The narrative going in was ‘Finals rematch’. The result was anything but.
Even with Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter out, the Miami Heat weren’t about to let the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs surprise them with an inspired performance.
So for the first time in a long time, the Heat played that brand of defense that has made them so successful in the past, enabling a 113-101 victory that was a lot worse than the final score indicates.
As does the 50 percent shooting of the Spurs. 30 of San Antonio’s points came in a fourth quarter were the game was already decided, leading to the Spurs benefiting off of the mistakes of the Heat’s garbage-time lineup.
The Spurs struggled mightily with their perimeter game, shooting 27 percent on 23 attempts. Miami’s defense Sunday afternoon at the top was much more in tune in comparison to the rest of the season, especially in a third quarter were San Antonio was mostly held to low-percentage jumpers.
Miami outscored 33-21 in the third quarter to extend an eight-point halftime lead to 20, prompting both sides to rest most of their starters. While LeBron James and Chris Bosh sat out, however, Dwyane Wade remained in with the bench lineup to put away the Spurs.
Why is this notable? Because Wade was a member of that bench today. In his return from a four-game absence, Wade came off the bench for the first time since the 2007-08 season. He responded by playing 24 minutes, picking up eight points on eight shots to go along with five assists, three rebounds and a steal.
It was Wade’s facilitation in the early moments of the fourth quarter that would push Miami’s lead all the way to 29 at the 7:54 mark. The Spurs would go on a 26-7 run to end it to make the game look somewhat respectable.
The Heat sporadically played a condensed form of championship defense, leading to 17 points off of 12 Spurs turnovers, but their offense was in the rare mode it’s been in all season. From start to finish, the Heat mopped the floor with the league’s fourth most efficient defense, finishing the night shooting 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep.
Although the Heat were outscored by two in points in the paint, the team was collectively firing on all cylinders with their jump shooting, especially Chris Bosh who continues a torrid stretch of making mid-range jumpers.
Bosh was 9-of-10 on the night, his only miss coming off a transition three-pointer. He also made all five of his free throws
With 8:21 left in the third, Tim Duncan rebounded a LeBron miss and was looking to add on to a Spurs run that was already at 6-0. However, a turnover caused by Chris Bosh at the top of the perimeter would lead to a fastbreak capped off by a LeBron James dunk to push Miami’s lead back to six.
The four-point deficit the Spurs had the chance to cut into was the closest it would get. Miami would run off 10 straight points, six by Bosh, while the Spurs went nearly four minutes without a single point.
By the end of that stretch, the Heat were already up 14 and Gregg Popovich couldn’t afford to keep the starters in for too much longer. With the bench replacing Duncan and Parker, the Heat stretched the lead all the way to 21 as the Spurs would fail to make a field goal over the final 2:49 of the third.
Stat of the game
58 percent shooting for the Heat. As mentioned before, the Spurs rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency and are holding opponents to an average of 44 percent shooting, good for sixth in the league.
You can give San Antonio the benefit of the doubt because they were playing without three of their best defenders, but this game was also indicative of how dynamic Miami can be when they’re engaged, moving the ball, and making open jumpers.
The Heat shot 8-for-19 from three. They got two apiece from Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen, who hit a three-pointer on the Heat’s final possession of the first half to give them an eight point lead going into intermission.
Greg Oden Watch
Another step in the right direction for Oden, who played a season-high 13 points and recorded three points on 1-of-3 shooting, two rebounds, a steal and a block. He blocked Tim Duncan on one end and then dunked on him and Boris Diaw on the other.
His timing will improve on his rebounding and shot-blocking, but his presence alone is compensating for any flaws in his defense right now.
LeBron James: 18 points, 8-15 overall, 1-3 from three, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal; B
What better way to prep for a showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder than to unexpectedly play 28 minutes against the best the West has to offer. LeBron had two of his points come by way of a Larry Bird-esque jumper over the backboard and a Magic Johnson-esque pass between two defenders leading to a Chris Bosh dunk. He did a little bit of everything, but didn’t need to overexert himself in an all-around team effort.
Chris Bosh: 24 points, 9-of-10 overall, 1-of-2 from three, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal; A
Chris is going to mess around and find himself on the All-NBA First Team if his recent play carries over through the rest of the year. Bosh was once again on point with his mid-range game and has never looked more confident than he has over the past two weeks. The silver lining of Wade getting time off is Bosh owning his role as temporary secondary option, scoring at least 20 in six of his past seven outings and shooting at least 60 percent in five of his past six.
Dwyane Wade: 8 points, 3-of-8 shooting, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; B
D-Wade looked every bit the part of a player who has been slowed down by knee ailments and has missed the past four games. However, he was the main reason why the Heat were able to pull away and allow LBJ and Bosh to play 28 and 26 minutes, respectively. With his shot shaky, Wade took over the role as facilitator, assisting on three consecutive possessions early in the fourth and scoring on one.