- Series Hub: Spurs-Heat
SAN ANTONIO – Yeah, yeah, yeah, reports of the Big Three’s demise were premature. We get it. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh played up to their hype in Game 4, combining for 85 of the Miami Heat’s 109 points in another 2013 Finals game that can be classified as a blowout.
What wound up as a 16-point outcome, though, was a mere five-pointer with 8:46 left, though. And let’s get something else straight: James hadn’t put the pressure on Miami’s Big Three to come through Thursday night at the AT&T Center, as some revisionist accounts suggest. James had put the burden on himself and, if anything, marginalized Wade and Bosh to the point that they hitched up their big-boy pants in response.
Meanwhile, the series’ other Big Three — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili — has been marked down to a Not-So-Big Two-Point-Two or so. Ginboli has been the primary drag with his low production, shaky ball handling and non-factoritis. But Duncan (five rebounds in Game 4) and Parker (scoreless second half) are underperforming their reputations too.
RIGHT: No rings, no rebounds, Heat boss Pat Riley famously said. But the Heat are demonstrating the next level of alliteration: No stops, no celebrations. Defense fueled Miami’s series-tying victory. It had 13 steals, seven blocked shots, a 41-38 rebounding edge — and Chris “Birdman” Andersen never played. Wade (6) and Mario Chalmers (4) combined to grab more rebounds than Duncan (5) and Tiago Splitter (3).
WRONG: The Mike Miller-as-starter lineup switcheroo by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t cost his team the game but it didn’t win it either. At best, it might have served as a reminder to the Heat and the world that Miami’s best approach is small ball. San Antonio jumped to a 15-5 lead with Miller bumping Udonis Haslem from the starting lineup and still led 19-14 when he sat down for the first time. Miller’s streak of eight consecutive 3-pointers ended with the added responsibility and he finished the night with no points, one rebound and two assists.
RIGHT: Parker, early, had Spurs dominance written all over him. Not only didn’t he seem hobbled by the right hamstring injury that cut short his Game 3 performance, the All-Star point guard looked like he was making a case for a second Finals MVP trophy. Parker was active, looked shifty and scored eight of his team’s 17 points in the first six minutes.
WRONG: Parker, late. His right leg was weaker than it initially seemed, Parker said he got fatigued and he even headed off to the locker room for a few minutes in the second half to fiddle with the way his thigh was wrapped. By halftime, he and James were tied with 15 points each and Wade had 14. The rest of the way, it was James 18, Wade 18 and Parker 0.
RIGHT: Miami’s perimeter defense responded. San Antonio’s Cinderella backcourt scorers, Danny Green and Gary Neal, combined to hit six of their nine 3-point shots. But they were just 1-for-2 in the fourth quarter and 0-for-0 after Neal’s 28-footer got the Spurs within 84-79 with 10:48 left. Miami did a better job this time of running them off the 3-point line and the pair got up just one shot, a runner by Neal at 9:59, the rest of the night. Surprise scoring is great, but the real test for guys like this is learning to be productive when foes truly are locked in on them.
WRONG: Turnovers hurt San Antonio again; it turned the ball over as many times in its two victories combined (17) as in either their Game 2 (17) or Game 4 (19) defeats. But another problem for the Spurs has been their foul shooting. They missed eight free throws for the second straight game and, thought that might not be worrisome in a 36-point blowout victory, it very much hurt them in Game 4. By halftime, score at 49, San Antonio already had clanged four. Through three quarters, the Spurs trailed by five and had missed six. Said coach Gregg Popovich: “When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did and shoot it the way they did, teams are going to have a difficult time if you help them and shoot poorly from the free-throw line, as we did, and give over 20 points on turnovers — it’s not going to happen.”
RIGHT: Chalmers cured the Heat’s 3-point blues. For as much as Miami thrives from the arc, some of its greatest 3-point threats — Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Miller and James — were a combined 0-for-5 through three quarters. Chalmers, meanwhile, was 2-for-3, both coming in the third. Both were momentum-swingers, too — the first at 5:42, nine seconds after James stole the ball from Neal to make it 65-61, and the second at 3:23, eight seconds after Bosh rebounded a Ginobili missed layup. That had the Heat in front 74-66.
WRONG: Ginobili was minus-22 in his 26 minutes, which means that when he was sitting, the Spurs were six points better than the Heat in Game 4. He’s shooting 34.5 percent in The Finals and is 3-of-16 from 3-point range. Teammates might not have lost confidence in him, but Spurs fans fear the worst.
RIGHT: So it wasn’t a performance to eclipse Game 6 vs. Boston in the 2012 East finals in his personal playoffs pantheon, but James made mostly good on his vow to play much better Thursday than he had in Game 3 Tuesday. Start with his 33 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals – James never had been held under 20 points in four consecutive playoff games, so after a run of 18, 17 and 15, you knew that was going to change. This was his sixth time scoring at least 30 in the 2013 postseason and he moved past both Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755 points) and John Havlicek (3,776) to rank ninth all-time (3,777) among NBA playoff points leaders. But the Heat star brought it at both ends in Game 4, with anticipation and aggressiveness that held down the Spurs’ ability to move and rebound the ball.
WRONG: Giving back the home court. This is the first of San Antonio’s five trips to The Finals in which it did not hold the home-court advantage, and now Miami’s edge that way has been restored. There’s no great shame in failing to win the middle three games in the 2-3-2 format – only Detroit in 2004 and Miami last year ever have done it – but now the Spurs are on the brink of tackling some tough history. No road team ever has won both Game 6 and Game 7 in this format, so the silver-and-black guys might want to go all-in on Game 5 Sunday. It is as much a “survival” game for the Spurs as Miami considered Game 4.