Despite embarrassing loss, Heat know series isn’t over yet

MIAMI — The numbers were astounding.

The Miami Heat gave up 71 first-half points.

The Heat allowed the San Antonio Spurs to shoot 86.7 percent from the floor in the first quarter.

The Heat allowed the Spurs to shoot 75.8 percent for the first half, which set an NBA Finals record for the opening two quarters.

Given those statistics, it is no surprise the Spurs ran away with Game 3 of the NBA Finals, beating the Heat 111-91 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

With a huge Game 4 looming in Miami on Thursday, the question remains: Was what happened on Tuesday a function of lax Heat defense or incredible Spurs shooting?

The Heat, it seems, believes it was more of the latter.

"Some possessions, we played defense extremely well, and they just hit shots," Heat forward LeBron James said. "Other possessions, we weren’t there (to close out shooters), and they still made shots."

They did indeed — the Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots.

Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard led the way with a career-playoff-high 29 points as San Antonio snapped the Heat’s franchise record of 11 straight home playoff wins, including eight this postseason.

Leonard, who fouled out for the first time in his career during Sunday’s Game 2, was much better on Tuesday, making 10 of 13 shots from the floor, including 3-for-6 on three-pointers. He also made 6 of 7 free throws.

"They jumped on us early," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had 22 points to tie James for the team’s scoring honors. "We dug ourselves a big hole. … Leonard was very aggressive tonight."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he talked to his team briefly after the game, but he indicated that a much deeper conversation will take place Wednesday.

"We have to be able to manage this, and it starts with owning this," he said. "We have to go through this together and somehow collectively come out with a much better response on Thursday."

The sense is that the Heat will do just that — after all, they have won 13 straight playoff games following a loss.

Miami didn’t get to be the two-time NBA champions by not being resilient.

But there are some concerns for the Heat.

— James had seven turnovers.

"That’s a new storyline for LeBron," said James, speaking in the third person. "Some of it was over-dribbling the ball at times."

More from Game 3

James rarely stays down for long, but the miscues were unsettling for a player of his status.

— Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich made one change in his starting lineup from the first two games of the series — forward Boris Diaw took the place of center Tiago Splitter — and it worked.

"We were able to stretch the floor more," Splitter said of the change. "We always had a shooting four on the court. We didn’t play with two big guys (at the same time), like me and Timmy (Duncan)."

— Heat forward Chris Bosh was held to nine points and three rebounds, even though he went 4 for 4 from the floor. Bosh has been shooting well in this series, but he needs to find the ball more.

— Heat point guard Mario Chalmers had two points and three turnovers and was 0 for 5 from the floor.

"Mario is a big piece of what we do, and we are missing that piece right now," Wade said. "He’s our guy. He’s our point guard. We are going to continue to give him confidence."

Amazingly, with all that went wrong for Miami, the Heat, who trailed by as many as 25 points, cut the Spurs’ lead to 81-74 with 1:59 left in the third quarter. But San Antonio recovered to take an 86-75 lead into the fourth and rolled from there.

"We hate the performance we put out there tonight," James said. "The Spurs are the last team you want to dig yourself in a hole against.

"But it’s 2-1. It’s not 4-1."