SAN ANTONIO — The Miami Heat messed up history two years ago. They’ll have to do it again if they expect to win a second straight NBA title.
Since the 2-3-2 format began in the NBA Finals in 1985, when the series is tied 1-1, the team that won Game 3 has taken the title 12 of 13 times. The only exception was Miami winning Game 3 in 2011 but losing 4-2 to Dallas.
On Tuesday night at the AT&T Center, the Spurs won the pivotal Game 3 113-77 to take a 2-1 lead in Finals. They’re vying for their fifth NBA title in 15 years.
In a stunning display of 3-point shooting, San Antonio guard Danny Green drilled 7 of 9 from beyond the arc for 27 points and reserve guard Gary Neal was 6 of 10 for 24 points. The Spurs went 16 of 32 to set an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a Finals game.
Heat forward LeBron James struggled offensively yet again, and this time there were few guys to bail him out. James was 7 of 21 for 15 points. In Game 2, he had been 3 of 13 through three quarters but his teammates were picking him up. And once James got going in the fourth quarter, the Heat won in a 103-84 rout.
Miami’s only consistent offensive weapon Tuesday was reserve swingman Mike Miller. He shot 5 of 5 from 3-point range for 15 points.
The turning point: The Spurs scored the final six points of the first half to regain the game’s momentum. And they carried that momentum into the second half of the rout.
San Antonio had a 43-32 lead in the second quarter before the Heat went on a 12-1 run to tie the score at 44. But the Spurs were undaunted, and they scored the final six points of the half for a 50-44 lead.
The Spurs didn’t slow down. They blitzed the Heat 28-19 in the the third quarter to take a 78-63 lead. And they kept on going in the fourth.
The difference maker: Take your pick? Green was a second-round pick who was cut three times. Neal was undrafted. But they both showed up some Heat superstars.
Green and Neal couldn’t be stopped. They combined to shoot an amazing 13 of 19 from 3-point range.
Not only did Green and Neal upstage Miami’s Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they upstaged their own team’s Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
What it means: These are anxious times for the Heat. But, in tennis terms, they’re still down just one break.
The Heat need to win just one of the next two games in San Antonio to get the series back to AmericanAirlines Arena, where they went 37-4 during the regular season.
Still, Thursday’s Game 4 is close to a must-win situation. No team ever has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals.
What’s next: Game 4 of the series is at 9 p.m. Thursday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.