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San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard shoots during basketball practice at the NBA Finals Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Miami. The Spurs lead the Miami Heat 2-1 in the best-of-seven games series. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
5 things to watch in Game 4 of the NBA Finals
First Published Jun 12 2014 10:26 am • Last Updated Jun 12 2014 11:24 pm

Miami • The Spurs are old.

Tim Duncan is 38, Manu Ginobili is 36, Tony Parker is the youngster in San Antonio’s star trio at 32.

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Though it’s still their team, soon it will belong to Kawhi Leonard, who was 6 when Duncan played his first game with San Antonio and won’t turn 23 until later this month.

Leonard already has the quintessential San Antonio qualities down pat: Show up, work hard, play hard, win often, don’t say much, call it a day.

His star shone brightest in Game 3 of the finals against the Miami Heat on Tuesday with a 29-point breakout. And after that win, the Spurs will try to take a 3-1 series lead when the matchup resumes Thursday in Miami.

"I don’t think you’re ever going to get him to sit down and expound on a whole lot of things," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He just wants to do his job. He wants to be a great player and go home. That’s basically who he is."

It’s still hard to believe Leonard wasn’t exactly burdened by huge expectations when joining the Spurs.

"I just knew I wasn’t going to get the ball right away or just be a focal point with these great players on the team," Leonard said. "But now I just try to play my game and go out there and be aggressive."

He’ll be a focal point of the Miami defensive plan on Thursday. And here’s five other things to know going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals:


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MUST WIN FOR MIAMI: Miami’s season cannot end Thursday. But if the Heat lose Game 4, the Spurs can safely go ahead and order that fifth championship banner. Only eight teams in NBA history have successfully rallied from 3-1 deficits, and none of those eight did it during the finals.

IMPROVING SPURS? Not many teams could open a game 19 for 21 from the field, beat a two-time defending NBA champion by 19 points on the road in a finals matchup, then say they have to do better — and mean it. Such is life with the Spurs. Manu Ginobili said the Spurs saw "many mistakes" on the tape of Game 3. "The thing is that we masked it with making so many shots. ... So the mistakes you made kind of faded away," Ginobili said.

THE HEAT STREAK: For whatever reason, losses bring out the best in the Heat at playoff time. Miami has won its last 13 games immediately following a defeat in the postseason, the most recent of those victories coming in Game 2 of this series. Those 13 wins have come by an average of 14.4 points, and six of them have been absolute blowouts of 18 points or more.

SCORING SPURS: When San Antonio won its first NBA title, the Spurs had exactly two games of 100 points or more in that postseason run. They have 14 already in these playoffs, going 12-2 in those games. When not scoring at least 100 so far in this postseason, the Spurs are a mere 2-5.

HOT HEAT: Miami is shooting 49.8 percent so far in these playoffs, putting the Heat on pace for the best postseason field-goal percentage since Orlando shot 49.9 percent in 1996. Among teams that won at least one series, the last to shoot better than 50 percent in a postseason was the 1991 Chicago Bulls, who connected on 51.4 percent of their shots on the way to Michael Jordan’s first championship.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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