Fast forward to Game 3 tonight, and that same team, with the same head coach and same best player, put up 71 in a single half. They caught fire like Jennifer Lawrence with a bow and arrow, setting an NBA Finals record for most points in a half.
The mind-bending display highlights the incredible change this team has gone through over the years, re-branding itself to adapt to an ever-changing league. And it’s why they’ve been a legitimate championship contender every year since 1999.
Their winners from a decade ago were defensive juggernauts, and instead of sticking with what worked, the Spurs collected a treasure-chest full of shooters to surround Tim Duncan and completely overhauled their philosophy. Tonight’s first half was that plan on display at peak efficiency.
The Spurs had the best shooting half in NBA Finals history at 75.8 percent. If you got those kind of marks on a high school biology test, you’d be counting your lucky stars. They missed eight shots the entire half! It’s like the Michael Jordan “shrug game,” but if the whole roster got to take part.
The key contributors were San Antonio’s new-age wingers: Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. They both couldn’t miss in the first half (well, Leonard missed once). It was so sudden that the Miami Heat were down 15 points before most of their fans even got to the arena.
Leonard was especially incredible, shutting up some critics with his 29 points and unlimited athleticism. He came to San Antonio via a draft-day trade with the Indiana Pacers, who probably have buyer’s remorse with George Hill. Just imagine Leonard and Paul George on the same defense. No team could ever score against them. And they’d be in the Finals right now, probably limiting their opponent to 71 points (for the game, not the first half).
For the Spurs, it’s just one item in a long list of genius roster moves they always seem to make. There’s still a long way to go in this series, and you probably won’t see another game in which eight Spurs make a three-pointer any time soon. But as the series turned to Miami, it must have been demoralizing for the home team that it was the Spurs who were scorching red hot.