Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs defeat Heat 111-92 in Game 3: Instant Reaction and Social Media Recap

Matt Zemek: Going into Game 3, no player on either team needed to make a more dramatic improvement than Kawhi Leonard.

It was Leonard, after all, whose mature-beyond-his-years performance in the 2013 Finals put the Spurs in position to win at the end of Game 6… and then kept them in Game 7 when the older players on his team were tired. San Antonio didn’t need Leonard to be that lethal throughout this series, but the Spurs certainly needed Leonard to be two-thirds of the player he was against the Heat last year. Given that Leonard struggled so regularly in the first two games of this series, the Spurs hoped that their brightest future star would shine in the present moment.

Sure enough, Kawhiian Airlines took off once again, and the Miami Heat — in Game 3, not the series — were history.

The other player who set the tone for the Spurs alongside Leonard was Danny Green. The fact of the matter is that ever since his strong and decisive fourth quarter in Game 1 of the series (which followed three awful quarters last Thursday), Green has been great… when he’s been able to stay on the floor. Green fell into foul trouble in Game 2, and even though he was still affected to some extent by foul trouble in this game, his lights-out first half, followed by a bucket and several dynamic defensive plays to start the fourth quarter, gave the Spurs all the leverage they needed.

There’s only one more thing to be said about this game, which set all sorts of NBA Finals records in the first quarter and the first half: With so many Spurs playing at a high level over extended minutes, it was a bit player who rescued the Spurs’ sinking ship when Miami cut a 21-point halftime lead to 81-74 late in the third quarter. Marco Belinelli played only six minutes in this game and scored only three points. Yet, that one make thwarted the Heat’s run.

Sports are a trip, man.

Philip Rossman-Reich: I know a whole second half was played, but I am still buzzing at the offensive performance the Spurs put on in the first half. I mean, where did that come from? Aside from great play calling, execution and principles that have defined the Spurs for the better part of two decades.

Still, in the moment, the shooting display and aggression the Spurs had in the first 24 minutes were simply astounding. No team has been able to manhandle the Heat like that for so long. They made a home in the paint with 10 field goals attempts of the 15 they took in the first half coming in the paint. They made nine of those, by the way, and 13 for the entire first quarter. A 41-point quarter was not supposed to happen.

Eventually, the smooth and incredible ball movement stopped as Miami adjusted. By then it was too late. Even when San Antonio struggles, the team can do enough to stifle and stymie you. Miami could not find the aggression until it was a bit too late. LeBron James was oddly absent in the second half, it seemed. But that did not matter. James did all he could to give Miami a chance in an onslaught of a first half.

The Heat figured some things out for Game Four. But you run out of opportunities when you do not bring urgency from the tip in the Finals.

Josh Burton: After a dominant performance like that from the Spurs, what more is there to say? San Antonio made an insane 19 of the first 21 shots it took tonight, leading to a 41-25 first quarter lead and 71-50 halftime lead. Those are point totals not normally seen in Finals game, especially against stout defensive teams like the Heat.

Now up 2-1 in this series, having forcefully retaken home court advantage from Miami, the Spurs were led by a surprising player: Kawhi Leonard. Leonard scored just nine points in each of the first two games of this Finals but went off for 29 points tonight, and the Heat had no answer for him. One main reason for why the Spurs are so good is how adaptive they are, and tonight was no different, as Leonard stepped up to take the brunt of the San Antonio offensive burden when he needed to.

Overall, the Spurs were simply on fire from the field for most of this game, and even after a near-comeback from the Heat, they were no to be touched and ended up winning this game via blowout as fans filed out of American Airlines Arena even before the game had ended. Don’t get me wrong, the Heat — notably LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Rashard Lewis — played pretty well, but just did not have enough to successfully combat the unstoppable force that was the Spurs.

Miami’s 20 team turnovers was too much, though, and is a number exacerbated by some amazing Spurs defense. The Spurs playing good defense? Yeah, not really groundbreaking stuff here but it’s why they are heading into Game Four,on Thursday, with a 2-1 lead. Now, the Heat are the ones who desperately need a win and have their backs up against the wall.

Social Media Recap

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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