SAN ANTONIO — There were no shortage of scary scenes for the San Antonio Spurs in their Game 4 Finals loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday that evened the series 2-2.
Dwyane Wade forgetting that his ailing knees were supposed to prohibit him from looking like his younger self; LeBron James doing everything he hadn’t in the first three games, banging his way into a new-found rhythm early and finding his missing midrange game as a result; Chris Bosh becoming a force again, in part because of the lineup change (Mike Miller in, Udonis Haslem out) that gave him more responsibility and opportunity; and, of course, there was the return of the turnovers — 19 that led to 23 Heat points and helped the defending champions rediscover their lost run-and-gun identity.
But of all the frightening aspects of the Heat’s second overwhelming win in the series, this revelation from point guard Tony Parker afterward should concern the Spurs more than anything as they plot a counter of their own for Game 5 on Sunday: He felt healthy in the second half.
If ever there was a time when the Spurs needed a silver lining, this was it. But after a 15-point, six-assist first half in which Parker looked as if the mild hamstring strain he suffered in Game 3 was nothing but a ruse, he went scoreless in the second half as the Heat outscored the Spurs 60-44. Most had assumed something was wrong with Parker’s ailing right wheel, but he swore that wasn’t the case.
“It was just fatigue,” said Parker, who shot 0-for-4 in the second half and 7-for-16 overall. “I just missed shots. I had great shots. I missed two tear drops and the lay-up I was right there, couldn’t get my lift. They are doing the same thing on me since the beginning. Very aggressive on pick-and-rolls, stuff like that. I just missed easy shots, and hopefully I’ll get more healthy, and I’ll be better by Sunday.”
This matters because James and the Heat suddenly look special again, and Parker’s first half was magnificent enough that it seemed he was the Spurs’ only hope at combating Miami’s revitalized Big 3, who combined for 85 points. But as it turns out, even he couldn’t keep up with this back-from-the-dead trio.
“Miami did a great job on him,” Popovich said of Parker. “They doubled, yhey got it out of his hands, and other people had to play. But they did a good job defensively on him.”
In this back-and-forth matchup in which both teams never seem to respond until after a loss, that was why this seemed like a turn of events. The Heat hadn’t defended like this just yet, with Wade grabbing six steals and his cohorts following suit. James did what everyone in the media had been imploring him to do for so many days now, ratcheting up the aggressiveness in his offensive game and reminding the Spurs that they simply can’t handle him if he decides to impose his will.
And with the newsflash that Parker was just fine in the end, the Spurs suddenly look like a team that simply doesn’t have enough ammunition in the barrel to fire back enough times to seize that fifth title they all so badly want.
Duncan was solid yet again with 20 points and five rebounds, but Manu Ginobili has gone missing at the worst of times for the Spurs. He had his third single-digit scoring outing in four games, is shooting just 34percent from the field, and posted a horrific negative-22 plus-minus figure in Game 4.
They’re compounding matters with the lack of ball control. With 19 turnovers in the Game 4 loss, the Spurs now are averaging 18 turnovers in their Finals losses and just 8.5 in their wins.
“We’re going to keep giving credit to Miami,” Duncan said. “They played a very good game. Defensively, they were solid. We had opportunities to get right back into it. We get it to whatever, three points, and we make a turnover, and they turn it into a score. So we’ll give credit to Miami, and we’ll leave it there.”
If they keep this up, they’ll be leaving the Finals as losers too.
© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.