On Tuesday, the Spurs returned to the location of their greatest heartbreak, where the Miami Heat snatched away what they felt should’ve been a fifth NBA championship with two crushing wins. San Antonio was able to move on from those miserable memories with a few three-pointers and dunks byKawhi Leonard, some unlikely runners by Danny Green, and a record-breaking shooting performance that resulted in a redemptive annihilation.
The Spurs will never be able to go back in time and make up for that disappointment, but they at least took a step toward getting the job done this season with a 111-92 victory that put them ahead two games to one in this best-of-seven series.
They came in with a desperation that we just didn’t match,” LeBron James said of the Spurs.
The team that claims a 2-1 lead after the series was tied at one apiece has gone on to win the Finals 30 of the past 36 times. But the Heat is one of the teams that managed to complete the comeback and claim the championship, as it did last season.
The Spurs won the first game of the series with the benefit of a broken down air conditioning system that successfully “smoked out” James, who was unable to finish after developing leg cramps. In Game 3, San Antonio provided a different kind of oppressive heat, scorching the nets with a record-breaking first half in which it shot 86.7 percent in the first quarter and 75.8 percent in the first half, entering the locker room with a 21-point lead.
Leonard scored a game-high 29 points to lead five Spurs in double figures. Popovich made the first major adjustment of the series, replacing Tiago Splitter in the starting lineup with Boris Diaw. The doughy Diaw gave the Spurs another facilitator and a versatile forward capable of defending and scoring on the perimeter. Popovich complained about the ball “sticking” at times in the second half of Game 2, but the Spurs were able to jump all over the Heat with more space to operate and more ball movement
“That will never happen again,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. “I mean, that’s crazy.”