The Miami Heat spent Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena running on fumes in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, now one loss to the San Antonio Spurs from turning past tense when it comes to being NBA champions.
“They played great,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And I can honestly say I don’t think any of us were expecting this type of performance.”
The Heat had a look of a team that has cashed out for 2013-14.
“We just have to figure it out,” Spoelstra said.
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs were brilliant again on both sides of the ball in moving to a 3-1 lead in these best-of-seven NBA Finals with a 107-86 beat down.
But this was about more than Tony Parker getting into the lane at will, eight Spurs scoring in the first quarter, Kawhi Leonard attacking both the boards and on defense, Boris Diaw playing as the Incredible Bulk, Tim Duncan subtly doing Tim Duncan things.
It was as if Spoelstra was looking down to the opposite bench and instead of seeing Gregg Popovich, seeing visions of Rick Carlisle and the nightmare that was the 2011 NBA Finals and the Dallas Mavericks.
“We have 48 hours,” Spoelstra said. “I have to do a better job for my team. They’re exploiting where we’re normally good.”
Offense hot, defense not
San Antonio had put up some eye-popping numbers through the first three games of the NBA Finals.
The Spurs own two of the best-shooting quarters in championship series history after shooting 87.5% in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and 86.7% to open Game 3.
But while the Spurs have been scoring plenty of points, Coach Gregg Popovich wanted to see better defense. The Heat shot 51.6% and were 10-of-21 from 3threepoint range in Game 3.
“That’s what we spent all of our time on was the defense because I thought we did a pretty mediocre job,” Popovich said before Thursday’s game. “It’s always like that. Doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, coaches always find something to moan and groan about.”
Added Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili, “If we watch the tape, we’ll see many mistakes. The thing is that we masked it with making so many shots. … In a game where it’s closer, every mistake, you pay a higher price. So we’re going to have to do a better job.”
No wine or whining
After Game 3 of last year’s NBA Finals, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra and team President Pat Riley shared a bottle of wine to deal with the hangover of a lopsided loss to the Spurs. It was Riley’s way of showing he still had confidence in Spoelstra.
After this year’s Game 3 blowout, Spoelstra revealed, there was no Riley coming “over at 3 a.m.”
“We went our separate ways and watched the film and then met in the morning,” Spoelstra said. “There was nothing dramatic.”
With his career-high 29 points in Game 3, Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard (22 years, 346 days) became the youngest player to score that many points in an NBA Finals game since a 22-year-old Kobe Bryant had 32 points for the Lakers in 2001.