The San Antonio Spurs let the 2013 NBA Championship literally slip out their hands. They were 26 seconds from a title last season but blew a five-point lead with 28.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 6. They did not forget about that and it left a bad taste in their mouth. They started the 2014 season with the primary focus on getting back to the Finals and a secondary focus on beating the team that stole the trophy away from them last year that was the Miami Heat. The Spurs got what they wished for and they are showing that this is the “payback” series.
The Spurs ran another basketball clinic during Game 4 Thursday night and showed NBA fans that the best team can beat a team with the best player. San Antonio accomplished the fourth largest road win in league history with the 21-point drubbing of the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena with a 107-86 victory to open a commanding 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard is a quiet person but when he’s on the hardwood court he is a beast and a problem for any opponent and he was a ferocious creature once again in Game 4 by accumulating 20 points, 14 rebounds, three steals, three blocks, and three assists; the only other players who accumulated these numbers are his teammate Tim Duncan and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
Leonard had another great performance, but the Spurs as a whole gave a total team effort Thursday night. They played with offensive harmony, and the Spurs made 11 of their first 18 shots, grabbing an early lead that that extended to 31-17 with 10:24 left in the second quarter.
“I’m pleased that they performed as well as they did while we’ve been in Miami, and that’s about as far it goes,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Now, we’ve got to go back home and play as well or better.”
The Spurs ball movement had the Heat scrambling to defend open shooters. Nine Spurs scored in the first half, and it was too difficult for the Heat to cover Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker (19 points), Boris Diaw (eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists) and Patty Mills (14 points).
Another key note is the Spurs won the last two games without major scoring production from Tim Duncan (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Manu Ginobili (seven points). Duncan made two NBA Finals milestones during Game 4; he passed Earvin “Magic” Johnson for most career playoff double-doubles and passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most minutes played.
The Miami Heat came into the Finals with a perfect 8-0 home record, they are 8-2 and just one loss away from elimination. The Spurs snapped the Heat’s 48 game streak where they had lost back-to-back in the postseason, third largest in NBA history.
In a game the Heat needed, they were again outworked and out-hustled. Even after Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called a painful video review of Game 3, the Heat were not any better in Game 4. Many of the same issues from the last game were a problem in this game: inability to stop the Spurs’ offense or break down their defense.
The Spurs can win their fifth NBA championship with a victory at home in Game 5 on Sunday and avenge their seven-game loss to Miami last year. They have three chances, but they might need only one game. The Miami Heat will have to make the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to complete the three-peat. Which team do you think will reach their goal?