By Frank Pingue
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs' hopes of taking a stranglehold on the NBA Finals were dashed by a slew of costly turnovers in Thursday's Game Four loss to the Miami Heat.
Hot on the heels of a stunning 36-point victory over Miami on Tuesday and looking to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven championship series, the Spurs ran into a Miami defense that transformed 18 turnovers into 23 points.
"We have to cut out turnovers. They played great defense tonight," Spurs guard Tony Parker told reporters after his team's 109-93 loss to the defending champions tied the series at 2-2.
"They take a lot of risks. That's Miami's identity. They play very aggressive defense, They gamble and they take a lot of chances, and tonight it worked."
After a listless performance in Game Three, the Heat came out with a new attitude on Thursday, playing with the type of aggression that made them the best team in the regular season and heavy favorites to win this year's championship.
For San Antonio, whenever it seemed they would cut into Miami's lead, they would turn over the ball and the Heat seemed to take nearly everyone back down the court for a score.
"They turned up their intensity, as we knew they would, and they got a lot of hands on balls, and they turned them into open plays for them, which is what we kind of talked about, trying to keep them out of that open court where they're most effective," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said.
"They put all those things together and obviously we lose the game tonight. They come up with the win."
San Antonio's starters combined for 12 turnovers, compared to the six committed by Miami's starting five.
Making matters worse for the Spurs was that their sloppy night of ball control came during a game where Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh dominated with a combined 85 points.
"When those guys play like that, you better be playing a more perfect game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about Miami's All-Star trio. "You can't turn it over that many times. It's a bad combo."
(Editing by John O'Brien)