Leonard helps Spurs seize 2-1 series lead

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jun 11 2014 12:14:33 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 11 2014 02:02:25 AM EDT
NBA, San Antonio Spurs, Tim Duncan

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters


Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs turned things around Tuesday night.

Leonard's career-playoff-high 29 points helped San Antonio roll to a 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena, giving the Spurs a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

San Antonio snapped the Heat's franchise record of 11 consecutive home playoff wins, including eight this season.

Game 4 is set for Thursday night in Miami.

Leonard's performance was in direct contrast to the start of the series, when he was held to nine points in each of the first two games.

Even worse, the forward fouled out Sunday for the first time in his career, and the Spurs dropped Game 2, losing home-court advantage.

On Tuesday, they got the home-court edge back.

"I was in attack mode, trying to be aggressive," Leonard said of his mindset for Game 3. "Just knocking down jump shots got me going. My teammates did a good job getting me the ball.

"We were running the same offense (as earlier in the series). It's just that I didn't get in foul trouble early (this time)."

Leonard made 10 of 13 shots from the floor, including three of six 3-point attempts, and he went 6-for-7 on free throws.

He had 16 points in the first quarter, when the Spurs shot an otherworldly 86.7 percent from the floor. San Antonio shot 75.8 percent for the first half, which set an NBA Finals record for the opening two quarters.

"They jumped on us early," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who had 22 points to tie forward LeBron James for the team's scoring honors. "We dug ourselves a big hole. ... Leonard was very aggressive tonight."

James made nine of 14 shots, including two of four from 3-point range, and he contributed five rebounds and a game-high seven assists.

However, James set a dubious NBA Finals record with seven turnovers.

"That's a new storyline for LeBron," said James, speaking in the third person. "Some of it was over-dribbling the ball at times."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made one change in his starting lineup from the first two games of the series -- forward Boris Diaw took the place of center Tiago Splitter.

"We were able to stretch the floor more," said Splitter, who scored six points. "We always had a shooting '4' on the court. We didn't play with two big guys (at the same time), like me and Timmy (Duncan)."

Diaw, in his first playoff start this season, scored nine points.

Asked how he handled the lineup change, Splitter said: "We won."

Spurs guards Danny Green and Tony Parker had 15 points each, and Duncan added 14 points. However, Green, who made seven of eight shots from the floor, may have had the biggest game for a Spurs player not named Leonard.

Meanwhile, the Heat got 14 points from forward Rashard Lewis and 11 from reserve guard Ray Allen.

Two Heat starters turned in disappointing numbers. Forward Chris Bosh was held to nine points and three rebounds, even though he went 4-for-4 from the floor.

Heat point guard Mario Chalmers had two points and three turnovers, and he shot 0-for-5 from the floor.

"Mario is a big piece of what we do, and we are missing that piece right now," Wade said. "He's our guy. He's our point guard. We are going to continue to give him confidence."

The Heat, who trailed by as many as 25 points, cut the Spurs' lead to 81-74 with 1:59 left in the third quarter. However, San Antonio recovered to take an 86-75 lead into the fourth and rolled from there.

San Antonio played a nearly perfect first quarter, leading 41-25. Leonard shot 5-for-5 from the floor in the opening period, including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, and 3-for-3 on free throws.

The Spurs led 71-50 at halftime, becoming the first team since the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers to score at least 70 points in a half in a playoff game.

It was also the largest halftime lead by a road team in an NBA Finals game since 1996. The Spurs went 10:15 of clock time without missing a shot, bridging the first and second quarters.

Miami shot 55.6 percent for the first half but still trailed by 21 points.

The third quarter was a 25-15 win for the Heat, who dominated on defense. After playing the worst half in franchise history in terms of opponent's shooting percentage, Miami clamped down in the third quarter, holding San Antonio to 31.6 percent.

NOTES: San Antonio is just 4-5 on the road in this year's postseason. ... The Spurs own each of the last two playoff road wins by visiting teams in Miami. They also captured Game 1 of last year's NBA Finals. ... The Heat have won 13 consecutive games after a playoff loss, a streak that will be tested Thursday. ... Entering Tuesday, 6-foot-11 F Chris Bosh led the Heat with 29 3-pointers made in this year's playoffs. In the two games in San Antonio, he averaged 18.0 points on 59.1 percent shooting, including 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. .... In two games in San Antonio, the Heat were plus-11 with F LeBron James on the floor vs. the Spurs. In 26 minutes without James, the Heat were minus-24. However, James finished minus-21 on Tuesday.


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