Tim Duncan had his record 158th playoff double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard had one of his own with 20 points and 14 rebounds to propel the San Antonio Spurs to a 107-86 win over the Miami Heat last night at American Airlines Arena. It was the second consecutive double-digit victory for the Spurs, who have now beaten Miami by a combined 40 points on Miami's home floor. San Antonio now leads the Finals series, 3-1, and could take the title with a win back home in Texas on Sunday.
Words like "machine," "clinical," and "systematic" have regularly been applied to the Spurs' approach to the Heat's star-studded lineup, and last night was no exception. San Antonio shot a solid 57% from the floor, and that helped them to a 31-17 lead with just under ten and a half minutes left in the second quarter. The Spurs have always specialized in rapid-fire and precision ball movement, and last night's game was no exception. Unselfish play paid dividends for San Antonio, who also got 19 points from Tony Parker; 14 points (including four 3-pointers) from reserve guard Patty Mills; and eight points, nine rebounds, and nine assists from reserve forward Boris Diaw. San Antonio also nearly doubled up Miami in their number of assists (25-13).
The key to the Spurs' wins in the past two games has been getting off to a fast start and never letting Miami back in. With just over a minute remaining in the first half, San Antonio led by 22 points (55-33), and never allowing the Heat go on a scoring run of their own. In doing so, San Antonio appears resolved to not repeat last year's tough Game 6 loss against Miami - blowing a five-point lead with only 26 seconds remaining, to lose the title. The Heat's LeBron James, though he finished with 28 points, got little help from his teammates; Dwyane Wade was only 1-10 from the floor and finished with 10 points.
The Spurs, coming off a record-setting game-three victory in which they hit 76% of their field goals in the first half (including 16 points by Kawhi Leonard in the first period alone), knew they would have to tighten up their defenses on the Heat, and James in particular. Leonard's guarding of James was stellar in Game 3, causing him to give up the ball seven times while scoring "only" 22 points, and that smothering continued in Game 4, where Miami as a team only shot 35% from the floor in the first half. San Antonio also kept the Heat away from the boards last night, grabbing 44 rebounds to Miami's 27, as well as blocking four Heat shots.
The Spurs also have apparently rebounded from their uncharacteristically poor foul shooting in Game 2, getting to the line for 25 shots and making 18 (72%), whereas Miami only hit 13 free-throws on 20 chances. But San Antonio's post-game attitude was respectful of the Heat's resilience, tempered certainly by that Game-6 loss from a year ago. Gregg Popovich, the Spurs' coach, said his team had to play just as well if not better to get the last win, and Tony Parker echoed that, saying he was fully concentrated on getting that last win – that Miami's a great team and has earned the respect they receive. Now "machines" can sometimes break down, but not often. If the Spurs want to prevail and prevent Miami's third ring in as many seasons, they will have to be well-oiled and firing on all cylinders on Sunday.