The San Antonio Spurs may have lost this game on the opening tip. Well, not the opening tip, that was a turnover two seconds into the game. No, San Antonio lost the game on one of the first possessions of the game.
That was when Tiago Splitter was matched up with Dwyane Wade – purposefully with Mike Miller in the lineup instead of Udonis Haslem – and the notion perhaps insulted Wade. A series of looking old and stuck on the perimeter for Wade would not do. Not with San Antonio more or less ignoring him with Splitter on him.
Wade drove to the basket and drew a foul. Gregg Popovich recognized Splitter could not hang with that Wade and inserted Gary Neal immediately.
Miami had forced San Antonio to go small. That is typically the first mistake for an opponent going up against the fast-breaking Heat. The small lineup gave the Heat the space to run their motion offense and the ability to attack the boards more aggressively. It enabled them to get into passing lanes and force turnovers and get out on the break.
Wade’s rebirth allowed Miami to tie the series up at 2-2 behind Wade’s 32 points and a 109-93 win at AT&T Center on Thursday.
This is the Dwyane Wade fans expect to see every time they go to the arena, and one that has not been around much this postseason.
San Antonio had answers for much of the night in the form of Gary Neal and Danny Green putting in another stellar shooting performance from beyond the arc. Green scored 10 points, making three of his five 3-pointers, and Neal had 13 points, making three of his four attempts. Tim Duncan scored 20 points to lead the Spurs and Tony Parker added 15 points and nine assists, showing little effect from his sore hamstring.
However, the Spurs could not get much on the inside – only 38 points – or on the offensive glass – five offensive rebounds. The problem multiplied with San Antonio committing 19 turnovers turning into Miami’s 23 points.
Where the Heat were able to find an offensive rhythm and Wade turned back the clock, Manu Ginobili continued to struggle. Ginobili scored five points on 1-for-5 shooting in 26 minutes. San Antonio felt his absence immensely in this one with Wade and Bosh turning in their best games of the series. Not to mention LeBron James’ 33 point performance.
“We definitely need Manu,” Tony Parker said. “Everyone needs to help him to get his confidence back. I am sure he will break out of his slump.”
While Ginobili was struggling to find his rhythm, Wade and James found theirs. That made the Heat much more dangerous. And in the end, like Game Two, Miami eventually pulled away.
The Heat’s ability to score was much more reliable – 50 points in the paint reliable – and much more consistent than the Spurs’ mode of attack. The Spurs could only respond with runs of their own for so long while waiting for the defense to lock down consistently and get the help they needed from Ginobili, Parker and Duncan consistently.
San Antonio has to find a way back into the paint to regain control of this series heading into Game Six.