It felt like the end of something as the crowd dispersed from the AmericanAirlines Arena. For now, it feels like the 2014 NBA Finals series is on the verge of being over, as the San Antonio Spurs take a 3-1 lead with another road win, beating the Miami Heat 107-86 as LeBron James showed up alone to battle a team that threw a lot more than just one player at him.
It was once again Kawhi Leonard who has completely flipped the script in this series for his team and himself, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds while adding some very impressive defense against both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. From a player everyone talked about as not showing up, Leonard, in a system and not by himself, has completely dominated in every assignment given to him in games 3 and 4.
The Spurs looked sharp right off the bat. Maybe it wasn’t historic shooting like in game 3, but they finished with a nine point lead in the first quarter and went down to the locker room leading by 19 points (55-36). Whenever the Heat got close, the defense simply turned it up a notch, the Miami Heat offense shut down in an embarrassing display of selfishness and laziness of thought, and the game slipped away.
Even as LeBron James scored 19 points in the third quarter out of the Heat’s total of 21, the Spurs just made things worse. They won the third quarter 26-21, and for James, who finished the game with 28 points, that effort of going alone against one team, being able to bring down the lead to a reasonable number before it slipped away from them again, that was a sign of the night closing down on him and his team.
This is a dominant postseason for the Spurs, who also got 19 points from Tony Parker, 14 from Patty Mills and 10 from Tim Duncan. They’ve now won 11 games by 15 points or more in this postseason, a new record for a single postseason. They’re shooting 54.2% from the field in the finals, the second highest field goal percentage by any team through four games in the finals since 1955. They hit 57.1% of their shots in game 4 and 42.9% from beyond the arc, as Patty Mills and Danny Green combined to hit seven 3-pointers.
The Heat? They shot 45.1% from the field but only because of some garbage time. The most important factor was getting nothing from anyone above average. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined to score 21 points. Wade was 3-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-7 in the paint during the first half, as the Spurs closed down every opportunity the Heat had quickly and effectively. The Heat shot only 4-of-15 from the paint in the first half. Aside from James, the Heat’s starters (Wade-Chalmers-Lewis-Bosh) scored a combined 28 points on 32.4% from the field.
Leonard did a great job on James despite the 28 points. He allowed him only two shots on 24 possessions he guarded against him during the first half, with James looking passive and being kept too far away from the basket. He can’t contain him forever, but as well as anyone in the league can. They made Miami play an individual game, with each player trying to do things on his own. When the Heat play in that way, their chances of winning become even smaller.
This wasn’t the Heat playing badly. This was the Spurs continuing to play incredible offense and making the Heat look bad and worse, especially in that first half. This is how NBA champions play when they’re at their best – hitting the road and dominating there so much that they make the opposing fans leave their seats early. It might be something of an anti-climax to a Finals series that started out so close and tight, but it’s hard not be in awe of how good the Spurs look, one win away from winning the title.