The Spurs aren’t through the woods just yet, but the light through the trees looks a whole lot brighter.
San Antonio ripped back control of the NBA Finals with Game 3’s 111-92 pasting on the Miami Heat’s hardwood. The Spurs regained the home-court edge the lost in Game 2 and, based on what we saw Tuesday night, no one would be surprised if they head back to San Antonio after Game 4 with a 3-1 series lead.
What a difference two nights made against the two-time champs.
"We were very disappointed after Game 2," Tony Parker said. "We felt like our energy level was low and we were not aggressive enough. So we wanted to make sure whatever happened [in Game 3] we played with a lot of energy, played aggressive, and defensively it starts there and it creates offense.
"So we did a pretty good job of that [Tuesday], so we have to sustain it now. We have to do it for another game."
The Spurs were hotter than the Game 1 AT&T Center in Game 3’s first half. San Antonio shot 76 percent through two quarters, setting a Finals record in building an insurmountable lead. The procession of layups and open 3-pointers not only drained the life out of the Miami crowd, it made LeBron James and Co. look silly.
"Our ball movement was good and shot the ball very well, obviously," Parker said. "Hopefully we can do it again. I know it’s going to be hard to shoot like that on the road, but it’s just one of those games that it was just going in."
Kawhi Leonard outplayed and outscored both LeBron and Dwyane Wade. After totaling just 18 points through two games in San Antonio, Leonard scored a career-high 29 on a scorching 10-of-13 shooting. And the third-year forward’s defense on James was even more impressive.
"We just wanted [Leonard] to be who he’s been the whole year, in the regular season and in the playoffs," Gregg Popovich said. "I think [with] the foul situations the first two games, really he overreacted to them and became very cautious, and he doesn’t play like that. He’s got to be real active at both ends, and so he figured it out."
The Spurs figured in out at the end of Game 1 — with LeBron cramping — and lost it down the stretch in Game 2. Other than a momentary lapse in the third quarter Tuesday when the Heat pulled within 81-74, the execution throughout Game 3 was nearly flawless. So the fact that Miami shot 52 percent was basically meaningless.
"They’ve got players that can score in bunches," Ginobili said. "They’ve got shooters spread out, so it can happen that they make a run, and we expected it. I’m very proud that we kept playing, and we built up the lead again after they cut it to seven.
"So it was great to see that in a tough atmosphere with a great opponent that is a two time champion, so it was a great effort."
Miami apologists could make excuses after the first game. Not so after Game 3. The Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots. They went more than 11 minutes without missing a shot. Popovich said you move the ball or you die. Well, the Heat died.
"It’s not something you can plan," Ginobili said. "There was no magic plays, we just moved the ball and every shot went in. The good thing is that at the same time that was happening on offense, we were pretty good defensively, too."
The Spurs know they’ll see a different Miami squad Thursday night. Remember all the fury LeBron played with in Game 2 after hearing it for days? Well, the season is now on the line for the Heat. Even with a Miami win, the series is tied and San Antonio has the home court.
Should the Spurs pull out another in South Florida before returning to South Texas, they’ll be one victory shy of redemption for 2013 while ending a seven-year title drought. The Spurs see the light through the trees.