March 24, 2018
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Leonard propels Spurs to 2-1 series lead over Heat

Andrew Innerarity | REUTERS
Andrew Innerarity | REUTERS
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard puts up a shot past Miami Heat's Chris Andersen during the fourth quarter in Game 3 of their NBA Finals series in Miami Tuesday night.
By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange

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

Leonard, a forward, made 10 of 13 shots from the floor, including going 3-for-6 on three-pointers, and added 6 of 7 free throws.

Forward LeBron James and guard Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 22 points each.

Still, the night belonged to the Spurs’ shooters and — perhaps — dubious defense from the two-time defending NBA champion Heat, especially in a brutal first half.

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

Game 4 is set for Thursday night in Miami.

San Antonio is just 4-5 on the road in this year’s postseason. However, the Spurs are also the last team to beat the Heat in Miami in a playoff game. That happened last year in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Heat cut the deficit to 81-74 with 1:59 left in the third quarter. San Antonio recovered slightly to take an 86-75 lead into the fourth.

Still, 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.

Wade came up big with 11 points in the third.

San Antonio played a nearly perfect first quarter, leading 41-25 after shooting 86.7 percent over the first 12 minutes.

Leonard, who averaged 14.6 points in last year’s NBA Finals but got just nine points in each of this year’s first two games, had a breakthrough in the first quarter. He scored 16 points on perfect shooting — 5-for-5 from the floor, including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, and 3-for-3 on free throws.

James also had a big first quarter for the Heat, who shot 52.6 percent. James had 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers.

But the Spurs, who also scored 41 points in the second quarter of Game 2 vs. Portland to match their best period of the postseason, finished the first in style. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key, banking in the shot.

The Spurs stretched their lead to 25 points early in the second quarter. Miami finally made a run, cutting its deficit to 14. San Antonio closed out the half by taking a 71-50 lead into the break.

San Antonio shot 75.8 percent for the first half, which set an NBA Finals record for the opening two quarters. The Spurs also became the first team since the 1987 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.


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