“I mean, they smashed us,” said Heat forward LeBron James Thursday after his team was defeated 107-86 in Game 4. “Two straight home games, got off to awful starts. They came in and were much better than us in these two games. It’s just that simple.”
Kawhi Leonard once again led the Spurs across the board, with 20 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and three blocks, but it was a total team effort by San Antonio on both sides of the ball. On offense, four Spurs players scored in double-figures, while all 13 who played in the game scored at least two points. Defensively, outside of LeBron James scoring 28 points, the Spurs held the other Heat members in check, while only allowing Miami to score more than 21 points in one quarter.
In consecutive years, the Spurs are now one win away from their 5th NBA Championship in franchise history, only this year, San Antonio is heading home with a 3-1 series lead in Game 5 Sunday. Here were some notes on the defense, offense, Leonard, and Tim Duncan’s record breaking night.
The Spurs’ Defense
Outside of the fourth quarter, where the game had already been decided, the Spurs’ defense clamped down on the Heat, holding Miami to quarters of 17-19-21 points. On their home floor, Miami was held to 45% shooting, and they turned the ball over 13 times. By the SportVU data, San Antonio’s defense contested 61% of the Heat’s shots on the night.
By James’ shot chart, he only attempted five shots in the paint. The Spurs’ defensive scheme continued to thrive with Boris Diaw starting once more, as San Antonio would switch on a majority of Miami’s pick-and-rolls, and continue to close out on the Heat 3-point shooters.
James finished 10-of-17 shooting, but his two other key members, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, didn’t provide support, as they scored a combined 22 points, but needed 24 shots for those points.
The Spurs’ Offense
“They’re doing a very good job of starting fast; not only starting fast, but they’re hitting their shots and getting to the basket, getting to the free throw line,” said Heat forward Chris Bosh after the game. “They’re pretty much getting everything they want.”
The Spurs once more opened up with a strong first half, as they outscored Miami 26-17 in the first 12 minutes From there, San Antonio took the second quarter 29-19. Tony Parker finished with 19 points, Patty Mills 14 points, including shooting 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and Duncan 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Spurs shot 57% on the night, made nine 3-pointers, and eight of their 13 players scored six or more points in the win. By SportVU data, San Antonio threw 113 more passes than Miami, and 51% of the Spurs’ shots were uncontested. By the second quarter, the Heat were already looking tired. After the game, SportVU’s data showed the Spurs almost outran Miami by a whole mile. San Antonio charted 17.1 miles as a team, while Miami ran 16.3.
On Leonard’s performance
Though Leonard didn’t score 29 points again, he continued to stay aggressive on both sides of the floor, as he shot 7-of-12 from the field, and shot six free throws. He was able to stay out of foul trouble again, with just three fouls, as he tallied 39 minutes on the night.
In Game 3 & 4, the Heat were outscored by 31.9 points per 100 possessions, and they turned the ball over 20.2% of the time, with Leonard on the floor. For the series, the Heat are being outscored by 20.0 points per 100 possessions when Leonard is on the floor, and turning the ball over 20.8% of the time. Leonard has the 3rd highest Net Rating for the Spurs’ core players in the series, behind Manu Ginobili (33.0) and Diaw (24.5).
Through four games, Leonard is second to Parker (18.5 points) in scoring on the Spurs at 16.8 points per game. However, Leonard is also averaging 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks, all while shooting 59% from the field in the series. After the game, Leonard had another 1-on-1 interview with ESPN’s Stuart Scott, and once more gave a “Kawhi” answer to a question (H/T @jollyrogerwilco)
Duncan breaks two playoff records
In scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, Duncan broke Magic Johnson’s playoff record for most double-doubles in the playoffs, with 158. While playing his 30:45 minutes Thursday, Duncan also set the playoff record for most playoff minutes played.
Abdul Jabbar logged 8,851 minutes in 237 playoff games. Duncan broke the record in four fewer games and has now played 8,870 minutes.
When asked after the game if he thought Duncan would reflect on breaking the two records, Popovich simply had this answer:
“I can assure you he doesn’t care.”
For the series, Duncan is averaging 15.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, while 58.5% from the floor. Duncan has the fourth highest Net Rating for San Antonio’s core players at 16.7 points per 100 possessions in the series.
(Statistics via NBA.com, SportVU)