The San Antonio Spurs are often praised for their efficiency and consistency. The first half of Game 3 of the NBA Finals served as a prime example as to why they are often associated with such terms. The Spurs walked into the American Airlines Arena with no regard for human life. They were simply unconscious from the floor. Their performance was savagely – in a good type of way – as they completely embarrassed the defending champions on their own court. The Spurs set an NBA Finals record with their 76% shooting from the floor in the first half. If that isn’t efficient enough, try the first quarter when they broke another NBA Finals record. The Spurs shot 13-15 in the first quarter, setting an NBA Finals record with their 87% (!!!!) shooting, scoring 41 points heading into the second quarter. Amazing? Try unfair. At halftime, the Spurs led 71-50, with the height of their dominance coming at a 55-30 lead in the second quarter. The Spurs absolutely dominated Miami in the first half, or did they?
First things first, we should all take a second to appreciate what we saw: we witnessed history before our eyes. The Spurs always dazzle true basketball enthusiasts with their beautifully flowing, ball-moving, unselfish basketball. However, that first half of basketball took things to another level. While the average basketball fan feels an adrenaline rush after alley-oops and crossovers, the more sophisticated fans find a sort of merriment in watching San Antonio orchestrate their offense. That first half of basketball was nothing short of spectacular, and we should all take the time to appreciate the performance the Spurs put on.
However, while the Spurs played phenomenally well, the Heat didn’t play too poorly. In fact, they had 50 points heading into the half. While it’s not the greatest point total after two quarters, it surely isn’t a bad amount after 24 minutes of basketball. Now, the obvious fan will point to Miami’s “horrific” defense in the first half. Let’s clear something up: Miami did not play horrific defense in the first half; San Antonio was just lights-out. They surely didn’t play great defense, but it was by no means their worst defensive half of basketball. They gave up a few open layups here and there, but San Antonio did a great job of doing the unthinkable. The Spurs got to the line, everybody hit their shots (including threes), and everybody was in sync. The Spurs put on the most unique offensive performance in the first half in NBA Finals history; they did set an NBA record, didn’t they?
The second half was a totally different story. After scoring a massive 71 points in the first half, they scored just 40 points in the second half – less than what they scored in the first quarter alone. In the third quarter, they scored a measly 15 points. Miami’s defense did not elevate to a new level in the third. San Antonio just couldn’t buy a bucket, and they were not getting the calls they got in the first half. In many ways, Miami’s defense in the second half was almost identical to their defense in the first half, although slightly better. The only difference in the second half was that San Antonio was not shooting nearly as efficient, and they were not getting the same calls. Offensively, Miami played just as well as they had in the previous two quarters, scoring the same 25 points they scored in the first and second quarter.
Overall, Miami could have used more production out of Chris Bosh (9 points on 4-4 shooting), and even out of LeBron James who was outscored by Kawhi Leonard [who had a career-high 29 points]. However, for the most part, Miami played a very solid and consistent game. It was their consistency that brought them within single digits in the second half. That being said, was San Antonio’s first half dominance just impressive or was it concerning as well? The likelihood of the Spurs ever shooting like that ever again is extremely low and improbable. Despite their dominance, Miami had a chance to win the game in the second half. While we were all in shock about the first half, we all knew San Antonio would cool down sooner than later. The second they did, the Heat got themselves back into the ballgame.
Moving forward, you have to wonder what it will take for San Antonio to get a win. Their first win in the series came in a game where LeBron had to sit out of the last 3 minutes because of cramps. We’re not going to sit here and play the what if game, but Miami could have very easily won that game if LeBron had not cramped up. Now looking ahead to Game 3, San Antonio needed to play a nearly perfect half of basketball to assure a win. The biggest concern San Antonio should have is that defense wins championships.
Traditional blowouts, at least at the half, are 54-30, or something of that nature. The key component in such blowouts is defense. Dominant teams lock down their opponents and hold them to below the average amount of points. However, Game 3 was a different story. That was an unconventional blowout that is typically done by streaky teams; it was the type of blowout the Trail Blazers, Rockets, or Knicks are capable of. You must be thinking, “there are different types of blowouts?” Well, there are. Simply put, there's offensive domination and defensive domination. Statistically, one is extremely harder to do than the other, and that’s the offensive one. While seemingly more impressive, it’s also a lot harder to do consistently. In the playoffs, it’s all about defense. It’s for that reason that Portland is gone, Houston is gone, and New York didn’t even make it. It’s also for that reason that San Antonio has made it this far (as well as Miami). San Antonio’s first half dominance was reminiscent of the Rockets’ dominant half against the Thunder in the regular season in January. Houston scored 73 points in the first half; while not nearly as efficient as the Spurs, it was still extremely impressive. In the second half, they fell flat on their faces and scored just 19 points (eventually losing the game).
Although the Spurs’ weathered the storm in the second half, they still suffered a downfall. We should all appreciate the greatness we witnessed. But moving forward, what will it take for San Antonio to win their next game? We surely won’t see another performance like that in this series. While they were known for their great defensive domination coming into the series, those aren’t as easy to have when you’re playing against the defending champions led by the best player on the planet. At the end of the day, we are talking about arguably the greatest franchise of the last decade. Undoubtedly, Popovich will figure out a way for San Antonio to get at least another win out of his team, but will it be enough? Miami seems a bit fatigued, but can you blame them? The Big Three are now in their fourth straight NBA Finals; add to that their playing time on the national team. The Big Three have basically played an entire season more than their fellow 2003 Draft class peers. However, with timely rest days between the remaining games of the series, it could be just enough to get them over the hump and land them their third NBA title together.