Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heat - Spurs Game Three: Take Back Your Beatdown

If history is any indicator, the winner of this game wins the series, which is one of those statements that becomes more true with, well, ever succeeding game in the Finals. But it really could be true here, since a Heat win would have taken back home court, requiring a trip back to Miami, and more or less tell the story that the Spurs' win in Game One was nothing but the Heat having fatigue issues after surviving the Pacers. A Spurs' win tells us that they've got home court and mean it, and that the size and coaching advantages are going to keep bearing fruit. Oh, and speaking to coaching? The Heat didn't take practice on their travel day or today. I'm sure that had nothing to do with their relative lack of intensity tonight, right?

In the first, the Spurs race out to the early lead, as per the usual script for such games. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker do the damage, and the Heat ball movement doesn't look nearly as crisp as usual, but their effort is there for now. Manu Ginobili's first touch is encouraging, but so is Mike Miller's. It must be nice to save a rotation player until the final two rounds of the playoffs. With the refs turning a blind eye to a possible LeBron James charge on Ginobili before a transition dish and make, we're back to neutral with a quickness.

More Matt Bonner tonight than expected, which is to say, any. Dwyane Wade looks spry early, as does Kawhi Leonard; the first goes down as another in a surprising number of quarters in which he gives his team equal or better production than James. The refs give the MVP a slip and fall in a post up, then Norris Cole makes a rainbow jumper for near equity, before Ginobili hits Gary Neal for the straight away three. James answers to Birdman Anderson for the flush, and this is great ball right now. Manu feeds Tiago Splitter -- he's alive after that block after all! -- for a dunk. Ginobili's only real bad play comes at the end of the quarter, where he runs clock and doesn't make a good enough pass to give Danny Green a shot at the arc. At the end of the first, it's Spurs 24, Heat 20, and for the eighth quarter out of nine, neither team is very much better than the other.

Leonard picks Cole, then gets the foul to boot. Splitter and Leonard get o-boards but no rim love, and Leonard takes his second , which isn't going to help. James misses the jump shot you have to give him, and then Neal hits his second three; 7 point Spur lead. Moving screen on the Bird and the Spurs have a chance at some separation here. Neal can't get the roll and Splitter can't get a call; Spur Fan is right to scream. The refs give Green a get-even call on James, and that's worrisome. James misses a long bad three over Splitter, and if I'm the Spurs, I'm thrilled that he's taking that; it's the kind of shot that demotivates teammates. Commerce finds the Spurs with the ball and a 7 point lead.

Bonner misses the room service three, and if he's not making that shot, there's not much reason for him to be in the game, though keeping Boris Diaw out is a help. (But remember, Jon Barry said Diaw would be very important in this series! Mostly because the bench gets very unbalanced when he's not sitting on it!) Chris Bosh only gets 1 for 2, and the Heat's prowess at the line is often a leading indicator of whether they are focused or not. Bonner misses from the baseline as the Heat decide Green deserves more attention than him. Bosh hits the mid-range, and the Spur offense has stalled. Cole's baseline three after a hurried Splitter put back miss makes it one again. Bonner shocks the world by driving and shooting, getting a call. Wade with an awful miss; Green drains from the baseline, and it's suddenly six. Jeff Van Gundy calls out Wade for leaving Green, correctly. This man is making himself some money in the Finals.

Ray Allen with an o-board and putback; bad moment for Neal, probably the last one he had tonight. Mario Chalmers picks up his third foul halfway through the second, and that could be telling, if only because it could add to James' fatigue level from chasing Parker, and Wade's not nearly as good as he once was in subbing at the point, mostly because no one fears his jumper. Duncan converts inside for the Spurs' biggest lead at 8. Wade gets two back at the line; he's been Miami's best player this half, not that it's saying all that much. Neal gets Miller to parachute past him on a ball fake, then cans the easy one. James misses, Duncan boards, throws the fundamentally perfect 70 foot pass, and Leonard drives and scores for the Spurs' first double digit lead of the series. That was just pretty, and the way the Heat are buying into what the Spurs are selling -- long jumpers from inside the arc on weak rotation -- is kind of amazing. This is as relaxed as I've seen a Heat opponent be in some time.

Duncan turns it to kill the Spur mo, but gets it moving again with Miller's first. Neal drains his third three of the night, and he's the Designated Danny Green so far tonight. Miller's corner three from Wade is a championship response. The Spurs overpass, with Duncan missing an easy one and then falling heavily and not getting up. Long commerce for cheap drama.

Manu turns it, leading to Wade to James for the auto deuce, but not as pretty as usual. Another turn, the Spurs' 8th. Green gets the weak call on a Bosh miss in the lane, and the karma gods ignore his two makes. Ginobili misses a three they needed, and Miller drains his third; 10-0 run by the Heat. Cole fouls Parker so obviously that even the Spurs' point guard gets the call. Wade goes old school to tie it, and then Parker hits a degree of difficulty baseline three for the lead. James runs clock, gets blocked by Green, and Parker finds Neal at the buzzer for a huge three. Big swing there from a possible tie to a 6-point Spurs lead, all when everyone can dwell on it for a good long time. Heck of a half, and looking at the game in retrospect, this mini-run at the end of the half might have been huge.

