SAN ANTONIO — There were numerous occasions Sunday night at AT&T Center when the Miami Heat attempted to right themselves, muster enough offensive cohesion and defensive prowess to make a run at the San Antonio Spurs and perhaps seize control of this NBA Finals series.
Each time the Heat lunged at the Spurs with a semblance of consistent basketball, San Antonio slapped their hands back with even better and more precise execution, the type of proficiency that wins NBA championships.
Because of their ability to attack the paint and hit critical 3-pointers, and with a vintage Manu Ginobili back in the fold, San Antonio took control of the best-of-seven series with a 114-104 victory.
The Spurs lead the series, three games to two, with Game 6 scheduled for Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. The Heat returned home trailing, 3-2, two years ago against the Dallas Mavericks and lost Game 6.
They haven’t won consecutive games since May 15 and May 22, followed by a stretch of 12 games alternating wins and losses. Now the Heat will have to win consecutive games to avoid perhaps the breaking up of their Big Three.
A 21-2 run in the third and fourth quarters gave the Spurs a 96-76 lead and left the Heat scrambling for the final nine minutes. Despite 15 points from Ray Allen in the final 8:37, Miami could get no closer than 8 and is suddenly on the verge of losing in the Finals for the second time in three years.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 50 points but didn’t have nearly the impact when they combined for 65 in Game 4. Still, they appeared confident they could find a way to beat the Spurs twice.
“Absolutely. That’s the position we’re in. The most important game is Game 6. We can’t worry about a Game 7,” James said. “We have to worry about Game 6 and going back home, being confident about our game, being confident about getting a win, which we are. So it is what it is. We have a Game 6 on our home floor.
“We’ve been here before. And like you said, we’ve been on both sides of the fences. See what happens, and we got an opportunity to do something special.”
San Antonio used a punishing defense, six more 3-pointers from Danny Green, and a stellar floor game from Tony Parker to overwhelm the bewildering Heat. Ginobili, who averaged 7.5 points and 34.5 percent shooting through four games, scored 24 on 8-for-14 shooting with 10 assists.
“I needed it,” Ginobili said. “I was having a tough time scoring, and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me, and I was being able to attack the rim, get to the free-throw line, and make a couple of shots. I was angry, disappointed. We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2, and I felt I still wasn’t really helping the team that much. And that was the frustrating part.”
The Spurs responded to every Heat run with an even better surge, nearly knocking out Miami with that 21-2 run. San Antonio made things interesting by committing turnovers while Allen hit shots, but Green sealed the game with a 3-pointer with a minute left for a 114-101 lead.
All five Spurs starters scored in double figures: Parker had 26, Green scored 24, and Tim Duncan added 17 points and 12 rebounds as the Spurs lead the series for the third time.
“You just go play Game 6, there’s no magic to it,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s not that complicated. Both teams will compete their fannies off.”
Ginobili was back to his vintage self when the Spurs needed it most, scoring 7 of their final 9 points of the third period, including two floaters against an overwhelmed Norris Cole, who looked as if he was playing on ice skates.
His surge turned a precarious 1-point lead into a 12-point cushion entering the fourth period. San Antonio managed its run despite five turnovers in the period and no points from Duncan.
It was the Manu and Danny Show and it was good enough to overcome the maddeningly inconsistent Heat.
Green now has an NBA Finals record 25 3-pointers in the series and has emerged as the X-factor for the Spurs.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Duncan said. “Especially on this stage. He’s shooting the ball so well. We’re asking him to defend Dwyane Wade and LeBron. He’s got a lot on his shoulders and he’s stepped up and answered the bell. I hope he doesn’t wake up and keeps playing this way.”
Miami began the second half looking as if it was ready to assume control. The Heat scored the first 8 points, including a 3-pointer from James and another trey from Mario Chalmers. Green countered with his fourth 3-pointer and Ginobili added a basket to increase the lead to 68-60.
Chalmers added another three and then Wade sparked a 7-0 run, with Shane Battier slicing the deficit to 75-74 with a free throw after drawing a foul following a made Wade basket. Green came back with yet another 3-pointer and Ginobili took over from there, leading San Antonio to another playoff win.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe. Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe.