MIAMI — With his team down 21 points at halftime, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted his squad had come from behind "a million times before" during the regular season.
Motivating his team to do the same in a playoff series, however, is the latest challenge Spoelstra will have have to face.
And Miami will have to do it after a Game 3 drubbing in which the San Antonio Spurs put up a record-breaking performance en route to a 111-92 victory and 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals.
The Heat entered Tuesday’s contest winners of 11 straight home playoff games dating back to last year. Now those triumphs are bookended by losses to the Spurs.
San Antonio launched a relentless attack from the opening tip, connecting on 19 of its first 21 shots of the game. The Spurs finished the first 24 minutes shooting 75.8 percent, the best first-half mark in NBA Finals history.
It also happened to be the highest mark allowed by the Heat in the team’s entire postseason history.
"They jumped on us," LeBron James said. "They were the aggressor tonight, and they had us on our heels from the beginning."
San Antonio shot 86.7 percent in the first quarter, topping the 1991 Chicago Bulls’ mark set in Game 2 of their NBA Finals. The Spurs built a 41-25 lead — and that was with Miami shooting 52.6 percent, and LeBron James’ netting 14 of his 22 points in the first 12 minutes.
The Spurs kept the momentum going well into the second and finished with 71 points in the half, becoming the first team to top 70 in the first half of a postseason game since the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.
"They got everything they wanted," Chris Bosh said. "We didn’t have correct coverages on the ball, and when we did, they still got to the paint. One-on-one defense was really bad. Our containment on closeouts was bad. Help was bad. Everything was bad."
Miami, which trailed by 25 at one point, cut that down to 21. Historically, it also happened to be the largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA playoff history — but the Heat wouldn’t end up contributing to the record book re-write Tuesday night.
"You have a lot of time and you keep playing, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we’re going to come back from 25 down, no matter when the time is, against a team like that," Bosh said.
The closest Miami came to San Antonio’s lead was within seven points with 1:59 to play in the third quarter, when Norris Cole made it 81-74.
"We felt we did everything we needed to do to get back in the game, but we broke down on defense again," Mario Chalmers said.
By night’s end, the home-court advantage that had treated Miami so well over the last year was a non-factor. The rowdy fans at the AmericanAirlines Arena headed to the exits with more than four minutes left.
Spoelstra said he "briefly" addressed the team following the loss. "The message will be tomorrow when we get together," he said.
Resilience might be at the heart of that talk, as Dwyane Wade suggested.
"We’re going to keep fighting," Wade said.
Miami has rebounded from its past 13 playoff losses with victories. It’s a streak the Heat must keep intact to avoid falling further behind in this series, or worse, finding themselves a game from losing control of their quest to complete a dynasty.
THE TURNING POINT
Spurs guard Danny Green forced a Dwyane Wade turnover at half court and quickly dished to Kawhi Leonard, whose dunk put San Antonio up 13-8. From that point, the Spurs went on 5 for 5 from the field, including two 3s for a 12-4 run, in a span of 3:11.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
San Antonio’s Leonard. In the first quarter alone, the forward went 5 for 5 from the field, 3 for 3 from the 3-point arc and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line to account for 16 of the Spurs’ 41 points.
He ended up with team-leading 29 points, setting a playoff career-high.
STAT OF THE GAME
Fast starts and big halftime leads suit the Spurs well in the playoffs. During the Popovich era, the Spurs improved to 47-0 in the postseason when leading by at least 20 points.
The Heat will look to even the series Thursday when they host Game 4 at 9 p.m.