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Spurs' historic first half too much for Heat
Miami Heat forward LeBron James goes to the basket against San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) and teammate Matt Bonner during Tuesday's Game 3 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/MCT)
Doors weren't blown off in the game's first 12 minutes. They were launched into Biscayne Bay.
The Spurs didn't shoot out the lights. They simply absorbed all the electricity pulsating from AmericanAirlines Arena and Miami-Dade County in two hard-to-believe quarters.
Take all the cliches and hyperbole and exaggerations and statistics from the Spurs' remarkable run before halftime of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and know this: It was a lot worse last year and the Heat still won.
The Heat proved last June that it could take the Spurs' best punch and still win an NBA title. In the rematch, the defending back-to-back champions will have to do it again. San Antonio's 111-92 victory in Game 3 gave the Spurs a 2-1 lead in this best-of-7 series and set the stage for more drama and higher stakes in Game 4 on Thursday.
The Spurs shot 75.8 percent in the first half to take a 71-50 lead to set an NBA Finals record for field-goal percentage in a half. At one point, it was like the San Antonio was playing inside a video game, or maybe playing against no one at all.
The Heat fell behind by 25 points quickly and the lead was never really in doubt despite some impressive fight from the home team and loyal support from a maturing fan base. But as thorough of a performance as the Spurs delivered on Tuesday, it was nothing compared to last year. Amazingly, 2013' provided a bigger blowout for the Spurs. In those Finals, San Antonio defeated the Heat by 36 points in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
And now the Heat will need more magic to wrestle back that home-court advantage it earned with a two-point victory on Sunday in San Antonio. The Heat defeated the Spurs just once in Texas in 2013. Miami will have to do it twice this time to win three in a row.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each finished with 22 points and Rashard Lewis had 14 points, but it wasn't nearly enough. Chris Bosh was perfect from the field, but only scored nine points. He was 4-of-4 shooting, including 1 of 1 from three-point range.
A few examples of just how statistically impressive the Spurs were in Game 3:
-- The Western Conference champions were 13-of-15 shooting in the first quarter.
-- Spurs forward Kahwi Leonard finished with 29 points. He was averaging nine points entering the game.
-- The Heat shot 50 percent from three-point range in the first half (7 of 14), yet trailed by 21 points.
-- With about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Spurs were shooting above 60 percent from the field, 50 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
-- The Heat shot 51.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range, but never really had a chance.
Despite all of that, the Heat managed to cut the Spurs' lead to seven points in the third quarter. A reverse layup by Norris Cole gave the Heat a glimpse of hope with 1:59 left in the period, and certainly brought the best out of the sold-out arena, but the Heat had already expended too much energy to seriously threaten the Spurs' lead.
Leonard's baseline dunk in the 7:56 left was a sign that the Heat players had no life left in their legs and a three-pointer by Tony Parker a minute later drained even more energy. Parker finished with 15 points. Tim Duncan had 14 points. Danny Green 15 points, going 7 of 8 from the field.
Leonard, who had struggled in Games 1 and 2, went 10 of 13 from the field, 3 of 6 from three-point range and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line. As a team, the Spurs shot 26 of 32 from the free-throw line and forced 20 turnovers for 23 points.
Leonard made a difficult turnaround jumper from 21 feet to give the Spurs 10 field goals in a row and 19 of 21 to begin the game. One of those misses, oddly enough, was a blown layup by Duncan. At one point, the Heat was shooting 56 percent and was trailing by 21 points.
A 10-3 run by the Heat gave fans something to cheer about midway through the second quarter. Keyed by a pair of three-pointers by Rashard Lewis, the Heat cut the Spurs' lead to 18 points.
The Spurs' shooting percentage in the first half (75.8) was the team's fifth-best shooting percentage in a half in the Tim Duncan era. San Antonio set Heat opponent playoff records for points in a quarter (41) and a half (71).