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San Antonio at Miami, Final Score: Short-handed Spurs’ admirable effort falls short against Heat, 129-133

The Spurs didn’t lose, they just ran out of time.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a double-overtime win in Washington DC the night before, the Spurs entered Miami down their top three players, and no one would have blamed them for getting blown out. However, the Spurs came out red hot in the first quarter and overcame a few horrific stretches to fight back and make the top seed in the East fight down to the bitter end, but they Spurs ultimately fell just short in the 129-133 loss to the Heat.

Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker and Keita Bates-Diop all had 22 points, and Tre Jones added a career-high 19 points in a starter’s role. Bam Adebayo had 36 points for the Heat, and Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro each added 27 apiece.

Observations

  • The Spurs had a new starting lineup tonight with Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl out after each played 40+ minutes last night. They were replaced by Jones, Bates-Diop and Zach Collins, the latter who Gregg Popovich confirmed before the game would be on a 15-minute restriction while still working his way back into shape. That meant the remaining big man minutes were split between Jock Landale and Devontae Cacok.
  • The Heat came out perhaps a little high off their own win the night before and complacent with San Antonio resting their three best players, but the Spurs came out ready to play with nothing to lose, getting out to a 16-5 lead in the first four minutes, and they never gave up the double-digit lead the rest of the quarter and led 40-28 after leading by as much as 16. 30 of those points came in the paint, and to show how asleep the Heat were on defense, this is a team that allows just 29 points per game in the paint.
  • Throughout the first quarter, there was a very annoying delay between the video and arena feeds, with every whistle, shout, crowd reaction, etc. coming roughly two seconds late. If it kept up, I was going to consider watching on mute, but fortunately it appeared to be fixed by the second quarter.
  • Speaking of which, the second quarter looked a lot more like a number 1 seed vs. an 11th seed missing its top three players. It was always only a matter of time before the Heat woke up, and they did with a 7-0 run to start and kept clawing away until they took a 61-58 lead into the half, their first of the game. The two main culprits for the Spurs’ horrible second quarter were turnovers and free throws. They had 10 turnovers in the quarter and gave up 12 points off of them, and for the half the Heat had a 21-5 edge in free throw attempts. Some of them were thanks to lazy Spurs defense, but some also felt like “lack of respect” on the refs’ part. (Pop could even be seen harassing them at times for not calling the game evenly.) It also didn’t help that Josh Primo and Tre Jones both had layups waived off for inadvertent off-arm contact that usually doesn’t get called, but Caleb Martin and Kyle Lowry did a good job of selling the contact.
  • The Heat continued the onslaught with the first 7 points of the third quarter, while the Spurs had turnovers on first their first two possessions, forcing a Pop timeout with his team down double-digits. However, Spurs somewhat unexpectedly responded with 12-2 run to tie things back up off Bates-Diop three and 9 straight points from Vassell, and the lead see-sawed back and forth from there, with the Heat taking a 99-97 lead on an Adebayo buzzer-beater.
  • The fourth quarter finally looked like it would turn into the blowout this game was always meant to be, with the Heat starting off on a 15-3 run and getting the lead as high as 16 to seemingly put the game away. But again, the Spurs refused to go down quietly and responded with a 17-5 run to get the lead back down to four. The Heat responded to get the lead back up to nine with 1:21 left, but it still wasn’t over as a couple of missed free throws from Herro and long three by Bates-Diop got the Spurs back within two with 8.6 second left. But Gabe Vincent hit his two free throws on the ensuing possession, and that gave the Heat the separation they need to hold on for the win.
  • Lonnie Walker continues to look much more comfortable in his sixth man role. Although Vassell’s 22 points were a career high, they all came in the first three quarters, so someone else had to take over to lead the Spurs back again in the fourth, and it was Walker, with 17 of his 22 points coming in the second half. He again had a very efficient shooting night, hitting 8-14 shots (4-6 from three), making the last five games one of his longest stretches of continued efficiency. Hopefully he can keep it up.
  • Ultimately that second quarter where the Spurs were outscored 33-18 was a big reason for the loss, along with poor starts to the third and fourth quarters, giving up 31 points on 22 turnovers, and a 12-point advantage on 19 more free throw attempts for the Heat. Still, it was quite an admirable effort from the Spurs to not come into this game already feeling defeated and not folding the several times the Heat looked like they were about to take over the game. There are no moral victories here, but it was a surprisingly entertaining and exciting game from the ragtag group of players.

For the Heat fan’s perspective, visit Hot Hot Hoops.

The Spurs will conclude the Rodeo Road Trip on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Tipoff will be at 7:00 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.