Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard, off to a promising start in his NBA career, faced his first true test of the season, getting the assignment of guarding the talented LeBron James and proving, after all, he is just a rookie.
To say the Spurs
were lost in South Florida might be a bit of a stretch, or understatement, depending on perspective. Their 52-35 lead in the second quarter and 63-49 halftime lead might just as well have been some exotic goddess on South Beach.
After savoring the flavor of that 17-point lead and maybe considering the game could be theirs with just a little effort, the Spurs instead decided to use the second half for watching the LeBron James and Chris Bosh show, front and center, and proceeded to wade into the 22-point rout. Miami outscored San Antonio 72-35 in the final two quarters.
The last San Antonio win of any kind on the road - regular season, postseason or preseason - dates to last year’s April 5 win in Atlanta. Describing his team’s road trip woes, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said, “We suck on the road. We’re really good at home,” MySA
Ending their recent five-game road trip with three straight losses, the Heat began a three-game home stretch, looking for someone to dissect. First up on the sacrificial altar were the Spurs, to be followed by the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, the new face atop the Atlantic Division.
Starting the home stand off with an explosion, the Heat
took control of the game after halftime, outscoring the Spurs 39-12, including 17 from James - recently called
a “once-in-a-generation talent” - in the third quarter.
After the Heat had fashioned a 17-1 run in that decisive third quarter, Popovich finally managed to use a 20-second timeout. By then, the Spurs trailed, 72-68, Miami had all the momentum, and the Spurs had lost all relevance.
A more critical timeout might have occurred when the Heat cut the Spurs lead to nine “There are always a couple moments in a road game where it can be a five- or six-point game, and all of a sudden it’s eight or 10,” Popovich recently told MySA. “You sort of lose your mojo.”
Down by just four, the Spurs could have been down by 30, as they had not only lost mojo, they had lost coaching and any chance, hope or possibility of winning the game.
The timeout did little to stem the tide, with the Heat then scoring six straight, stretching the lead to 78-68, and had put together a stunning 23-1 run.
Leonard finally hit one for the Spurs, making it 78-70, to end a field goal scoring drought of almost seven minutes. For their effort, the Spurs now find themselves with an 0-5 record on the road, with four of the five being blowout losses.
Coming into the game, San Antonio was ranked 24th in field goal defense, the true measure of any basketball team. They did little to protect that ranking, allowing Miami to score easy slams on the inside. Mixed in with those blows, the Heat rained threes on the Spurs’ heads all night long.
The Heat’s Mike Miller shot a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point land, helping the team hit 16-of-26 from beyond the arc.
Coaching miscues weren’t limited to the Spurs, however. With six minutes to go in the fourth, apparently not satisfied with the bloodletting and apparently unaware how poor the Spurs were playing, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra inserted James back into the game.
At that point, Miami was up 105-87. Chalk it up to the festive atmosphere of the home crowd. Forget the fact there’s already one superstar, sitting on the sideline in street clothes, with nagging foot problems.
James finished the game with 33 points and 10 assists, followed by Bosh with 30.
The Spurs now take their road trip woes to Orlando for a Wednesday night match-up in the second game of a back-to-back.