Prior to last night’s Game 3 between the Spurs and Heat, there hadn’t been a recorded ass whooping this bad since Suge, 2Pac and friends stomped out Orlando Anderson. One had to figure San Antonio would react swinging in their first home playoff game since Game 2 against the Grizzlies. They were embarrassed on national TV the previous contest thanks in part to a 33-5 run highlighted by a LeBron James baptismal block on Tiago Splitter.
Talk about returning the favor, however.
Game 3’s first half was defined by runs which saw the Spurs go up by as much as 11. That lead quickly evaporated thanks in part to sharpshooting from Miami’s “role players.” And I use quotation marks there because Mike Miller was the best player wearing a red jersey last night. No bullsh*t, really, he was.
In what has become a pest for Miami, the Heat surrendered two late three pointers by Tony Parker and Gary Neal turning a tie game into a six-point hole heading into halftime. Then, the second half happened and the only response I found myself repeatedly yelling at the television verbatim was this eloquent quote by Vince Lombardi.
The final 24 minutes proved to be a snowball rolling downhill. Larry Bird and Reggie Miller donned Gary Neal and Danny Green costumes during the intermission and led the charge by netting what seemed like every shot they launched. Neal finished with 24 and Green with 27, and both helped the Spurs set a Finals record with 16 three pointers in all.
Kawhi Leonard continued to be a terror on defense disrupting nearly every set Miami attempted to run with deflections and steals leading to fast breaks. Perhaps the only thing that went wrong for the Spurs was Tony Parker being sidelined with an apparent hamstring injury. He didn’t appear too fazed by the setback Tuesday night, but then again, being up by almost half-a-century helps mask the pain a tad easier.
Parker – who’s scheduled for a MRI today – told Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, “I felt something on my hamstring. Hopefully it’s nothing big and it’s just cramping.” Parker, the subject of an awkward, and equally brilliant tweet from Dick Vitale following his Game 1 winner, finished with six points and eight assists in 27 minutes. And here’s to the discomfort being no more than a cramp, too. The game of basketball deserves to have its best players on the floor on the highest possible stage.
And then there’s Miami. I can’t begin to count the number of messages I’ve received since last night all saying in some context, “He’s choking again! LeBron’s scared of the moment.” James has only six free throw attempts all series and has yet to break 20 points in the same span. Credit a good chunk of that to Leonard not backing down from the challenge, but also Greg Popovich’s overall attention to detail on defense. Yet, at the end of the day, James is a four-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP. Gone is the narrative of “can LeBron receive help from his teammates?” The question the world will drill nonstop from now until tomorrow’s tipoff is whether LeBron will shake a horribly-timed shooting slump to lead his teammates.
Miami, as a whole, must improve rotations on defense and guarding the three point line. But this all falls back on one person, right or wrong, for better or for worse. Game 4 is pivotal not only for Miami to tie the series and avoid falling 3-1. LeBron asserting himself as the one-man demolition derby he’s been basically ever since the lockout ended is as well. Even Danny Green recognizes something isn’t right with his former teammate by saying, “It’s not just us stopping LeBron. He’s stopping himself.”
The summer of 2011 sucked. And unlike those months, James is a completely different and much better player. There’s also nowhere for James to escape to in the summer of 2013 if this series goes to hell in a hand basket either. He and Savannah have a wedding to plan, remember? It’s Bron’s name yet again who’s on the line here. My sanity, too. One way or another we’re going to learn a lot come Thursday night.
Game 3’s Best & Most Hilarious Comments
WEKetchum — “Spurs getting mad XBox achievement awards smh”
Athrin — “Someone get them n*ggas to turn aim assist off. This is wild.”
Petey Wheatstraw – “I wonder who Antoine walker bet on”
Spur – “Did Jordan get blown out by 30+ in a final????”
Green — “This shit is making what happened in Game 2 look like tender, considerate loving.”
Hustle Westbrook — “Tracey morgan ball in [sic] wit them 3s”
Alex — “AND TIM DUNCAN GOES mild.”
Smitty – “What you think of Green’s performance tonight Chad?”
P.S. – Again, much, much, much respect to all who chopped it up with us last night. We’re inching closer and closer to 700 comments.