In every murder trial, there is the obligatory run-through of the crime in all its gory detail, and after San Antonio’s consecutive blowouts of Miami in the Heat’s building, an anatomy of two merciless thrashings is in order.
How did San Antonio go to Miami and take two wins by a combined 40 points? The reasons are as various as they are surprising for anyone who believed the Heat would make the series as competitive as the first two games against the Spurs (barring the fourth quarter of Game 1). Here is an anatomy of the double murder that was Games 3 and 4 of the 2014 NBA Finals.
5. San Antonio had the best shooting half in NBA history
In its assault on Miami, San Antonio avoided any buildup and went straight for the kill in Game 3. The Spurs scored 71 point and shot 75.8 percent from the field in the first half, which set a new NBA Finals record. About midway through the second quarter, the Spur were actually shooting 91 percent (19 of 21) from the field. They ended up making 70 percent (7 of 10) of their 3-pointers and shot 77 percent in the paint. Those are better than video game numbers.
Here’s a look at the breakdown:
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) June 11, 2014
Whether contested, wide open, off-balance, or squared up, nearly every shot San Antonio took went through the hoop. It was a marvel of precision passing, ball movement, and (especially) shooting form. Miami had a great first half offensively — putting up 50 points against the tough Spurs defense — but on the night of the first murder, San Antonio’s best defense was its historically great offense.
4. The disappearance of Dwayne Wade
Prosecutors looking for a suspect in the gruesome twin-killing in Miami might have begun by investigating the disappearance of the man known as Flash. Dwayne Wade had been excellent at home for the Heat in the playoffs, but he appeared lazy at times against San Antonio, preferring to stand by while the Spurs launched into their fast breaks after turnovers (Wade turned the ball over five times in Game 3).
In Game 4, Wade began 1-for-10 from the field and finished 3-for-13 with 10 points and four fouls. Matt Moore of CBS Sports described it as one of the worst playoff games in Wade’s career. It was a shocking departure from Wade’s history of championship play.
3. San Antonio put on a passing clinic
The Spurs executed their game plan exquisitely in Games 3 and 4. Coach Gregg Poppovich wants his players to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible to keep the opposing team’s defense in a constant scramble. In Game 4, the Spurs were dazzling in their rapid succession of passes and ended up with 25 assists on 40 made field goals.
Contrast the Spurs’ 25 dimes to the Heat’s 13 assists and you have a simple answer to how the second blowout in Miami took place. San Antonio kept the ball moving so well the team shot 57 percent from the field. Many baskets were easy layups or open 3-pointers that were a result of the “extra pass” that typifies the team’s unselfishness.
2. San Antonio dominated every “hustle” stat
Coaches like to call loose balls and rebounds up for grabs as “50-50 balls,” meaning both teams have an equal shot at getting them. The team that wants the ball more is the one ending up with the ball. In these two Miami romps, the Spurs dominated in every hustle category there is.
San Antonio grabbed more rebounds (29 to Miami’s 26) and steals (12 to Miami’s 8) than the Heat in Game 3. The Spurs forced 20 turnovers and blocked 4 shots. In Game 4, it was a total domination on the glass with San Antonio pulling 44 rebounds to Miami’s 27. Offensive rebounds, the ultimate effort stat, had San Antonio doubling Miami 12 to 6. Unlike the teams who get back on defense to cover the potential Miami fast break, the Spurs hung around the basket and made the Heat pay for poor box-outs. San Antonio simply wanted the ball more.
1. The Heat’s defense lacked toughness
While the Heat have been on this fourth conserutive run to the NBA Finals, the team has played great defense and shown toughness both in the paint (Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen) and at the perimeter (Wade, Norris Cole). There was little of a choesive effort in the two-game torching the Spurs delivered in Games 3 and 4. San Antonio shot 58 percent from the field over those two games — an unthinkable number for a defense as battle-tested as the Heat’s.
In fact, there few of the hard “playoff” fouls you typically see when teams start taking advantage of defenses. San Antonio only shot 25 free throws in Game 4, which featured layup after layup by Spurs players. Rather than sending a message early and often to get the team fired up, Heat players barely contested easy buckets. When they looked up at the scoreboard, they had lost two games on their home court by an average of 20 points per game.
Blame LeBron James? Of course, many will immediately point to the best player on the court for the reason why Miami was bludgeoned at home. That would be simplistic. The Spurs outclassed the Heat in a variety of different ways, and few of them had to do with James. San Antonio pulled off the perfect double murder — and did it right in front of Miami fans’ eyes.