By Tim Reynolds/The Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — Much too little. Much too late.
LeBron James squeezed most of his scoring into a 90-second stretch of the third quarter, which basically sums up one of the worst offensive nights the Miami Heat have endured in the “Big Three” era of the last three years.
They shot 41 percent. Two starters didn’t score a single point. James slogged his way through a putrid first half for the second straight game. All that, and so much more, added up to a 113-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.
San Antonio now leads the series 2-1, with Game 4 on the Spurs’ home floor coming on Thursday.
The defending champions need to win three of the next four games to extend their reign, and anything close to another offensive showing like what they turned in on Tuesday night will surely not be enough for the Heat to complete that quest. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 16 points, Mike Miller — who simply does not miss 3-pointers in the NBA Finals — made all five of his shots, all from long range, for 15 points.
James added 15, but did it on 7 for 21 shooting, and the league’s four-time MVP missed 10 of 11 shots in one stretch.
He was 1 for 2 in the first quarter. The next 22 minutes were forgettable for James, who only got a layup to go down during that stretch. Everything else just clanked off the rim or got blocked.
Of his 10 misses in that stretch, nine were on jump shots. The last time he had four points or less in consecutive first halves was December 2003 — his second full month in the league.
And by the time he got rolling, the game was essentially over.
James made a 3-pointer with 1:36 left in the third, cutting the San Antonio lead to 75-57. Another jumper from the left elbow followed 34 seconds later, then an 8-footer, then a layup off a turnover. All of a sudden, the Heat were within 13.
Fools gold, it turned out.
Tiago Splitter — who found his way onto highlight reels when his dunk try got erased by James with about 8 minutes left in Game 2 — got loose for a dunk with one-tenth of a second left in the third. That started what became a 37-14 run by the Spurs to end the game.
It matched a season-low point total for the Heat, who have now scored 77 or less just nine times in 293 games since Wade, James and Chris Bosh joined forces in Miami.