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Spurs falter late in a back and forth game against the Heat

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The Spurs were neck and neck with Miami through three quarters but ran out of gas late to lose 107-87.

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NBA: Miami Heat at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

After two straight wins, the Spurs dropped to below .500 again following tonight’s 107-87 loss to Miami. It was a back-and-forth contest for much of the game, but San Antonio completely faded down the stretch and allowed the Heat to pull away in the fourth quarter.

The two teams traded buckets right from tipoff, as neither side was able to go on a run and build up a big lead. San Antonio received its usual dose of mid-range isos from Demar DeRozan and also got trigger happy from three, attempting 18 in the first half but only connecting on six. Meanwhile, both Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler returned to the Heat’s lineup after missing their previous game, and the difference was noticeable right away. Butler quarterbacked Miami’s motion offense that’s predicated on hand-offs and cuts, allowing them to get some good shots at the rims.

Fortunately, the Spurs did a good job of communicating on defense and didn’t allow many open layups. However, they didn’t have much of an answer for Adebayo, who used his athleticism to connect on lobs while also taking up some playmaking duties when Butler was off-ball. Even so, San Antonio managed to stay in the game by receiving timely production from the bench, and both sides continued to trade points evenly; there were 14 lead changes in the first half alone, and it seemed like it was going to remain a one-possession game for the entire night.

The second half proved to be an entirely different story. San Antonio jumped out to a seven-point lead following a few made threes from Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson, but it was all Miami from then on. Adebayo continued his aerial assault by punishing mismatches down low and constantly wreaking havoc around the Spurs’ basket while Tyler Herro started knocking down shots from both the mid-range and beyond the arc. San Antonio managed to hang on and made it a three-point game, but their offense sputtered afterwards and the good guys didn’t make a field goal for six straight minutes at one point in the fourth. Herro nearly outscored San Antonio by himself in the final frame, and Pop eventually pulled the starters with four minutes left. Miami ultimately won 107-87 after going on a 25-8 run to finish the game.

This was a disappointing end to an evenly contested game, as it was a one-possession score for most of the first three quarters. The Spurs just simply ran out of gas at the end, which isn’t all that surprising given that this was their fourth game in six nights. Luckily, the Warriors lost as well, so San Antonio didn’t lose any ground in the Western Conference play-in race. On the flip side, the Spurs also had a great opportunity to create some separation between themselves and Golden State, but you can’t win every night. With that said, there should be no excuses tomorrow with the tanking Pistons coming to town.

Game notes

  • Rudy Gay finished with only six points and took some awful shots, going 2-9 from the field. The veteran has been a valuable contributor to the team for most of the season, but he occasionally gets tunnel vision and tries to force things when the offense isn’t clicking. He took a couple of contested threes from way beyond the arc, so someone should probably remind him that he’s not Steph Curry.
  • DeRozan had 13 points in the first half but went completely cold in the second. He didn’t make a single field goal and only had two points from a pair of free throws, which was probably due to fatigue. However, he also tweaked his ankle in the first quarter, so I wonder if that was bothering him too. There’s no indication that it’s anything serious, but I’m still keeping my eyes open for a potential update on his status.
  • Speaking of fatigue, I wonder if we’ll see anyone rest for tomorrow night’s game. Obviously, the Spurs were fined by the league a few days ago for sitting a few of their players against the Suns, but fines have never scared Pop away from resting players before. San Antonio surprisingly won that game in Phoenix, so perhaps they’ll consider doing the same thing tomorrow against a Detroit team that’s blatantly tanking.
  • Jakob Poeltl had five blocks tonight but didn’t offer much resistance against Adebayo, who seemingly scored at will. It wasn’t all on Poeltl, though, as the Spurs were often caught in mismatches that ended with a guard trying to stop Adebayo in the paint. San Antonio needs to do a better job of sticking to their man on defense since they’re not a very switchable team, and that weakness was exploited tonight.
  • Even after tonight’s loss, the Spurs are still three and a half games in front of New Orleans for the final play-in spot in the West. Many people have already begun writing off the Pelicans’ playoff hopes, but San Antonio can’t get complacent at this point in the season. They still have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league and fatigue is already affecting their play, so the team needs to keep their foot on the gas and finish the season strong.

Next game: Vs. Pistons on Thursday

As previously mentioned, the Pistons are one of the worst teams in the league and are purposefully tanking, so the Spurs need to take advantage and pull out a win.