San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was a non-factor in the first two games of the 2014 NBA Finals, but Leonard put his stamp on the series with a dominating performance in game three.
Leonard was aggressive all night as he worked his way to a career performance. Leonard put together the best shooting performance of his NBA career Tuesday night, shooting 10-13 from the field and finishing with 29 points, leading the Spurs to a 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat.
“(Leonard) was just himself,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s how he’s played all year long. He’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough, that’s just the way it is.”
While Leonard was fantastic, the Spurs team play was phenomenal. San Antonio shot a historic 25-33 in the first half, building a 20-point lead by halftime.
But Miami wasn’t ready to give up. The Heat put on a furious rally in the third quarter, led by guard Dwyane Wade, cutting the Spurs lead to seven. While Miami continued to battle, it couldn’t find a way to overcome San Antonio’s historic performance in the half. With the Heat loss, their perfect home record in the playoffs was ruined.
“They were very aggressive, and we didn’t match that,” Miami forward LeBron James said. “They came in with a desperation that we just didn’t match. Just because it’s our fourth final doesn’t mean anything. That don’t guarantee a win.”
James was sensational in game two, but was less effective in game three as San Antonio found a way to disrupt his rhythm. Once the Spurs were able to get James off his game, the rest of the Miami offense struggled.
Now Miami must focus on getting back in the series before they head back to San Antonio.
"The problem is we are down 2-1. That's the problem,” Wade said. “We have to figure out how to even it up."
The Heat will get a chance to tie it up in game four, which occurs 8 p.m. Thursday in Miami.