LeBron James had a cold and played like it for the first quarter while the visiting San Antonio Spurs built out a 16-point first half lead over James' Miami Heat. But when the third quarter rolled around, James clicked into takeover mode, and 17 points later LeBron had knocked the Spurs and their starters out of the game before the fourth quarter even started and the Heat cruised on into a 120-98 win over Tim Duncan and San Antonio on Tuesday night.
The Spurs started strong attacking the rim and rolling up these numbers for the first half: 26-46 (57 percent), eight offensive rebounds and 15 assists against five turnovers. Tony Parker, Duncan and DeJuan Blair combined for 34 first half points and times were good.
As for the Heat, after the initial stumble out of the gate by James, the Heat played well, just did not click as well as the Spurs had. Miami was shooting 47 percent and had 48 points at the half, 16 by James, yet they still trailed by 14 at the break.
San Antonio started slow in the second half and found a spry Miami team chipping away at that double-digit lead. It was 67-55 Spurs with about nine minutes left in the third quarter when, in transition, Blair missed a wide open layup. In a twist of fate and momentum, Kawhi Leonard, who at that point had 10 points already and was playing very well, went for the thunder follow up slam dunk -- and also missed.
For the next eight game minutes, the Heat scorched the Spurs 29-3, completely reversing the lead of the game and sending San Antonio into a spin cycle they would never pull out of.
For his part, James was 7-9 in the quarter, including 3-4 from three-point range. James, who had somewhat famously been avoiding the three-point shot in favor of the post, has let loose the last couple of games and, after starting the season 0-5 has hit seven of his last 11 attempts, including four out of six against the Spurs.
The ground under the Spurs was shifting fast and, as each starter had their normal quarter rotation, the deficit grew. Tony Parker was on the floor nearly eight minutes in the third quarter and saw Miami outscore his team by 18 points. By the time Duncan checked out a minute later, four more points had been lost. Finally, when Leonard staggered to the bench before the last minute of the quarter expired, he had seen the Heat outscore the Spurs by 27 points and take a 13 point lead into the final quarter.
After compiling those 34 first half points between Parker, Duncan and Blair, the trio could muster only five points on 2-8 shooting the rest of the way.
At this point, little had been heard from the return of shooting specialist Mike Miller. Miller had played five first half minutes but hadn't yet attempted a field goal. In the last minute of the third quarter, the former Gator and Rookie of the Year finally broke the seal and made a three-pointer, providing some personal momentum heading into the fourth.
If there was any possibility of the San Antonio starters returning to the game, Miller and Chris Bosh were about to crush it. The pair combined for 10-11 shooting in the fourth quarter for 23 points, and Parker, Duncan, et al were never inserted back into the game. Bosh ended the game with 30 points, second only to LeBron's 33 to lead the Heat.
Miller, in particular, was hot, making all five of his shots, all threes, in making a statistical anomaly for the game, going a perfect 6-6 from the field, all threes, and end with exactly those 18 points.
While Fred Silva at Pounding the Rock saw a learning experience for the Spurs in this game, he couldn't help but to call out the rubberneckers on the floor in that runaway third quarter:
In the second half, we witnessed a collapse. You may be thinking: every team would lose to that Lebron performance. While I don't disagree, I do want to point out that the Spurs were caught watching the show. Our veteran teams of old would have thrown a counter-punch. This team looked disoriented and shocked. Pop refused to put his veterans back into the game, and the Heat's lead grew out of control.
For the winner's perspective, try Peninsula is Mightier.