Heat trying to see 3-1 deficit as chance to make Finals history
MIAMI — Manu Ginobili blocking a LeBron James shot, Kawhi Leonard’s two-handed put-back dunk and a 22-point San Antonio Spurs lead — those were just some of the surreal moments in Thursday night’s second quarter.
That brilliant first half helped result in a 107-86 Spurs victory, giving San Antonio a 3-1 lead over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
The Heat’s streak of 48 straight playoff games without consecutive losses is now over.
Worse yet for Miami, no team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
But the Heat — a club well aware of its legacy of the Big Three — now have a chance to make what would be considered stunning history.
The Heat, the 32nd team to face this predicament, have the talent to do this, even if it appears impossible.
Remember, they have the best player in the world in James, who said he has not lost faith.
"We have put ourselves in a position where we have to make history," James said of the deficit. "They smashed us in two straight home games. They were much better than us in these two games. But the series is not over.
"I know (coming back from 3-1) has never been done before. We’re still a confident bunch, even though our heads are down a bit right now."
The Heat were never really in Thursday’s game, trailing 55-36 at halftime. San Antonio shot 57.1 percent from the floor for the game, continuing their trend of blitzing the Heat’s defense.
San Antonio outrebounded Miami 44-27, including 12-6 on the offensive end. San Antonio had a 46-30 edge on points in the paint and held Miami to 45.1-percent shooting.
"They played great," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Spurs. "I don’t think any of us were expecting this type of performance. You have to give them credit, but this was the biggest surprise of the series."
If the Heat are to rally in this series, they will have to fix numerous problems:
— The Heat point guards were badly outscored for the fourth straight games. This time it was 33-8, as Tony Parker had 19, and Patty Mills added 14.
Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole had four points each, and Spoelstra even played Toney Douglas, who was scoreless in six minutes.
Chalmers said the Spurs offense was feasting on the Heat’s defensive switches.
"They are taking full advantage," he said, "and we have to figure it out."
— James had 28 points. But the other members of the Big Three — Chris Bosh (12 points) and Dwyane Wade (10 points) were held in check. Wade was 1 of 10 from the floor through three quarters.
"I just missed shots," Wade said. "I’m a very accurate shooter. I’m not used to missing around the basket. But law of averages — the ball just didn’t go in. I’ll take those same opportunities next time."
Bosh credited the Spurs.
"They’re playing beautiful basketball right now," Bosh said. "But we’re not even giving ourselves a chance. We’re going to have to have a better mindset and game-plan."
— In the first three games of this series, San Antonio outscored Miami in the first quarter by a combined total of 29 points. That trend continued Thursday, the Spurs shot 56.3 percent from the floor and led 26-17.
"We have to get off to a better start the next game," Chalmers said. "That’s the most important thing."
— The Spurs are 2-0 since forward Boris Diaw was inserted into the lineup over center Tiago Splitter. Diaw had eight points, nine rebounds and a game-high nine assists Thursday, and the Heat needs to find an answer to the Spurs’ lineup adjustment.
"Implementing Diaw into the lineup has given them another point guard on the floor," James said. "So with Manu, Tony, Diaw and Patty Mills, they have basically four point guards on the floor at once. All of them are live and can make plays. It’s a challenge."
Perhaps it’s a good thing the Heat is now going on the road. After all, they won Game 2 in San Antonio. Also, the fans turned on them toward the end of Thursday’s performance, booing the two-time NBA champs.
"Life is harsh," Bosh said. "You have to get over those things quickly. Maybe they (the fans) are right. Maybe we deserve [the boos] right now."