"It was a cumulative of everything," James said after a 111-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs pushed the Heat into a 2-1 series deficit. "One thing about [the Spurs], if you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay. And they made us pay more often than not."
The Heat better learn quickly from these costly lessons.
Defensively, Miami was torched from the outset in a game that saw the Spurs make 19 of their first 21 shots and eventually set a Finals record for a half by converting 75.8 percent of their attempts from the field.
San Antonio also set postseason records by a Heat opponent for most points in a quarter (41 in the first) and a half (71 by intermission) on the way to building a 25-point lead before halftime that created enough cushion to withstand a late Miami run. To say this game was essentially over from the start wouldn't be a stretch.
With Kawhi Leonard playing the best game of his NBA career after fouling out in Game 2, the Spurs took control early. And then they kept taking away the ball seemingly every time the Heat even thought about mounting any semblance of offensive rhythm.
By the time it was all over, Leonard ended up with a career-high 29 points in a performance that was equally as remarkable for the work he did defensively in containing James to 22 points and a Finals career-high seven turnovers. Those miscues from James were especially painful on a night when the Heat committed 20 turnovers that the Spurs converted into 23 points.
At a time when the Heat need stability and consistency from their primary ball-handlers and playmakers, they're instead getting stretches of sloppy play from their catalysts in James and Dwyane Wade. On top of that, point guard Mario Chalmers extended his frustrating disappearing act for a third straight game.
The most glaring weak spot for the Heat in this series has been the disparity at the point. Saddled by foul trouble in Game 1, Chalmers was assessed a flagrant foul penalty for his elbow shot on Tony Parker at a pivotal point in Game 2 and finished 0-for-5 with two points and three turnovers Tuesday. Mix in Norris Cole's erratic stretches off the bench in the series, and it's clear that Parker and Spurs backup Patty Mills are dominating the point guard matchup in the series.
"Still at the drawing board," Chalmers said when asked after Tuesday's loss where he stood in his search for answers in the series. "Everybody else is doing their job, and it's me that's not helping the team right now. And I don't want to be that guy. I don't know what it is right now, but I have to figure it out."
Through three games in the series, Parker and Mills have combined to shoot 49.1 percent from the field overall and 50 percent from 3-point range while accounting for 25 points, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. By comparison, Chalmers and Cole are shooting a combined 7-for-27 overall, including 2-of-11 from beyond the arc while contributing just 6.6 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 turnovers a game.