San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, right, and Kawhi Leonard, left, defend Miami’s LeBron James during the first half in Game 3 on Tuesday night in Miami. ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI — Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio Spurs shot their way into history — and back into the lead in the NBA Finals.
Leonard scored a career-high 29 points, and the Spurs made a finals-record 75.8 percent of their shots in the first half in a 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night that gave them a 2-1 lead.
The Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots and finished 25 of 33 in the first half, bettering the 75 percent shooting by Orlando against the Lakers in the 2009 finals.
They led by as much as 25 and were only briefly challenged in their second lopsided victory in the series.
Unlike Game 1, when they didn't pull away until the final minutes, the Spurs were way ahead before halftime in this one.
Returning to the arena where they were oh-so-close to winning a fifth championship last year, the Spurs came out playing like they were trying to build a lead that was impossible to blow.
They shot 13 of 15 in building a 41-25 lead after one, then hit their first six shots of the second in front of a stunned crowd in Miami while going ahead 55-30.
Leonard scored only 18 points during the first two games, looking frustrated while getting into foul trouble trying to defend James in Game 2. But he had his outside shot working early, and the effect on the Spurs’ offense was obvious.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had 22 points for the Heat, which hosts Game 4 on Thursday.
The NBA Finals were back along the shores of Biscayne Bay for the fourth straight year, as much a part of the late-spring scene in Miami as beaches and boats. The last three NBA seasons ended in this building, the last two followed by championship parades.
But the Spurs nearly canceled the last one, building a five-point lead in the final half-minute of regulation of Game 6, a title seeming so certain that workers were already making preparations around the court.
But the Heat rallied to win in overtime and took Game 7, leaving the Spurs with a summer to think about the one that got away.
They’re in good shape to get another chance.
With the NBA Finals scrapping the 2-3-2 format — with the lower seed playing three consecutive home games — the Spurs would have a chance to wrap it up in San Antonio on Sunday in Game 5 if they can win Thursday.
Chris Bosh took only four points and scored nine points for the Heat, who for the second straight year will have to overcome a 2-1 finals deficit after being blown out in Game 3.
This one came on their home floor, where they had been 8-0 this postseason and had won a franchise-record 11 in a row since the Spurs beat them in Game 1 last year.