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Spurs embarrass Heat and are on verge of title

Miami Heat forward LeBron James reacts to a

Miami Heat forward LeBron James reacts to a play during the second half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, June 12, 2014, in Miami. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

MIAMI -- LeBron James was grimacing from an apparent ankle issue Thursday night, but figuring out how to slow down the Spurs and their excellent execution is a bigger and more immediate concern for James and Miami.

If not, the Heat's dreams of a three-peat will be dashed.

The Spurs embarrassed Miami at home for the second straight game and took a stranglehold on the NBA Finals with a 107-86 win in Game 4. The Spurs lead the two-time defending champs 3-1 and can capture the fifth NBA title in franchise history Sunday night in San Antonio.

No team in history has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win the title. "We put ourselves in a position where we have to make history," James said. "That's all we can do."

San Antonio played its usual brilliant, unselfish game and picked apart the Heat. The Spurs moved the ball and got everyone involved, and the Heat didn't do anything to stop it -- again.

"Right now we're clicking," Tony Parker said.

Miami appeared slow and sapped of energy, which is both surprising and inexcusable, given what was at stake.

The Heat also looked beaten after every extra Spurs pass led to a score -- and there were plenty of those. The Spurs racked up 25 assists on 40 field goals and shot 57.1 percent from the field. They won the two games here by a total of 40 points. "They smashed us," James said. "Two straight home games, we got off to awful starts. They came in and were much better than us these two games. It's that simple."

Kawhi Leonard had another strong game with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Parker added 19 points for the Spurs, who led by as many as 25 and were up by double figures for the final 30:09 of the game. Patty Mills shot 4-for-6 from three-point range and had 14 points off the bench.

James shot 10-for-17 and scored 28 points but got little offensive help. The other four Heat starters totaled 28 points. Dwyane Wade looked as if he had no lift in his legs and shot 3-for-13 with 10 points.

Chris Bosh had called Game 4 "a must-win" for obvious reasons. The Spurs had a similar approach for different reasons, and they played with more fire and urgency.

The Spurs let leads of 2-1 and 3-2 slip away in last year's Finals. They gave up a lead and the championship in the closing seconds of Game 6, lost in overtime, dropped Game 7 -- and have been on a mission ever since.

The Spurs had the best record in the NBA this season, dispatched some heady competition in the Western Conference playoffs and now are close to ending the Heat's reign.

"We don't want to give them any life," Tim Duncan said.

You can't help but marvel at the way the Spurs grew a dynastic team organically, particularly in this day and age in which superstars join forces. The Heat did it with James, Wade and Bosh, and lately there have been reports of adding a fourth in Miami: Carmelo Anthony.

But the Spurs are proving that playing team ball and executing efficiently on both ends sometimes is better than having more stars or sexier names.

The Spurs were unable to match their record-setting 75.8 percent shooting in the first half of Game 3 but did hit 55.6 percent in the opening half Thursday night and led 55-36 at the break.

James tried to lead Miami back in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the Heat's first 12 points and 19 of their 21. The closest Miami got was 61-48. But the Spurs took an 81-57 lead into the fourth quarter and have the Heat facing elimination.

"The series is not over," James said. "We got too much pride to even start thinking about that."

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