The Spurs-Heat rivalry may have lost some of its luster now that it no longer features the Heatles or Tim Duncan, but it still feels good to hand these guys a loss. Fresh off two straight wins against the Pistons and Rockets after a tough 3-game home skid, San Antonio continued to right the ship against their old NBA Finals nemesis, overcoming sloppy play in crunch time to stave off a late Miami comeback and come out with a 94-90 win. Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Spurs with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists, while Dion Waiters posted 27 points and 3 assists for the visitors.
Both teams were sluggish coming out of the gate, which allowed the Heat to take an early 4-0 lead on a pair of jumpers from Derrick Williams and Josh Richardson. The Spurs offense then came to life thanks to Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, as the Finals MVP's were setting up teammates, attacking the paint, and sinking open jumpers. Tony Parker was notably aggressive, especially in transition. The Wee Frenchman looked fresh, getting more lift on his jumpers and having more burst off the dribble than he's shown all season. LaMarcus Aldridge also got in on the action as he sank three tough jumpers, a sight for sore Spurs Nation eyes due to LMA struggling from outside lately. The good guys puts the clamps on defense and were able to build a double digit lead at one point, but the Heat bench used some defense of their own to disrupt the Spurs' rhythm and keep the game from getting out of hand, leaving the Spurs with a mere 25-19 lead at the end of one.
The Silver and Black were evidently as annoyed as their fans were after blowing their double-digit lead because they wasted no time building it back up again to start the second frame. Patty Mills sank a triple, David Lee showed soft touch around the rim on a dish from Tony Parker, and Tony continued to attack the Heat in transition, which all added up to a quick 6-0 run. The Heat were repeatedly forced to take difficult jumpers and could get nothing going on offense, with Tyler Johnson scoring when he could but receiving little help from his teammates. Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters scored 14 straight points for Miami to end the half, doing all they could to help their team weather the storm, but the Heat just couldn't get enough stops to reward the effort of their two playmakers. LaMarcus Aldridge was a man possessed, scoring a game-high 18 points in the first half while Tony Parker executed the Spurs offense flawlessly en route to 9 points and 4 assists. Whiteside posted 13 points and 8 boards in the first two quarters, but the Spurs were sharp on both ends, allowing them to boast a solid 55-40 lead going into the break.
Whatever pep talk Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra gave at halftime must have really resonated with his players, because the Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside wasted no time scoring two quick buckets to start the third, prompting an even quicker timeout from Coach Pop. Danny Green, who took a knee to his midsection in the first half, was replaced in the starting lineup by Jonathon Simmons. Tony Parker picked up right where he left off, wheeling and dealing and finding Pau Gasol for a pair of open jumpers while also looking for his own shot. It was an ugly quarter as the Heat held the Spurs to just 16 points while only managing to score 19 of their own. Dewayne Dedmon, who left the game shortly after bumping knees with Justice Winslow, played magnificent defense in the paint, which has become the norm. The Spurs led by at least 10 the entire third quarter, but turnovers plagued the offense and the visitors were able to cut into the halftime deficit, leaving the good guys up 71-60 heading into the fourth.
Dion Waiters must really hate the Spurs because whether he's wearing a Thunder jersey or a Heat jersey, the dude always creates problems for the Silver and Black. Waiters started the fourth by getting a pair of easy layups, finally getting the Spurs' advantage back into single digits. The Spurs were careless with the ball, as they had been for most of the half, and LaMarcus Aldridge shot an airball after shooting the lights out in the first half. The game was beginning to get away from the Spurs until Kawhi Leonard settled the team and the AT&T Center down by sinking a three-ball and a tough midrange jumper. Although Dion Waiters put forth a valiant effort in the final frame, draining some difficult looks and hounding Kawhi on defense, it was simply not enough as the Spurs weathered the storm and came away with the hard-fought victory.