Less than 15 hours after they were torched like no team ever has been in a first half of an NBA Finals game, Heat players returned to the scene of the Game 3 debacle on Wednesday and watched the disaster on the tape, analyzing and agonizing over every defensive miscue, every late rotation, every lazy close-out.
It was both excruciating and enlightening.
“Pretty brutal,” is how Shane Battier described Wednesday’s one-hour film session that exposed everything Miami did wrong in the Spurs’ 71-point first-half blitz, in which they shot an NBA Finals-record 75.8 percent.
“It sucks,” Ray Allen said of the film session. “But it’s probably the best time because there are so many small things that you see.”
Several players said coach Erik Spoelstra did all the talking.
“We don’t talk back to the coach,” LeBron James said. “Let him make his point, whether he’s right or wrong. He gets up under us and we have to own our mistakes.”
Identifying their shortcomings isn’t the problem. Whether they can solve them will help determine whether they can win Game 4 on Thursday and tie this series.
"Probably the worst game we’ve played together,” Chris Bosh said Wednesday of the 111-92 drubbing.
“It’s disappointing to see the lack of effort. We just weren’t doing our jobs. It seemed like they were playing a home game. We’re supposed to have the momentum. We were at home! When we deviate from what we normally do, we get our [butt] kicked.”
Through three games, the Spurs are shooting 53.3 percent; the NBA Finals record is 52.7 by the 1991 Bulls. Also, the Spurs are shooting 47.9 percent on three-pointers, a smidge below the Lakers’ all-time Finals record (48 percent in 2001).
During the season, the Heat ranked an uncharacteristically low 15th in field-goal percentage defense, at 45.7 percent. The Spurs shot 48.6 percent, second-highest behind Miami.
For some perspective, consider this: Kawhi Leonard, off a career-high 29 point blowup in Game 3, is shooting 59.3 percent in this series, and yet that’s only the fourth-highest shooting percentage by a Spurs player in these Finals.
Tiago Splitter (8 for 12, .667), Tim Duncan (20 for 31, 64.5) and Danny Green (14 for 22, .636) are all higher. Tony Parker is at 50 percent.
Dwyane Wade said the Heat cannot dismiss what happened Tuesday as an anomaly.
“No, no, no, no,” Wade said. “You don’t chalk it up to, ‘Oh, they just shot well. It was their night. It wasn’t our night.’ No, you have to do something about it. They shot well for a reason.
“Each person individually has to look at themselves in the mirror to see what you can do better…. They shot the ball well because of mistakes we made.”
Rashard Lewis said the Heat’s biggest defensive failing was “being beaten off the dribble. They got into the paint all night. Seems like we were a step slow on everything.”
There were other issues, too, many resulting from the Spurs’ exquisite ball movement.
“I thought we didn’t help as much,” Wade said. “When you get to a point in the game where you’re tired or just thinking it’s not going to be hard, that’s when you make a mistake.
“You have to help your teammates on the drive. You have to cover the shooter. You have to cover the cutter. They make you think. It’s hard.”
James said some of the Heat’s problems stemmed from “mental breakdowns. Against the Spurs, any little minor mistake you make, they’ll make you pay.”
Spoelstra would never discuss rotation changes, but Bosh --- while not publicly advocating it --- conceded, when asked, that Shane Battier (who was out of the rotation the past two games) and Udonis Haslem (who has played two minutes in the series) could offer something defensively.
Spurs forward Tim Duncan said Wednesday that Haslem has “always” played him effectively.
“Coach will have to make some decisions,” Bosh said. “Any time you have a game not putting out on defense, you do have to question who you are going to play.”
The Heat can take some solace in this: The Spurs also won Game 3 last year in a blowout, by 36 points, putting them ahead 2-1 in a series they would ultimately lose. And Miami has won 13 playoff games in a row after losses.
The Heat can also take solace in knowing Leonard is unlikely to repeat Tuesday’s eruption, considering he hadn’t before scored 29 points in a game since high school.
