The San Antonio Spurs remain winless on the road (0-5) after falling to the Miami Heat 120-98 Tuesday after posting a 17-point lead in one half, and LeBron James taking over in the second half.
The first half was all about magic for the Spurs as Danny Green hit back-to-back buzzer beating three pointers to end both the first and second quarter. Green hit the first buzzer beater right behind the three point arc after the first quarter, and hit the second one from halfcourt to end the first half.
Everything went right for the Spurs in the first half, as they took a 63-49 lead into the third quarter, the team was shooting a high percentage and scored 35 and 28 points in consecutive quarters. Tony Parker had 16 points at the half, DeJuan Blair had 12 points, and Kawhi Leonard had 10 points to lead the Spurs. LeBron James struggled to score 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting in the first half, after being defended by Leonard.
In fact, the Spurs got their lead as high as 17-points, and then the “real” Miami Heat decided to show up led by their remaining two members of the “Heatles”, James and Chris Bosh. Well, more James.
The Heat came out with two different looks in the third quarter. First, a more rejuvenated James, and second, a zone defense that absolutely closed the basket for San Antonio. The Heat started the quarter with a 23-5 run; the Spurs would only score seven more points in the third quarter as the Heat outscored the Spurs 39-12 in the quarter. James got hot and shot 7-of-9 in the third quarter where most of the baskets were three pointers as he burst for a 15-point third quarter that resulted in a 88-75 Heat lead going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter can be summarized with Mike Miller returning from hernia surgery in his first game and shooting 6-of-6 from the field, all three pointers, most in the fourth quarter, for 18 points. Danny Green also shot well from behind the arc as he finished shooting 6-of-7 from three-point range and, as the leading scorer for the Spurs with 20 points.
With the loss, the Spurs fall to 9-5 on the season. The Spurs face another back-to-back as they play the Orlando Magic Wednesday in Orlando. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker did not play at all in the fourth quarter against Miami, so they should be able to go against the Magic with some energy.
Analyzing the Loss
- It began with “where was the offense?” in the third quarter to “where did the defense go throughout the game?” The zone defense really hurt a Spurs team that doesn’t automatically run through Duncan and is showing a fatigued Tony Parker on the floor. Throw in the fact that Richard Jefferson was 0-for-3 shooting and was held scoreless, the need for Manu Ginobili was overly apparent during the Heat’s third quarter run. The Spurs were lacking a playmaker that could create havoc in the zone defense and open the paint up. The Heat dared the Spurs to shoot the ball and they finished the game shooting 10-of-25 from behind the arc, 38-of-80 for the entire game.
- After having a strong first half, Blair and Parker combined for just three points in the second half. Parker looked to be gassed by the third quarter, as he couldn’t even use his burst-of-speed move to get passed Bosh in transition.
- The defense that had been holding their opponents in the 90-scoring range and low 40% in shooting range over the last three games, allowed Miami to post 120 points, shoot 58% from the field, and shoot 62% from beyond the arc. The Heat never scored less than 23 points in every quarter and outscored the Spurs 71 to 35 in the second half.
- After dominating the paint his last three games, Tiago Splitter only logged 10 minutes in the game due to early foul trouble. Splitter will be ready to get plenty of minutes on Wednesday against the best center in the league in Dwight Howard.
- The Spurs’ turnovers on the road continue as the team had 17-turnovers that lead to Miami’s dominating win.
- Chris Bosh finished the game with a “quiet” 30 points, eight rebounds, and four steals. He’s making a case for himself to be the staring power forward on the East’s All-Star squad in February.
Coming into this game, I was really intrigued to see how rookie Leonard would defend James. Here’s a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of Leonard’s defense on James.
First quarter: James finished 1-of-5 from the floor for six points. Most of his points came off free throws from getting fouled off switches in screens, as Leonard did a great job of contesting James’ jumpers and drives to the basket.
Second quarter: James went 4-of-6 in the second quarter for 10 points, most of his points, however, were off more switches from screens and Leonard going to the bench at the end of the second quarter.
First half: James was 5-of-11, 1-1 from three for 16 points. Warning: If you’re a Spurs fans this next quarter stat line is not entertaining to read.
Third quarter: James went 7-of-9, 3-of-4 from three, and had 15-points in the quarter. This was the quarter where Leonard learned that no matter how good you are at defense, special players could just become spectacular and look unstoppable. On many occasions in the third, Leonard was still contesting James’ jumpers but James just hit shot-after-shot. On some possessions, however, Leonard’s teammates didn’t help him out in switching off screens as they had been doing in the first half, so they left the rookie out to get scorched by James.
Fourth quarter: It’s unknown why head coach Eric Spoelstra decided to reinsert James in the fourth quarter, even Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t decide to throw Leonard back in. James finished the game with a game-high 33 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and four turnovers.
The best part of watching Leonard defend James was watching the rookie continuing to keep a hand in James’ face possession after possession and not getting rattled even when James got hot. The other part was watching Popovich immediately call Leonard back into the game when James was getting ready to check back in.