Game rewind: Pop seething about ‘soft’ second-half effort

It was a tale of two halves Tuesday night for the Spurs.

The first part of their game Tuesday against Miami might have been their best performance of the young season. They led by 17 points late in the second quarter and had a 14-point halftime lead after Danny Green’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.

After that, the bottom fell out as the Spurs struggled through one of their worst halves in team history. They were outscored by 27 in the third quarter as Miami cruised to an easy 120-98 victory.

The final margin actually looked a little more appealing after Miami led by up to 26 late in the game. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan rested during the fourth quarter and most of the other San Antonio starters were missing in garbage time.

It’s hard to believe a team could play so well in the first half and so awful in the same game. It was one of the most amazing collapses in recent NBA history.

Here’s a look at how it happened. 

Game analysis: Even with Dwyane Wade out of the lineup, the Spurs had no answer for remaining Heatles LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Toss in a sizzling first-game perimeter shooting performance by Mike Miller and it was understandable why the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter.

Where the game was won: The Heat blew the game open with a 25-1 run in the middle of the third quarter punctuated by a 3-pointer by James, another by Mario  Chalmers and another from James that put them ahead 78-68 with 3:28 left in the third quarter. 

A little earlier … The Spurs hit 12 of their first 15 shots and led by 17 points with 3 minutes remaining in the first half.  They even left with a surge of momentum when Green hit a buzzer beater from beyond midcourt that gave them a 63-49 halftime lead.

Player of the game I:  It took awhile for James to get going, but he once he got started, the Spurs couldn’t stop him. James erupted for 33 points, including 17 in the third quarter. James  also added 10 assists, five rebounds, hit four 3-pointers and was a team-best plus-19 to help Miami end a three-game losing streak.

Player of the game II:  Bosh was a force all over the court, notching 30 points, a game-high eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in a strong all-around performance.

Player of the game III: Green was the Spurs’ major offensive  force with a team-best 20 points, including 11 in the second half. He hit a career-best six 3-pointers, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Most unsung: Miller was expected to play a few minutes in his first game back after missing the Heat’s first 12 games recovering from sports hernia surgery.  When he was inserted into the game, he hit all six 3-pointers to account for 18 points in 15 minutes.

Did you notice: James personally outscored the Spurs in the third quarter, 17-12.

Did you notice II: The Spurs got into early foul trouble in the first quarter when they were whistled for nine fouls before Miami picked up its first one. By then, Tiago Splitter was benched with three fouls in 73 seconds  and two more for  Duncan and DeJuan Blair before  the first quarter ended.

Stat of the game: Miami outscored San Antonio 39-12 in the third quarter. It matched the second-largest differential for any quarter in Heat history, and matched the second-worst differential for a period in Spurs history, according to STATS LLC.

Stat of the game II: The Spurs’ road losing streak was extended to five games to start the season.

Stat of the game III: Miami hit 6 of 8 from 3-point territory in the third quarter and finished with a season-best 16 3-pointers.  

Weird stat of the game: The Spurs’ 17-point second-quarter advantage is the largest lead they’ve squandered this season in a game they eventually lost.

Quote of the game: “They just outphysicaled us and beat our — in the second half. We should be embarrassed by that, playing that soft,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on his team’s second-half collapse.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs travel to Orlando in the back end of a difficult back-to-back Wednesday night. They have lost their last three games there by an average margin of 20 points a game. After a day off, they will return home Friday to meet Sacramento before traveling to Houston on Saturday. The Heat will host the Lakers Thursday night before a home back-to-back against Philadelphia Saturday and Milwaukee on Sunday.

Injuries: Manu Ginobili missed his ninth game after undergoing surgery for a fractured fifth left metacarpal.  T.J. Ford missed his fourth game with a torn left hamstring sustained last week in Milwaukee. Gary Neal returned to the lineup despite a contusion of the right quadriceps. Miami played without Wade (sprained ankle) and center Dexter Pittman (flu-like symptoms). Miller returned  to the lineup for the first time this season after missing all of the previous Heat games after recovering from sports hernia surgery.

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