The San Antonio Spurs shoot an NBA Finals record 75.8 percent in the first half, defeating the Miami Heat 111-91 and taking a 2-1 series lead.
Before tip-off, Miami had won 11 straight playoff games at home – a franchise record.
Kawhi Leonard had a career night (regular season and playoffs) for the Spurs, dropping 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting (3-of-6 3FG), four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
LeBron James finished with 22 points (9-of-14 FG), five rebounds, seven assists, five steals and seven turnovers.
James is the only player throughout the last thirty seasons to score at least 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals in an NBA finals game and not be triumphant. Just five other players have recorded those statistics, and they all won: Rajon Rondo (2008), Allen Iverson (2001), Michael Jordan (1993) and Scottie Pippen (1991).
Both teams were aggressive early as they combined for a perfect 9-of-9 FG to start the game.
Leonard, who was in grade one when Tim Duncan won his first championship, had been criticised for his performances throughout games one and two after having a total of just 18 points. He attacked on his first two possessions, however, scoring twice; that was followed by a breakaway dunk and a three-pointer.
With six minutes remaining in the first, the Spurs went on a 14-2 run and took a 22-10 lead. But 12 straight points from James kept Miami alive. None better than this ferocious and-one dunk:
The Spurs kept their advantage through Danny Green, who had 6 points, 3-of-3 FG, two assists, and two steals at the halfway point of the first. He would finish the game with five steals.
In the opening quarter it was all Leonard’s and Danny Green’s input that drove San Antonio to an NBA finals record for shooting percentage in a single period. The Spurs shot 13-of-15 from the floor while going 100 per cent from beyond the arc.
Leonard was perfect after one with 16 points, including 3-of-3 from three-point land.
It wasn’t like Miami was shooting poorly; they finished the quarter hitting 10-of-19 at 52.6 per cent.
That was no thanks to Mario Chalmers, however, who recorded a measly two points, missing all five shot attempts and contributing three turnovers.
In the second period the Spurs kept their foot on the pedal through a dose of Australian Patty Mills. Mills laid on a nice assist and nailed a transition three to enhance the Spurs’ lead.
The Spurs’ hot shooting continued, and they didn’t miss a field goal for nine straight minutes, succeeding in hitting 19 of their first 22 shots.
The lead reached a game-high 25 points, and again it was up to LeBron to try and get his side back in the contest. James helped shave off seven points as he went down low and muscled his way in for a bucket, found Rashard Lewis for a corner three, and dished out a pretty dime to give Chris Bosh an open dunk.
Lewis was 3-of-4 from downtown in the second quarter and reached double figures for the fifth straight playoff game.
Spurs 71: 25-33 FG (75.7%), 7-10 3FG (70%), 14-17 FT (82.4%), 5 turnovers.
Leonard: 18 points, 6-7 FG (3-4 3FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.
Miami 50: 19-34 FG (55.9%), 7-14 3FG (50%), 5-7 FT (71.4%), 10 turnovers.
James: 16 points, 6-9 FG (2-3 3FG), 3 rebounds and 5 assists.
The Spurs’ 21 points is the largest half time lead by a road team in finals history.
The Heat started off the third quarter with James guarding Parker on the defensive end.
But it was offensive clout they needed. They began perfectly, cutting the gap to 15 points in just 46 seconds – a Dwyane Wade three-point play followed by a straight-on Chris Bosh three.
Miami was in the penalty with 6:21 left in the game and trading buckets wasn’t going to cut it.
Heat fans still haven’t learned their lesson from Game 6 of last season’s finals and began to file out with three-and-a-half minutes on the clock.
But this time around, no one was complaining about not being allowed back in.
Chris Bosh has 12 touches, took just four shot attempts all night and scored nine points.
Miami are down 2-1 – but the reigning champs were in the same situation last finals. Will the new 2-2-1-1-1 format disrupt them?
Game 4 is in Miami on Friday, 11:00am (AEST).
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