Sometimes these bad scripts just write themselves. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, much maligned throughout the 2013 playoffs, came to play in Game 4. As a result, the Miami Heat regained home court advantage over the San Antonio Spurs with a win on Thursday night, downing the Western champs by a 109-93 score.
Wade was aggressive throughout, having his way with a switching and too-slow San Antonio defense, creating mismatches and ringing up 32 points on 14-25 shooting. Bosh, as many of us hoped, strayed away from settling for jump shots early and worked to ease into the game; the undersized Miami center starred on defense and ended up finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds Meanwhile, LeBron James was able to pick his spots on his way toward 33 points and 11 boards of his own.
And though San Antonio had its chances in the second half, it could not make up for a lost early advantage (the Spurs led by ten at one point) in the first quarter, and an inability to counter Miami’s quick play on both ends. Worse, the Spurs shot their own chances to pieces with a series of mistakes that championship level teams just can’t make in the second week of June.
The Spurs finished with 18 turnovers, and while Miami’s trapping and talking defense is to be credited several times before admonishing San Antonio for its mistakes, San Antonio telegraphed several passes to the corner and to cutters. Meanwhile, San Antonio missed eight free throws on the evening – a number that doesn’t seem like much to care about in a 16-point Miami win, but this was a one-possession game with 90 seconds left in the third quarter, and San Antonio could have used a nice cushion-y lead to put the fear of a 3-1 series deficit in Miami’s hearts entering the fourth.
Instead, the Spurs stuck with a big lineup, and watched as the Heat rode a worn-out LeBron James and reborn Wade to a furious start to the final period. By the time James sat two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, the Heat were up by seven points, and the attack didn’t stop with James on the bench. Wade dove towards the rim in transition, he took advantage of a sagging Spurs defense off of the screen and roll, and he slowly loped his way towards the rim to use his touch on his way toward his first 30-point game in nearly three and a half months.
The San Antonio turnovers, which led to transition leak outs, led to this end – but the Heat did put an emphasis on getting to the rim even when San Antonio wasn’t tossing the ball away.
Miami took advantage of those easy initial looks after the Spurs coughed it up in the first half and developed a rhythm, and by the time the fourth rolled around Miami knew it could get into the Spurs defense and find enough daylight to finish. Shooter Mike Miller started the game as burly forward Udonis Haslem (five fouls in 10 minutes) came off the bench, but Miller’s contributions (he missed his only attempt, a three-pointer) weren’t needed as the Heat eschewed the three-point shot (missing eight of 11 until James hit a needless bomb in Miami’s final possession) in the win. All while Bosh was everywhere defensively, helping clog the lane and goading both the Spurs big men in to extra passes.
Perhaps most impressively, the Miami coaching staff earned whatever plaudits you want to send their way.
The spacing was fantastic, in Game 4, for Miami. Wade was eased into spots on the floor that he felt comfortable toss runners from, James was afforded better movement to work with while in the screen and roll attack, and the team was obviously told to make a quick judgment call on whether to shoot, pass, or drive up on receiving the ball in the half court. Because San Antonio couldn’t load up, defensively, the Heat got what they wanted for most of the game.
Toss in the points in the paint, the points off of turnovers, and San Antonio’s inability to get much going outside of its 8-16 three-point shooting, and you had all the ingredients for a double-digit win. Miami swallowed up San Antonio’s spacing while initiating good movement of its own, and, yes, it always helps to have three contributors playing like All-Stars all at once.
Things are about to get nasty. Miami has to somehow sustain momentum all the way until Sunday night’s Game 5, while San Antonio is about to work through a hellacious two days “off,” full of practice and game reviews and coach Gregg Popovich pointing out exactly where you were supposed to go on that play, dummy.
Things are also about to get happier. It’s now a best of three series between the league’s two best teams, with both having proven that they can win on the others’ home court. Good times all around – all we could ask for is a few more contests tacked on before the season takes its final bow.