Every year the San Antonio Spurs are cast aside by many when the championship contender list is drawn up. The Miami Heat? Never. But in the second NBA finals rematch of the season, the losers handed the champions their worst loss this season, with Tim Duncan leading the way and LeBron James disappointing big time.
The Spurs came up with a huge 111-87 win, reminding many of their dominant win in game 3 of the finals series last year. Scarred they might have been from the final two games in that series, but it didn’t show as they demolished the Heat in a flawless first quarter (37-22) and a dominant final one (29-13).
No three point shooting out of this world, but simply great basketball, as the Spurs are once again playing the best basketball in the NBA just when the playoffs are peaking their heads over the horizon. The team was injured and missing for a long time, but everyone seems to be back in timing that couldn’t be better.
LeBron James had a rough night with 19 points on 6-of-18 from the field. Kawhi Leonard did a great job on him and the Spurs in general returned to the formula that worked so well in the finals during the first three-four games. Putting a big body on him and having someone to cover in the paint. James was forced into too many pull up jumpers and looked uncomfortable all night long. He took off the mask in the first quarter and blamed the sleeves when it was all over. Whatever it was, he looked far from what the Heat needed from him.
The Spurs went down low with Tim Duncan, scoring 23 points and having a very good time while Chris Bosh was trying to guard him. Chris Bosh scored 24 points, but the Heat got nothing out of their role and fringe players, while it seemed like everyone on the Spurs was contributing big time, looking fired up for a game that they’ve been waiting for, like their fans, for a very long time. This was something of revenge for them, even though it doesn’t determine anything except for moving closer to the top of the West, only 0.5 a game behind the Thunder now.
Tony Parker scored 17 points on 6-of-14 from the field and Boris Diaw posted up beautifully on anyone who was guarding him, scoring 16 points on 5-of-5 from the field. The Spurs finished with 30 assists and simply played in a different gear and mindset than the Heat all night, with the differences showing up right from the tip. Popovich was still screaming at his players despite big leads, while the Heat conceded early on that it just wasn’t their day.
But when trying to focus on one player who made the most impact it has to be Duncan, especially on defense. There’s a reason James found it very hard to get good shots going for him, and why the Heat were only 1-of-8 on drives contested by Duncan. When he has a Splitter or Diaw to put a body on the other team’s big playing next to him, his intelligence and defensive awareness come to full effect.
This game tells us Miami are once again in something of a funk. It won’t show against weaker teams, but they still have an issue with certain types of defenses, like the one the Indiana Pacers, who have the top spot in the East, will put on display. As for the Spurs, it seems that they once again know exactly when to get injured and when to get healthy again, right now looking like the number one team in the West.