Spurs, Leonard unmask LeBron and Miami

VIDEO: Spurs dominate Heat

SAN ANTONIO — Maybe it was the mask that is supposed to be protecting his broken nose. LeBron James ripped it off early in the first quarter and tossed it disdainfully toward the Miami bench.

Originally, it was a black mask that made him look like Batman with more hang time. That is, until commissioner Adam Silver decided to also become the fashion police. James had said before the game that he didn’t think the clear replacement was going to be around much longer and perhaps a couple of missed 16-footers moved up the schedule.

“I got a message from my wife at halftime,” he said. “She told me to put the mask back on, so I guess I’m gonna be in trouble when I get home.”

Maybe it was the tight-fitting short sleeve jersey that he and all the rest of the players had to wear as part of the NBA Noche Latina celebration.

“I’m not making excuses,” James said, “but I’m not a big fan of the jerseys. Not a big fan of them. So I have to figure something out the next time I have to wear the short-sleeved jerseys. Every time I shoot it feels like it’s pulling up right underneath my arm. I don’t have much room for error on my jump shot anyways, so it’s definitely not a good thing.”

Hitting the runway in his league-mandated attire, James clanked open jumpers, had layups roll off the rim and missed a dozen of the 18 shots he attempted.

Or just maybe it was the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Kawhi Leonard that he had to wear like an annoying hair shirt up and down the AT&T Center court all night long.

“He’s a good young player,” James said.

Yes, and Kate Upton would make an acceptable prom date.

Long, larcenous and learning how to assert himself in an orbit just outside the Tim Duncan-Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili triangle, Leonard is exactly the kind of disruptive force that would fit perfectly into the Heat’s attacking, pressuring, blitzing defense.

These finally are the Spurs as they hoped they’d be back when training camp opened with the scars still fresh from the painful seven-game loss to Miami in The Finals last June.

The Spurs are at last healthy and whole, their full contingent available now for just the past three games and yet they looked like a thresher going through a wheat field. They owned the first quarter, played keep away for the rest of the game and with a 111-87 stamp handed the Heat their biggest loss of the season and their worst thumping since a 36-point smack down right here in Game 3 of The Finals.

Of course, for all the celebratory din that happily bounced off the walls of the arena, it came about nine months and 24 seconds too late.

That’s the thing, timing does matter. There will be much made in the two off days before Miami steps back onto the court in Chicago on Sunday afternoon of the first back-to-back, wire-to-wire losses in the Big Three Era of the Heat. But remember it was just earlier this week when James dropped in 61 points on the Bobcats and the “three-peat” parade floats were starting to warm up their engines.

“The league is fragile, things can change very quickly,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

In the two games since the 61-point bomb, James has shot just 15-for-36 from the field, 0-for-6 from behind the arc and scored a total of just 41 points. He looked flat worn-out and exhausted in Houston, but exasperated over an inability to get himself out of the reach and the clutches of Leonard, who tosses around words as if they were manhole covers.

“I’m just playing, man,” he said.

This is the Leonard that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once labeled “the future face of the franchise” and yet the same Leonard that Popovich says still defers too much at times to the three veterans that anchor the lineup.

“I tell him, ‘The hell with those other guys. Just play your own game and forget about them,’ “ Popovich said. “He is just growing day by day. He is starting to feel confident in his role and taking pride in being a defender and a rebounder first. Then, [he needs to work on] letting his offense come naturally and not thinking about it too much.”

Leonard missed 14 games with a broken bone in his right hand before returning to the lineup a little more than a week ago and it’s since then — with improved health of the entire roster — that the Spurs have begun to look like a team that not only has an ax to grind, but is capable of swinging it deep into another playoff run. He officially got credit for five steals, but there were so many other times when he changed shots, altered passes, forced the Heat to try to go around him, effectively disrupting their rhythm.

“He was a pest,” said Duncan. “That’s what we need him to be. He stuck his hand in there, knocked some balls away, got some steals. He contested shots…So we need him to be that kind of guy.”

The guy who makes LeBron James rip off his uncomfortable mask in frustration and point a finger of blame at those form-fitting short sleeves on his jersey.

A tailor-made hair shirt for the occasion.

50 Comments

  1. marty says:

    Not many comments from hoop purists. A lot of fans who can’t give credit when its do.

  2. okc2014 says:

    Lebron James hates to lose….Like all winners do.

  3. Carlo says:

    All this blah-blah about the mask is because it was on James’s face. Masks were donned by lots of players until today and nobody gave a s… about them.

    About the T-shirt jerseys, hopefully LBJ’s remarks will push NBA to ditch them ’cause they’re one of the ugliest piece of wear I’ve ever seen, in and out a b’ball court.

  4. VAshTHEstampede says:

    so much hate toward LBJ. u guys will find anything to hate on him. you guys hate for the wrong reason. what did he do to you personally (maybe didn’t join you team or left your team) sad but move on. We wouldn’t have this kind of comments here if it wasn’t LBJ. im pretty sure yo people will always goin to find reason to hate him. Haters need to go away. I understand that he left Cleveland and joined force with the Heat to win Championship but don’t hate him cuz of this. it’s getting old. MJ and Kobe fans stop hating cuz the guy is great. their time is over and now is LBJ’s time.