Leonard became the first player in 62 years (since Slater Martin) to score more points than anybody else in an NBA Finals game after not doing it in any previous game in the playoffs or that regular season.
But Wednesday was not about seeking solace. It was about accountability and a realization that a loss Thursday would leave their three-peat bid in grave peril.
“We have to fix some things for sure, but I’m not too concerned… because we played some good basketball in the postseason,” James said.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said what the Spurs achieved, from a shooting standpoint, in the first half of Game 3 “is almost unrepeatable. They’re not going to turn the ball over 20 times [again]. That’s for sure…. They’re going to be upset. It’s a tough, tough challenge.”
THE BOSH ISSUE
It’s difficult for a 6-10 All-Star to become lost during an NBA Finals game.
But that seemingly happened to Chris Bosh on offense in Game 3 of the Finals, for reasons partly beyond his control.
The Heat’s versatile center, perhaps the NBA’s best mid-range and long-distance shooter for a player of his size, touched the ball only 12 times, compared with 39 in Game 1 and 40 in Game 2.
"We hate when that happens because he’s too big for our team for him to ever get lost,” LeBron James said Wednesday. “We can’t allow that to happen for us to be successful.”
What’s more, Bosh attempted only four shots, making all of them. He had attempted that few shots in a game only once before this season: in a November game against Charlotte.
Point guard Norris Cole said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made clear during a film session on Wednesday that Bosh must get the ball more.
“He definitely has to have more touches,” Cole said. “It’s our job to get it to him.”
Rashard Lewis said Bosh was “wide open” several times when he didn’t get the ball. And Bosh said he held his palms open on several occasions during Game 3 to signal to teammates that he was open.
He attributed his lack of involvement to lack of “side-to-side ball movement. Everybody knows I don’t get any play calls. That’s how it has been since I’ve been here. I’m very reliant on side-to-side ball movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to shoot it every time.
“But [not getting the ball] doesn’t give me the chance to read and react to the defense to get in certain spots to make them second guess what they’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll do a better job of moving the basketball so everyone can be involved to really be effective.”
Whereas the Spurs had 25 possessions with at least six passes, Spoelstra said the Heat had 37 with two or fewer passes.
The Heat has more turnovers (54) than assists (47) through three games, with James committing 15 and Dwyane Wade 12. Those two combined for 12 in Game 3 “and we can’t have that if we want to win,” Wade said.
With the Heat’s point guards struggling, Spoelstra indicated he would feel comfortable playing without a point guard at times but declined to say whether he’s less comfortable doing so with Mike Miller no longer on the team.
### Wade, asked to assess his defense, which has been spotty in this series: “I’ve had good moments. I’ve had bad moments. I have great moments of helping. I’ve had bad moments of helping. I’ve had good on-ball moments, bad on-ball moments.”
### James Jones bemoaned picking up three fouls in two minutes of Game 3. “I was in a bad situation making bad plays,” he said.
### James, who has an early termination clause in his contract this summer, declined to discuss his future intentions….. Though Ray Allen reiterated he hasn’t made a decision about whether to play next season, he also said: “I love how my body feels and I love the position I’ve been in the past few years.”
BY THE NUMBERS
### The Game 3 winner of an NBA Finals tied at one has won 30 of 36 series (83 percent). Among the key exceptions: Last year’s Finals, when Miami lost Game 3 and won the series.
### The home team that lost Game 3 of a 1-1 Finals series, as Miami did Tuesday, has gone on to lose 20 of 22 series.
### The Heat bench, which outscored its Spurs counterparts by 25 points in last year’s Finals, has been outscored by 45 by Spurs reserves in this year’s Finals.
### According to Elias, Mario Chalmers is the only starter in an NBA Finals over the past 30 years to play 50-plus minutes, score 10 or fewer points and shoot 25 percent or worse from the field. Greg Cote will have a column posted later on Chalmers' disastrous Finals. And check out our post from Tuesday about options to replace Chalmers this summer, should the Heat decide to part ways with him.