The teams trade points early, then Green hits another from the arc -- are all of the three point shooters going to crush this game? -- and such is the level that the Spurs are playing at tonight, that any miss seems like an opportunity for a run. It starts to feel like a runaway for a little while before Miller hits his 8th straight three -- good heavens -- to get it back to 10, and that was immense, given how bad the Heat were looking there. Wade clangs one, and Leonard is bailed out on a foul on Bosh. Leonard with a steal, feeds Manu for the flush, 14 point Spurs lead and that's just brilliant ball.

Parker heads to the locker room just to make Spur Fan stop screaming with joy for a moment. Leonard does the job on James again, and Neal finally misses, but Duncan tangoes with Miller and saves the possession. Leonard with the 3 to make it a 17 point game, and it's clear to everyone now that he's been a *lot* better than James; he then adds in a steal for funsies. James commits to the rim but misses, and that's the second straight game he's started 2 for 12. He's also not getting to the line for cause. Wow.

Impossible make by Neal out of timeout; the lead is 19. James misses again, Leonard does not, and the third quarter wilding is on the other foot tonight. In slow motion replay, you see just how out of it the MVP is in this game; a drive without purpose or decision, no threat to finish, getting it back after a near turnover and then shorting an open baseline floater that never had a chance. When he's right. that's a flush or a trip to the line early in the play, and a bank shot or pass on the latter play. Tonight, it's just a mess, and in over half of these Finals so far, James has not even won his matchup, let alone been the best player on the planet.

Cole saves the Heat after a terrible possession; you have to like his game, and wonder if he's the Heat's future in a post-Wade world. Cory Joseph -- no, seriously, Cory Joseph -- then gets the latest steal on James and finishes. Who needs Parker? Well, the Spurs; James hits a three and reminds everyone in the building that an 18 point lead with 13 minutes left is not insurmountable. Manu gets to the line and misses one, and James gets another. Smoke on the horizon. Manu's three is a bad idea, and James boards, then gets it back in the lane for 7 points in a row. Cole steals it, Allen feeds James, and Manu stops the end of quarter collapse narrative by finding Bonner at the rim out of a trap for the slam. Once again, the Spurs own the very end of quarter to stop a run. At the end of three, the Spurs lead 78-63, and they've won every quarter tonight.

Popovich with the best answer ever in a coach's interview: "I can't tell you that." Love this man. Parker returns and seems to be moving well. Neal ends a terrible possession by just crushing a 30 footer. Ye gads. Wade from mid-range is a mess, and Neal just hits another; there is smoke coming off him now. Wade misses so badly I wonder if he should be on the floor, and Green gets his own o-board and putback for your garden variety 8-0 run in 87 seconds to push the lead to 23. Garbage Time awaits!

Miami is shooting 7 for 12 from the arc. They are only minus 2 in turnovers. And they are getting absolutely waxed.

Cole turns it, Leonard stuffs and Parker's sitting, because Popovich is too smart to risk him. James gets no call and barely any backboard; Green swishes a three like he's Stephen Curry. No one on Miami wants to shoot, so Wade drives and flips it in. Green after chaos hits yet another three, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is either proving a point to his starters or in shock by this full-on wilding. Wade and then Allen makes, followed by a James run out and slam, and one of the reasons why I love Pops is how angry he takes timeouts when his team plays badly with a big lead. 94-71 with 7:47 left.

The highlight reel shows just how good the passing has been, along with how disgusted Spoelstra is; if this keeps up, the Spurs might actually become popular. Bosh gets a block that should have been a goaltend, so Green just hits another 3; that's just comedy, honestly. 15 threes and counting for the Spurs now. Wade blocks at the rim, and the only real worry I'd have as a Spurs fan is that they're going to get three-happy in future games. For the first time that I can remember in these playoffs, Tracy McGrady gets in a game the Spurs are going to win; he passes to Splitter for a dunk, gets a board, then feeds Green for yet another three. Good Lord. Popovich empties the bench while up 31, and for the second straight game, the series that seems so even well, isn't. Green and Neal combine for 51 (!), which is about 31 more than anyone could expect.

With five minutes left in the game, ESPN does what they do best: speculate without facts about the storyline of the next game, this time about Parker, and then talk about anything that isn't in front of them. (Tebow!) McGrady racking up stats and even moving well, but the shot stays out and DaJuan Blair (speaking of another guy who plays for a lot of teams) gets on the board. San Antonio PA going to full ZZ Top in-game as Van Gundy scours his notes for a Turning Point. Um, dude? The Heat's leading scorer has 16 points and is -29; that'd be Wade. The Spurs might be winning the second half just on their threes. They are going to win by 30+ points in a game where Parker, Ginobili and Duncan combine for 25 points. If anyone says they saw this coming, they are filled with San Antonio River Water. After several minutes of back and forth and smiles for Blair, Patty Mills and Bonner, it's all over. Spurs 113 Heat 77, a new Finals record for threes made, a 2-1 series and this couldn't have been more surprising.

Game Four is Thursday; I'm sure the Spurs would prefer it we played a double header right now. Miami has been incredibly resilient all playoff long -- 5-0 by double digits after a loss -- but this was clearly their worst loss of the season, and maybe the James Era. They are also .500 against Real Competition in their last 10 games, and not making anyone remember that 8-1 start against the sad-sack Bucks and Bulls. See you in 48 hours.

1 comment:

snd_dsgnr said...

Danny F'ing Green. That is all.

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