NBA News Wire

Fast starts, team effort lead Spurs to brink of title

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
We sometimes use affiliate links in our content, when clicking on those we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you. By using this website you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

MIAMI — Maybe it was forward Boris Diaw’s behind-the-back pass that led to a dunk by center Tiago Splitter.

Or maybe it was guard Manu Ginobili’s surprising blocked shot on Miami Heat forward LeBron James.

Or perhaps it was forward Kawhi Leonard’s two-handed, all-in-one-motion rebound/dunk.

Actually, they were all good examples of another surreal first half at AmericanAirlines Arena that helped result in the San Antonio Spurs’ 107-86 win over the Heat on Thursday night.

The victory gave the Spurs a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, moving San Antonio within one win of its fifth league championship since 1999.

It also put the Heat’s chances of a three-peat in dire jeopardy because no team ever came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.

The fact that the Spurs took both games in Miami this week by a combined total of 40 points shocked everyone — including San Antonio’s players.

“Coming to Miami, I was expecting to get one of these two games,” Ginobili said. “I always believed in our team’s chances. But two like this? I never expected it.”

San Antonio’s two wins in three days followed nearly identical scripts — the Spurs essentially put both games away by halftime. They led by 21 at intermission on Tuesday and by 19 on Thursday.

Breaking it down even further, the Spurs have outscored the Heat by a combined total of 38 points in the first quarters of the four games.

“We have to get off to a better start the next game,” Heat point guard Mario Chalmers said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Of course, Chalmers represents one of the Heat’s biggest problems. He averaged 9.8 points during the regular season, but he is producing just 3.5 points on 27 percent shooting during the Finals.

Chalmers, 28, is a free agent after this season, and he appears to be playing his way off the Heat because of the way that he and backup Norris Cole are getting dominated by Spurs starter Tony Parker and reserve Patty Mills.

Parker and Mills are a combined plus-53 in this series so far.

Chambers and Cole are a combined minus-37.

The Spurs’ point guards also have outscored their Heat counterparts 108-28 in the series.

Given that, perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Heat players were booed at home Thursday.

“Life is harsh,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “You have to get over those things quickly. Maybe (the fans) are right. Maybe we deserve (the boos) right now.”

The Spurs are a big part of why the catcalls are coming down on a tough-minded Heat team that is playing in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive year.

On Thursday, San Antonio kept the Heat from penetrating, winning the points-in-the-paint battle 46-30. San Antonio outrebounded Miami 44-27, including 12-6 on the offensive end.

The Spurs also held Miami to 45.1 percent shooting. That is important because the Heat led the NBA in field-goal percentage during the regular season (.501) and again in the postseason (.496).

In addition, the Spurs avoided the Heat’s trademark defensive traps by using outstanding ball movement.

San Antonio’s goal, Ginobili said, was to get rid of the ball in three seconds or less.

“When we move the ball, we’re going to get open looks,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “Defenses have to scramble, and there’s a good chance they’re going to make a mistake. Someone’s going to be open.”

Leonard was open a lot lately — he scored a combined 49 points in the past two games after managing just 18 in the first pair.

“Many of our plays just come naturally,” Splitter said. “We practice and go over plays, but many others are based on skill and talent.”

Actually, Splitter’s biggest contribution in this series was moving to the bench, which Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ordered so he could start Diaw.

The Spurs are 2-0 since that lineup change, and Diaw nearly had a triple-double Thursday, when he finished with eight points, nine rebounds and a game-high nine assists.

“Implementing Diaw into the lineup has given them (essentially) another point guard on the floor,” James said. “So with Manu, Tony, Diaw and Mills, they can have basically four point guards on the floor at once. All of them are live and can make plays. It’s a challenge.”

The only problem for the Spurs right now is that they will have to wait until Sunday night in San Antonio to play again, and that game could be their coronation.

“The way we are playing,” Splitter said, “we would love to play Game 5 right now.”

Ginobili said the Spurs have “three possibilities” to win the title.

“But we are only thinking of one — the next one,” he said. “Until we win that one, you can’t be satisfied.”

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

Trending Now