point first quarter maelstrom, it was that LeBron was on his way to 50. He matched the scorching Kawhi Leonard shot for shot early and looked like Game 2 LeBron reborn.
Alas, it wouldn't last. Kawhi locked him up for long stretches, forcing James to pass off to Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Norris Cole. LeBron still shot well and had what most players would consider a decent offensive night. But Kawhi played LeBron so tight, with hands in his field of vision, preventing the glut of amazing plays we're used to seeing. LeBron only got free, really, when Kawhi was resting or off of screens. Even when he did, the Spurs defense played really smart and cut off James' best options (the rim and the corners). Any time Miami had LeBron face up Leonard 1-on-1, the result was unsatisfactory. Kawhi bothered him too much.
As we saw in the first quarter and throughout Game 2, LeBron can overcome even great defense. But the fact that Wade, Chris Bosh or either point guard couldn't pick up the slack when James got tied down is worrisome for the Heat. Isn't this the point of the Heat, to make opponents pay for keying in on one of the brilliant scorers? -Tom Ziller
The fans leave early ... again
Heat fans went for the exits with four minutes left in this game, much in the way they famously did in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals when Miami trailed in the closing seconds. It seems that fans in Miami haven't learned their lesson.
For those lucky enough to have found their way into the arena on Tuesday night, soaking up every moment on the basis of cost and rarity alone should have been paramount. A Finals berth is a scarce experience, even with some of the game's best players on the roster. The arguments in defense of fans were vast and loud following the game. Getting home late and having to get to work the next morning, especially for those with families, is a reasonable excuse to leave a regular-season blowout. But a Finals game? I'm not so sure.
There are a maximum of seven championship games every 12 months. A set amount of people get to enter the arena, and in 20 years half of them will be able to recount the thrill of victory to their friends and loved ones. Tickets to Game 3 cost hundreds of dollars, not an insignificant amount to most NBA patrons. There is another side to this coin, to be sure, and Miami fans don't need to be chastised for being more fairweather than any other franchises'. That is Twitter nonsense, as it's clear they a) aren't alone in leaving early from games, and b) support their team as well as any base in the NBA.
Still, the the Finals are special, and any fan should cherish every minute of it. Those in South Beach should know by now that even victory can come from apparent losses. This series isn't over yet. In 20 years, who knows? They just might want those four minutes back. -Dane Carbaugh
ABC is just so Smooth
INT. ABC TELEVISION STUDIO.
Production Director: "Okay, music director, we need some songs for commercial bumpers. This is the NBA Finals, so we need the very best. Something fresh. Whatever's hot on the streets right now. Let's see your list." Music Director: [hands over list] PD: "This ... this isn't a list. This just says 'Smooth by Santana feat. Rob Thomas' like 50 times. Why would we play that song?" MD: "Man, it's a hot one." PD: "This song is from 1999. It is 2014. It is decidedly not a hot one." MD: "LIke seven inches from a midday sun." PD: "No. Stop. We need something new. Something with some ... I dunno, twerking or something? Something like..." MD: "Like the ocean under the moon?" PD: "NO. Oh my god, how did you even get this job? You need to do better." MD: "I ... I could change my life to better suit your mood." PD: "Yes! Please. Something different. I'm not in the mood for this nonsense. Please change." MD: "This life ain't good enough." PD: "Ugh. Okay, fine. We need to move onto other stuff. We'll deal with music later." MD: "Gimme your heart. Make it real." PD: "Let's forget about it." MD: "YEAHHHHHH!!!!!!!"
NBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Spurs 110, Heat 95 James (25 pts), Bosh (19 pts, 9 rebs)Duncan (21 pts), Ginobili (16 pts, 11 ast)
Game 2: Heat 98, Spurs 96 James (35 pts, 10 rebs), Bosh (18 pts)Parker (21 pts), Duncan (18 pts, 15 rebs)
Spurs 111, Heat 92 Spurs shot 76% in first half Leonard (29 pts), Wade (22 pts)
Game 4 on Thursday, June 129 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CTABCAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 5 on Sunday, June 15*8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CTABCAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game 6 on Tuesday, June 17*9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CTABCAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 7 on Friday, June 20*9 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CTABCAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
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