After a monstrous performance from Lebron James in game two, the Heat looked to continue to win in game three. Starting out of the gate, the Spurs and Heat were on fire from the field. Both teams started 9 for 9 from the field with the Spurs attacking the basket, and Miami making tough shots.
However, the major change in the first quarter came with Danny Green on defense, and Mario Chalmers on offense. Danny Green had two great steals (Against Dwyane Wade!) that led to two wide open lay ups/dunks, and then Mario Chalmers, who the Heat needed to step up, started the game with 3 horrendous misses. He had three good chances to bounce back, but all three were terrible misses. He played to such an extent of poor play, that when he left the floor when substituting for Norris Cole, the Miami crowd cheered!
On the other end, the Spurs needed to bounce back with attacking basketball, and more importantly, Kawhi Leonard. Leonard had played mediocre in the past two games, as he was matched up against the best player in the NBA, but the Spurs needed more out of their future star. Unlike Chalmers, Leonard stepped up in a big way.
Like his Spurs team, he started driving to the basket as he made three free throws, and a great lay up. Then, he took a step back and started firing from three point land. To put in simplest terms, he was great. Leonard made three of his three, three point attempts and came out just as the Spurs needed.
At the end of the third quarter, the Spurs had made a statement by driving to the basket, Leonard going off for 16 points in the first, Chalmers and Cole not showing up, Lebron playing great (14 points in first quarter, but can't lead team alone), and the Spurs having the 2nd greatest FG% quarter in the NBA Finals. The Spurs walked out of the first quarter with a 41-25 lead. The Spurs were on pace for 164 points!
My biggest questions going into the 2nd quarter were, "Will Wade, Bosh, Chalmers, or Cole show up and help Lebron?" And: "Will the Spurs MISS!?"
In the second quarter, the game was absolutely no different as the Spurs continued their great offense, and the Heat's non-Lebron players struggling. The Spurs were passing the ball with no hesitation (Finished half with 15 assists compared to Heat's 11 assists) and had the greatest offensive performance I had ever seen. Halfway through the second quarter, the Spurs were shooting 90%! NINETY PERCENT! To put in perspective, the Spurs went from the 5:05 mark in the first quarter to the 6:23 mark without missing!
On the other end, the Heat were committing turnover after turnover, as the Heat started out the second quarter with 4 of 6 possessions ending with turnovers. The question that was revolving around the world continued: "Can Lebron single handily win the Finals, or will the other big three/role players have to show up?" At the point where San Antonio was up by 20, Lebron had 16 points, while Bosh and Wade had 4 points.
The Heat actually did make a stint where they were close to making it a game a little past the 6 minute mark. Rashard Lewis made three straight three pointers, Allen made a three, Wade hit a jumper, and the American Airlines Arena was getting back into the game. The Heat were within 14 points and looking to cut the lead even more.
However, as the Heat played well on offense, the Spurs more than matched them as they played out of their mind. After Ray Allen made a three to cut the lead to 14 points, the Spurs went on a 7-0 run with all three buckets coming off of assists from three different players.
At the end of the half, the Heat weren't playing terrible (55% from floor), but the Spurs were shooting (75.8%) the greatest field goal percentage in an NBA Finals half of all time. The Spurs were playing the greatest team basketball I have ever seen. Although, the Spurs did have their role players (And everyone else) show up and give a needed performance, while Chalmers, Wade (5 turnovers at half), and Bosh did not step up (Chalmers with 0 points, Wade and Bosh with 6, Lebron with 16!) The only reason the game was only 71-50 was for the Heat's three point shooters and Lebron.
At halftime, I was in wonder of what Erik Spoelstra would say to his team: "There's always game four?" "Fight back?" Well, as we all guessed, he told his team to not give up. However, unlike most coaches, he is a real motivator who doesn't give cheesy speeches. At half he said, "We don't have to make a 20 point play. Cut in half and take it slowly. Will it be easy? NO WE'RE IN THE FINALS."
In the beginning of the third quarter, the Heat lived by that statement. The other part of the big three showed up to help out as Wade and Bosh scored the first 6 points of the first half. From there, the Heat's big three took over on offense. Wade, Bosh, and Lebron scored 12 of the 14 points in the first 6 minutes, and got two wide open three's in a row. The three's could have cut the lead to single digits, but instead, Wade and Chalmers both missed and the Heat could only cut the lead to 13 points.
Then Lebron came out, and it looked like the Heat had lost their best chance of coming back. Remember that important question the entire series? "Can Lebron win on his own? Will his teammates step up?"
Well, in cutting the lead to single digits, the answer was yes. Dwyane Wade and the role players led his team on a 10-0 run, and cut the lead to 7 points! It felt like a minute ago that the Spurs were up by 21 points! However, in the third quarter, the Spurs offense was thwarted by the Heat by only scoring 15 points compared to 71 in the first half!
Going into the fourth quarter, the Spurs had spread the lead back to 11 points (86-75), but the Heat had still cut the lead in half (Close Enough) and had momentum.
In the fourth quarter, the game went back and forth for the first 6 minutes as the Heat were able to cut the lead to 10, but at the 6:00 mark, the Heat were down 98-84. In the 6 minutes, there was one man responsible for containing the Heat - Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard was playing perfect defense on Lebron, as Lebron only scored 4 points, and had 4 turnovers in the 4th quarter. Lebron seemed to be Leonard's puppet, and on the offensive side, the story was no different. Leonard scored 9 points in the fourth and actually out-scored Lebron 29-22 by the end of the game!
Leonard's 6 points, causing 3 turnovers on Lebron in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter was the nail coffin for Miami. Lebron was static, the Spurs had a closer, and the Spurs went up by 18 with 5 minutes left in the game.
At the end of the day, Kawhi Leonard was the X Factor for the Spurs. He was their leading scorer (29), ultimate defender in shutting down Lebron, and was the catalyst with Green in starting the Spurs giant lead in the first half. Not to mention, he closed out the game with shutting down Lebron and scoring 4 points in the 4th quarter. The Spurs will be heading into game four after a great 111-92 win!
Now, the questions heading into game four are: "Can the Spurs continue their great offense" And: "Will Lebron and the Heat respond in game four?"