  5. Dyron from Belize says:

    WHERE ARE ALL THE HEAT TROLLS THAT ARE USUALLY WRITING STUPID STUFF NOW???? IF LEBRON WANT TO WIN A RING HE SHOULD GO TO THE ALAMO CITY!!! LOL THIS IS SWEET AND FUNNY! WHERE ARE U STUPID HEATS FANS NOW???
    PS…. WE DON’T NEED ANYONE ELSE TO WIN A RING!!!!!! SPURS WAS ONE REBOUND AWAY AND THIS TIME WE WONT NEED 6 OR 7 GAMES TO WIN IT ALL

  6. TP says:

    I agree with James as a basketball player sleeves are distracting and annoying and I played well without them. I do not think this is an excuse, this time anyway. I think he is right on with this one. And yes the Spurs played great with sleeves but this doesn’t mean Lebron or anyone who doesn’t like playing with sleeves wont ever have a good game, its just you will have less good games with them in my opinion. #Jussayin

    • Marc says:

      having sleeves on in a game are not hendering to a players game. This is just an excuse. Anytime Lebron says something not right wether it be the refs, the jerseys, or the ball for that matter.. People will agree. He makes excuses for everything that goes wrong. People and him can’t take the fact that that 61pt game was a fluke and the fact that he blames everything but himself for his poor performance

  7. Pau says:

    Sleeves didn’t stop Gerald Green from hitting 8 threes and going for over 40pts last night

  8. Mo says:

    last time I checked, the Spurs had to wear the sleeved jeryseys as well……so… LeBron is making excuses….again.

  9. Kevin says:

    Nba jerseys getting way to ugly on these day…

  10. Heat 3 Peat says:

    For some reason the Heat were able to attack the Spurs defense with success when Oden entered the game. Somehow his presence weakened the Spurs defense for Wade and Lebron to attack it. Also, I thought Pop noticed this and called a time out.

  11. D black says:

    Heat r having a problem with big man teams gotta step it up

  12. DontChangeTheBobcatsName says:

    Did anyone else notice the random Kate Upton mention? What?

    • ron says:

      yeah that was funny.
      Ask someone to explain it to you. It has to do with the very dumb remark Le Bron made.

  13. kanuk says:

    ya, i saw lebron come to the bench in the third and made motions that these ridiculous shirts were uncomfortable as he made a shooting motion to his team mates sitting beside him. i just don’t get the point of these shirts … the wheel ain’t broke, don’t mess with it … from the first time i saw these shirts i thought they were a silly idea. give them all away to the homeless.

  14. RealMacarooni says:

    I’m far from a LBJ fan, but I know what he’s talking about when he says the shirt tugging the upper arm when he shoots. I have the same thing happen to me on certain shirts I wear when I play, and it’s sooooooooo annoying. Not a great excuse for his performance though, that was just incredible defense by Leonard.

  15. JPlus says:

    well said charles and last i checked mj didn’t have to go to another team to win a championship lets not forget about the decision. Don’t worry the next excuse will be his shooting hand is sprain or his big toe is fractured so his mobility is limited just be quiet and play when you the face of the nba you don’t make excuses and whine all day like you and wade do all day just shut up and play ball #SIMPLE

    • cil says:

      WOWW we have a hater…..u still grindin on that bro…..he moved to win championships…he had no help in cleveland….same thing the other superstars are doin either movin to teams that can help or beggin foe help to come in…..pay more attention plz….ohh and bout those new jerseys uhhh burn them its a horrible look in the nba

    • Who says:

      You used a hashtag on NBA.com. That tells me a lot about now you know nothing and probably are a casual fan of a team like the Lakers, Knicks, Clippers, etc. #amirite? Lol.

    • Daniel says:

      Mj had an all star team check again!! Get ur facts right before u start hating on THE KING. Leave the past in the past it’s lebrons time!!

  16. namcor says:

    where is that lbj guy that raises lebron to sky, to see this post

  17. justafan says:

    For once I agree with Lebron…… PLEASE NBA remove these Sleeved jerseys ! This is Basketball NOT FOOTBALL !!!!

  18. typpercat says:

    It is always a great win when your team is whole and playing well. The Spurs were fantastic last night. GO SPURS GO!

  19. marlon green says:

    Where are all the Lebron lovers now! Everyone swore he was the greatest when he shot open 3 pointers and took advantage of slow forwards and centers on pick and rolls when he played the Bobcats. But what happend when he came down south and played some real teams? He didn’t do jack against Houston and when Dwight actually picked him up off of a screen all he did was brick. And when he played the spurs with some real defense what did her do. No three’s last night. Like I said before Kevin Durant is the MVP this year. He has the Thunder on top of the west and while Westbrook was out. Unlike Lebron who basically has wade and bosh for every big game. They sit Wade against the easy teams and play him big games. KD never had that luxury, Westbrook was gone. KD is playing with some real competition while Lebron plays in the jv league.

