Spurs hammer Heat to claim a 2-1 series lead
By Greg Heakes ,AFP
June 12, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
MIAMI -- Kawhi Leonard tallied a career-high 29 points on Tuesday as the San Antonio Spurs thrashed the Miami Heat 111-92 in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
Tim Duncan finished with 14 points and six rebounds while Danny Green scored 15 points for the Spurs, who jumped out to a 25-point lead in the first half then held on for the victory and a 2-1 series lead.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was looking for more offence from Leonard on Tuesday. Leonard was hindered by foul trouble in the first two games, fouling out in the game-two defeat in San Antonio.
“We just wanted him to be who he has been the whole year,” Popovich said. “I think he overreacted to the foul situations in the first two games and he became very cautious and he doesn't play like that.
“He has got to be active at both ends, so he figured it out.”
The first half was an old-fashioned shootout as San Antonio put on the best shooting display for a half in NBA finals history, hitting 19 of their first 21 shots.
The two-time defending champion Heat cut the deficit to seven points at one stage in the second half but they never could recover from the Spurs' opening blitz that saw San Antonio shoot a superb 75.8 percent from the field to lead 71-50 at halftime.
“I don't think we will ever shoot 76 percent (at halftime) in a half again,” Popovich said. “I mean, that's crazy.”
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series will be on Thursday night in Miami.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade pumped in 22 points each for the Heat, who suffered their first home loss of the 2014 post-season.
Rashard Lewis finished with 14 points and Ray Allen came off the bench to score 11 in the loss.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his troops dug themselves too big a hole in the first half to overcome.
“They won the battle clearly tonight,” said Spoelstra. “We came out at a different gear than what we were playing. It just seemed we were on our heels most of the first half.”
Miami lost the finals in 2011 then won back-to-back titles in 2012 and last season — when they beat the Spurs in seven games.
This is the first NBA finals rematch since the Chicago Bulls battled the Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.
Tuesday's contest was reminiscent of last year's Game 3 of the NBA finals.
San Antonio bounced back in Game 3, setting the finals record for most three-pointers in a game with 16. They went on to win 113-77, handing the Heat their worst loss in franchise playoff history.