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NBA Finals 2014 blog, Game 3 (Leonard lifts Spurs past Miami)

San Antonio Spurs simply couldn’t miss from the field as they took their talents to Miami and defeated the Heat 111-92 to take a 2-1 lead in the 2014 NBA Finals.

The Spurs were in attack mode early and raced to a 41-25 lead after the first quarter, en route to shooting 76 percent from the field in the first half alone.

Miami fought back as they obeyed coach Erik Spoelstra’s advice of trying to cut the lead bit-by-bit as the third quarter. The Heat cut the 71-50 half-time deficit to just seven points at one stage in the third period but San Antonio finished strong and broke away again in the final 12 minutes to seal a vital road win, and end the Heat’s unbeaten run at home in the post-season at 8 games. The last team to beat Miami at home: San Antonio in last year’s NBA Finals, Game 1.

Kawhi Leonard put in the game of his life by posting a career high 29 points to lead the Spurs. But it was his plays away from scoring that demands respect. His defence on LeBron James and his quick hands, which made it difficult for Miami to run a set, were a massive help to the Spurs.

James and Dwayne Wade both top scored for the Heat with 22 points.

WHAT DECIDED THE GAME?

Isn’t it obvious?

SAN ANTONIO SCORED 41 POINTS IN THE FIRST QUARTER and at times you had to just double check to see if weren’t actually playing NBA 2K14. The Spurs were on a level of shooting never before seen in the NBA. The Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots including shots from behind the arc.

Miami though are a little guilty as the defence was very suspect, especially James’ handling of Leonard. LeBron gave Leonard way too much room to catch, set his feet and release.

“I don’t think we’ll ever shoot 76 percent in a half ever again,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

If they do shoot like that though, this series will be over by the time the series heads back to Texas on Sunday for Game 5.

KAWHI LEONARD had the game of his life, and having the game of your life in the NBA Finals says something about your confidence and how well you know your role within your squad.

The 2014 NBA Finals was labelled as a series for Kawhi Leonard to show himself to be a true front-runner in this San Antonio team, 22-year-old Leonard is no doubt the future of the franchise and while he has shown what he is capable of in the NBA, many feel that he hasn’t reached his potential yet.

This 29-point performance, including a highlight poster on Chris “Birdman” Andersen will go a long way to show the world and more specifically the NBA what he is able of.

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THE BATTLE OF THE POINT GUARDS was a key match up before this series began as stopping Tony Parker’s production would be a key to the Heat’s success. But as the series has reached its three-game birthday, the gulf in class between Parker and Mario Chalmers gets wider and wider.

Game 3 highlighted this point more than ever. Parker didn’t shoot the ball very well, and was foul-prone but he still went for 15 points. Chalmers’ only two points came from the foul line in a 22 minute period where you didn’t even realise that he was on the court.

Sure Miami’s main source of attack stems from James with Wade and Chris Bosh providing the support. But it’s a point guard’s job to orchestrate and provide that source of attack for James and support for Wade/Bosh. Norris Cole played 18 minutes and contributed more than Chalmers did. Cole had more confidence and better awareness in him to play the role whereas Rio looked lost.

Cole to run the point as a starter in Game 4?

BORIS DIAW STARTING was one of those little things that made all the difference. Nothing against Tiago Splitter, as he has played his part so far, but having Diaw in the starting line-up gave the Spurs a fresh look about them and it disturbed Miami’s defensive planning.

Spoelstra to start Cole in Game 4 to throw a curveball right back? Gotta be done.

INTERNATIONAL WATCH

France’s Tony Parker wasn’t firing on all cylinders as he went just 4/10 from the field but with Kawhi Leonard playing alongside you … who cares? Parker went for 15 points.

Parker’s French team-mate, Boris Diaw only scored 9 points, but out of all 13 Spurs players, amassed the highest index rating due to his energy and intelligence on the court. With his 9 points, he added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block.

Argentina’s Manu Ginobili quietly went about his business but ended the night with solid numbers. He scored 11 points in 27 minutes, off his usual spot off the bench.

Australia’s Patty Mills played 15 minutes and had 5 points to show for it, but added 4 assists and a steal to his statline in a solid showing.

Mills’ Aussie team-mate Aron Baynes scored two points off his only field goal attempt in 2 minutes.

Italy’s Marco Belinelli hit a three in just 6 minutes on court.

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