    • Who says:

      Blah blah blah delusional hater talk blah blah blah, that’s all I imagine you wrote, I don’t dare to read it because I’ll lose 50 points off my IQ.

      • marlon green says:

        well evidently you did read it because your dumb a$$ responded to my post! Dont get mad because ya boy played like a flake when he lost to the rockets and spurs. He is good but stop treating him like he is the GOD of basketball. You guys want to blow every little thing he does out of porpotion. And when he loses or plays bad ya’ll want to sweep it under the rug in a heartbeat and play like nothing happend.

  20. justsayin says:

    No LBJ fan but to hell with those fugly soccer tops.

  21. Weedmoker says:

    It’s just one regular match. Spurs was better at home, congrats, but Miami will be the champion again.

  22. spurs fan! says:

    So many excuses LBJ! don’t blame anything!

  23. Someone says:

    the better team won tonight… unlike the finals

  24. Irene Adler says:

    I always think that Kawhi Leonard is a better defender than LBJ. Go Leonard. Go Spurs.

  25. TJ says:

    Dang 61 tho we c how much it meant

  26. timpson says:

    The spurs r good team they play together I think they are the only team that can really play the heat really good.

    • timpson says:

      Oh yeah and it wasn’t the Jersey everyone had to wear them com on man.

      • DP says:

        Pacers have a great young defender in Lance Stephenson and a top notch franchise player in George a great rising center(Roy Hibbert) and one of the best post players in the league in David West i look for them to make the finals and play either Portland or OKC

  27. Karlo Garcia says:

    I like Kawhi Leonard. He seems to be always composed,rises up to the occasion & a good defender 1st, & good offense 2nd. I believe also Kawhi can also be the face of the NBA :)

  28. paolow9 says:

    Reblogged this on It's Not Crazy, It's Sports and commented:
    Maybe this is what it has to take for people to stop talking about the lack of Spurs talk and start talking about the excellence of their play.

  29. Jose says:

    First he says he’s tired from houstons game really? The king is tired and yet peipme think hes the greatest player tk ever live as i recall i seem to remember someone who played with the flu and still drained 3s on everybody and scored a lot of points too yet the so called king is tired and now he says is the shirt or the mask say all you want your good but not great this will not be your year say goodbye to miami after you lose this year! First dwayne is done has missed lime 22 games yea he can be explosive but at what cost when your missing that many games and chris bosh is a softy and pretty sure will end up getting traded cant keep up with the true big man why have such a small center cant compete with dwight or roy or anyone guve up while you have a chance and lebron? Idk man you gotta stoo making excuses and play the damn game because second game second excuse shht up already

    • kevin says:

      well said…and just to wax nostalgia that flu game was epic

    • RJCN says:

      then why is you not in the nba?

    • Ibrahim says:

      Wow, is it trying to communicate??? Hello there

    • krishawn-MIA says:

      1. So him sayin he’s not making excuses isn’t enough? Oh and all the players said what he just said-_-
      2.I LOOOOOVE Mj BUT the truth is he had a lot of games like this and he had a few struggling nba finals game just like lebron and he had an nba finals game where he didn’t hit the game winner but we don’t ever talk about them! Ever! If Lebron faulters we talk about MJ’s triumphs as if he didn’t go thru the same please I looooove mj but not being in the media error really hides his crippe games

      • Charles says:

        MJ was 6 for 6 in the finals and has some of the best finals performances ever. Please watch your mouth when comparing anyone to the likes of MJ

      • justsayin says:

        Without rigged calls against OKC and just plain exceptional luck against SAS and IND last year, Bron would be 0-4 in the finals, with teams more loaded than MJ ever had. So don’t dare step to the goat.

      • Brandon says:

        Yea bulls are definitely 6 for 6 in the finals.. Lebron is good just not great, before you compare him to mj you have to start with Kobe last time I checked Kobe is the only player right behind mj.

      • YOUKNOWWHO says:

        If this ….if that …. stop saying if …if..
        LBJ won 2 rings…that’s it.
        Stop hating
        LBJ is maybe not yet the next one to MJ but he has more chance than ANYONE else to reach the same level as MJ.
        Kobe never had that….and will never have it. Love Kobe but he is a killer scorer,,,,that’s it. Even if he had won 10 rings.

    • DP says:

      See this is what really frustrates me the whole MJ flu thing ok yes it was a great performane but its not like he was deathly ill i can recall plenty of people playing through the flu if it would have been something more serious i could see all the hype but what about andre miller who has rarely ever missed a game even with his shoulder injury a couple years ago and what about rondo who played through the playoffs with basically one arm MJ was a profeesional athlete and a grweat competeter of course hes gonna play through a little sickness… (i forgot about Kobe who broke a bone in his knee and played for the rest of the game)