Spurs suffer symmetric smackdown in Miami

By Jeff McDonald

MIAMI — The first time LeBron James ever dunked a basketball, he was in middle school. He was playing in a student-faculty game and got the ball on a fast break.

“I just said, ‘I’m going for it,’” James said.

For the record, the Miami Heat’s 110-80 victory over the Spurs on Monday night wasn’t quite that easy. At times in the fourth quarter, however, it certainly looked that way.

James, Dwyane Wade and Jamaal Magloire all provided exclamation-point dunks for the Heat, who responded to a 30-point loss 10 days earlier in San Antonio by handing the NBA-leading Spurs one of their own.

Chris Bosh had 30 points and 12 rebounds, Wade scored 29, and James had a quiet 21 — save for his thunderous fourth-quarter slam — as the Heat continued their weeklong resurrection and reminded a national TV audience of something obscured by their recent five-game losing skid.

“We’re not talking about a second-division team in Asia,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We’re talking about the Heat.”

For Miami, the victory was their third in a row in a streak that began with Thursday’s sigh-of-relief win over the Lakers. For the Spurs, it was a continuation of a trend that could become disturbing if it persists.

It’s a fool’s errand to make too much out of one game in 82, especially when the Spurs are 54-13, but Monday’s outcome was their third loss this month to a team currently in the playoff picture. Those three defeats, which include losses to the Lakers and Memphis, have come by an average of 20 points.

Monday’s loss was the Spurs’ most lopsided in the regular-season since April 7, 2005, when they dropped a 104-68 decision at Dallas.

“What goes around comes around,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We made a lot of shots in San Antonio. They made a lot of shots here.”

In their 125-95 victory over Miami on March 4, the Spurs set a franchise record with 17 3-pointers. In the rematch, they were 6 of 22.

Credit goes to Miami’s perimeter defenders, who were much more aggressive than in the first meeting.

Tony Parker scored 18 points to lead the Spurs, but no other player managed more than Tim Duncan’s 14.

“We attacked,” James said. “And we never stopped attacking.”

Proof of the aggressiveness gap came at the foul line, where the Spurs didn’t get their first free throw until 2:17 left in the first half. The Spurs hung within 10 points at intermission but were outscored 14-7 to start the third quarter.

“I thought in the first half, we did a good job of hanging in,” Popovich said. “I was optimistic. Then, at the start of the third quarter, they came with the same aggressiveness and energy, and we didn’t match that.”

Even after the loss, the Spurs own a 6 1/2-game lead over Dallas for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs and Mavericks play Friday in Dallas.

With the victory, meanwhile, the Heat (46-21) climbed within two games of Boston and Chicago for the top mark in the East.

“They needed the game more than us,” said Ginobili, who had 12 points and missed all three of his 3-point tries. “They were more upset than us.”

In the end, the Heat doled out a dish best served cold. Miami players admitted the idea of revenge was in the back of their minds when they entered the gym Monday.

By the end of the night, they had taken out their frustration not just on the Spurs, but on the rims at the AmericanAirlines Arena.

Led by James’ re-enactment of a middle-school play, the Heat transformed the fourth quarter into a dunk contest that the Spurs were in no mood to judge.

“It’s huge for us to get even with this team,” Bosh said. “They beat us pretty good up there, and I’m happy we were able to respond.”

With a 60-point turnaround, the Heat got even with the Spurs, in more ways than one.

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