Spurs on brink of title after blowing out Heat in Game 4 of NBA Finals
MIAMI -- The miracle the Miami Heat pulled off in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals will have nothing on this if they end the season with another championship.
They are going to need more than a Ray Allen desperation 3-pointer to extend this series.
A whole lot more.
The San Antonio Spurs continued making the Heat look confused on the defensive end in a 107-86 victory Thursday in Game 4 of the NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Spurs hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, putting the Heat on the brink of elimination.
The Heat will have to win Game 5 at AT&T Center in San Antonio to keep hope alive for a third straight title.
Judging by the last two games, that won't be easy. They have lost consecutive playoff games for the first time since falling three straight times against the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.
It took perhaps LeBron James' best playoff game to prolong that series. It will likely take a similar effort this time around -- on the road, too -- especially with James not getting much help. He scored a game-high 28 points, but All-Star teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were no-shows.
They finished with just 12 and 10 points on 8-of-24 shooting, not nearly enough against the balanced Spurs. Kawhi Leonard led four Spurs in double-figures with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
The Western Conference champs appear to have things in control, with the franchise's fifth title within reach. The Heat grabbed a 2-0 lead on a layup by center Chris Bosh.
From there, it was all Spurs.
They led by 19 at halftime and handled the Heat's best punch early in the third quarter. An energized James tried to rally his team by scoring eight of the Heat's first 10 points of the second half. His layup with 7 minutes, 56 seconds remaining pulled Miami to within 61-48. The outburst prompted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout.
It was just the break San Antonio needed.
Tim Duncan hit a bank shot after the timeout and Boris Diaw then made one of two free throws. After the struggling Wade missed a layup, Leonard hit a jumper. Wade committed a turnover on the Heat's next possession, leading to a Diaw layup.
The 7-0 run pushed the lead back to 20, all but ending any hopes of a Heat comeback. A Duncan slam dunk less than a minute later assured there would be no split of the two games in Miami.
Now, the Heat must regroup and find a remedy for their defensive struggles in the series. It was the second straight game they had no answer for the Spurs. In Game 3, they put up record-worthy offensive numbers in points scored in a quarter and field goal percentage.
The teams had a day of practice in between, but the game played out like a rerun.
The first half looked like a carbon-copy from two nights ago. The Spurs once again got off to a fast start. It wasn't quite the ridiculous 76 percent they shot from the field in Game 3, but close. The Spurs did what they wanted against a Heat team supposedly built on defense.
The ball movement issues San Antonio had late in Game 2 seemed like a distant memory. The Heat had all sorts of difficulty keeping pace, with many of the Spurs possessions lasting 15-18 seconds. The constant running eventually wore down Miami, allowing the Spurs several easy scoring opportunities.
The Heat trailed by double-digits most of the half. An Allen 3-pointer pulled them to within 37-28 at the 6:23 mark of the second quarter. All that appeared to do was anger the Spurs. It sparked a 9-0 run by San Antonio, with four different players scoring during the spurt.
The lead swelled to 20 when guard Patty Mills hit a 3-pointer to make it 53-33. The crowd was then completely taken out of the game when Leonard finished with a put-back slam. Not even a shot-clock beating 3-pointer from James could bring life to the arena, which began to empty with five minutes remaining.