The Miami Heat didn’t just lose a game Tuesday night, they were annihilated. They got punched so hard on the chin they fell flat on their face like Manny Pacquiao in the fourth fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
The Spurs rained three after three after three on the Heat and finished with a NBA Finals record 16 3-pointers to knock out the defending NBA champs 113-77 in Game 3. The 36-point destruction was the third-largest margin of victory in The Finals.
‘We got what we deserved,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”[The Spurs] played with more force and more focus. They outplayed us and outclassed us from the very tip. I didn’t even recognize the team that was out there.”
Since the 2-3-2 format was employed in the NBA Finals, when the series is tied 1-1 the winner of Game 3 went on to win the series 12 out of 13 times. That’s good news for the Spurs and bad news for the Heat.
The Heat have done a decent job on the Spurs’ Big 3 of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, but they’ve fallen asleep on some of the San Antonio role players. While the Heat continue to load up on Parker and Ginobili on every pick-and-roll, the Spurs counter with ball movement. And the ball kept finding snipers Danny Green and Gary Neal.
“We had some instances where we didn’t close on shooters. Neal and Green lit us up pretty good tonight,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “I think they were comfortable all game. I think that was pretty obvious when you look at the stat sheet.”
Let’s look at the stat sheet, shall we.
Green, LeBron James’ former teammate and dance partner in Cleveland and cut three times before finally landing a full-time gig with the Spurs, buried seven of his nine 3-point attempts and had a game-high 27 points. Green is 16-for-23 from 3-point range in the 2013 Finals and arguably the front-runner for the MVP.
“All of my teammates and Pop. They do a great job of encouraging me. They continue to tell me to shoot the ball. They continue to tell me whenever I’m open, to let it fly,” Green said.
Neal, an undrafted guard out of Towson State, could have easily been the player of the game. He started the game hot and finished the half with a buzzer-beater 3-pointer that pushed the San Antonio lead to six. From that point on, it was all Spurs and the Heat never got close.
Neal was 6-for-10 from behind the 3-point line, and made the Heat pay whenever they left him open.
“The way the Heat have been playing, with Tony and Manu, they’re trying to trap the pick-and-roll. So guys like me, Danny, and Kawhi [Leonard] we’re gonna get some shots,” said Neal, who finished with 24 points in only his third game playing in the NBA Finals. “You just have to come out and be aggressive and have that mindset that we have to attack.”
“It’s part of the system, but one thing that stood out was that our ball movement was better,” Neal said. “When we’re able to attack close-outs it kinda gives us an advantage.”
“Throughout the course of the season I’ve always been aggressive,” Neal said. “That’s how I’ve always played. When I’m making shots that’s another component the other team has to game plan for.”
“He’s a professional. He’s a quality individual and he made himself ready,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about Neal, who played three years in Europe before signing with San Antonio in 2010.
Bosh summed it up best. He said the Heat were a step slow in Game 3 and took it on the chin. Get the smelling salts out.