MIAMI — History would suggest they did everything right.
Since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up for the “Big 3″ era with the Miami Heat, there had been some absolute truths when it came to their home playoff games. When they shot at least 48 percent, they were 18-0. When they made at least 10 shots from 3-point range, they were 12-0. And in this postseason, they were a perfect 8-0 in their building.
No more. On any count.
No Miami miracle this time, either. A blowout got interesting for a few minutes, but in the end, it wound up as a blowout — and the road to a third straight NBA championship for the Heat got considerably tougher.
Down by a staggering 25 points at one point in the first half, the Heat whittled their way within single digits. But they never got all that close to the San Antonio Spurs and wound up falling 111-92 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. The Spurs lead the series 2-1, and need only to hold serve at home to end Miami’s reign as NBA champions.
“What it feels like is the finals,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And you have to deal with all the emotions there are in the finals — frustration, anger, pain, elation, all of it, and it can swing back and forth. It’s a long series. We have to be able to manage this and it starts with tomorrow, owning it. That’ll be the process we all have to go through together.”
James and Wade each scored 22 points, Bosh didn’t miss a shot, they connected on 52 percent of their tries from the floor, and they still got drilled. Rashard Lewis scored 14, Ray Allen had 11 and Bosh had only nine — getting just four shots in 34 minutes.
“We will get better from tonight,” James said. “We hate the performance that we put on. But it’s 2-1. It’s not 4-1. It’s 2-1, and we have to make some adjustments, come in and learn from our mistakes as we always do after a loss.”
So far, these finals are just like the 2013 version: Spurs win Game 1. Heat win Game 2. Spurs blow Heat out in Game 3.
Only this time, Miami doesn’t have the luxury of potentially having a Game 7 at home.
“We have to take this one on the chin,” Bosh said. “We are kidding ourselves if we’re going to win a championship with that kind of effort, home or away.”
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 29 points. Danny Green and Tony Parker each scored 15 for San Antonio and Tim Duncan added 14 for the Spurs.
The signs of trouble for the Heat were obvious from the get-go. James had 14 points in the early going, and Miami was still down by seven. The Heat gave up 41 points in the first quarter, defense nowhere to be found.
At one point in the second quarter, it was Spurs 55, Heat 30. That matched the largest deficit Miami has faced at home at any point in the Big 3 era, tied only with the 25-point lead Oklahoma City held over the Heat during this regular season.
The numbers were absurd. Out of San Antonio’s first 21 shots, the Spurs missed two. Yes, two. They were shooting 91 percent for the game at one point in the second quarter. They made 11 straight shots in one stretch. They had the best-shooting first half by any NBA team since … well, them, more than three years ago against Detroit.
“That will never happen again,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I mean, that’s crazy.”
Predictably, the Heat locker room was not the world’s happiest place at halftime, with Miami down 71-50.
“We had every conversation,” Allen said. “We yelled at each other. We encouraged each other. We went through a range of emotions trying to find a spark.”
A spark, they found. But they needed an inferno.
Miami got within seven in the second half, and the 19,900 white-clad fans in the building had to be thinking of the ridiculous finals comeback last season against the Spurs. The Heat were down by five with 28.2 seconds left in Game 6, then rallied to not just save the game, but save their title hopes.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Duncan said.
That’s all it was, just a run. The outcome was never really in doubt.
And the building was just about empty when the final buzzer sounded.
“Little frustration,” Wade said. “But that’s the nature of the playoffs. It’s not always good.”