LeBron James, who was knocked out of Game 1 due to cramps in an unusually steamy AT&T Center, bounced back with 35 points — on 14 of 22 shooting — but it was a pass to Chris Bosh that ultimately lifted the Heat to a 98-96 victory over the Spurs in Game 2 in San Antonio to even the NBA Finals at 1 game apiece.
"I caught Tim Duncan kind of peeking at me a little bit and found CB in the corner, his favorite spot," said James, who also nabbed eight rebounds.
After the pass from James, Bosh nailed a 3-pointer with 1:18 left to give the Heat a 95-93 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
"That’s what makes this team special," said Bosh, who finished with 18 points. "Our best player is willing to sacrifice a good shot for a great shot."
The victory snapped San Antonio’s nine-game home winning streak in the playoffs and marked the Heat’s 13th straight postseason win following a loss. Miami has played 47 straight playoff games without back-to-back losses.
It didn’t look good early for the Heat. James and Dwyane Wade combined for just two points in the first quarter and Miami found itself trailing 26-19 at the end of one. But James began to find his groove in the second quarter, scoring 11 points and Miami fought back to tie the game at 43 at halftime.
Throughout the second half the teams exchanged jabs and both set the nets on fire in the third quarter. James was especially hot in third with 14 points, but the Spurs outscored the Heat 35-34 to take a one-point lead (78-77) into the final frame.
The teams tightened up the defense in the fourth quarter, but the back-and-forth battle continued until Bosh made his go ahead shot for the Heat.
"I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and they have a lot of confidence in me," said James. "We live with the results no matter what."
Now the series shifts back to Miami where the Heat are 8-0 this postseason.
THE TURNING POINT
With the Spurs nursing an 87-85 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Miami’s Mario Chalmers was called for a flagrant foul as he elbowed Parker in the ribs on a drive to the basket. With two free throws and the ball, the Spurs had a chance to sieze momentum.
But the Spurs failed to capitalize when Parker missed his two free throws and Duncan did the same when he was fouled on San Antonio’s ensuing possession.
While it continued to be a nip-and-tuck game through the remainder of the fourth quarter, the four missed free throws in this stretch proved pivotal in a two-point win for the Heat.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was succinct in his assessment of the situation after the game: "We can’t miss four free throws in a row."
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
The Heat certainly wouldn’t have been in the game without James’ contributions, but how about giving a nod to Rashard Lewis, who stepped up with 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
STAT OF THE GAME
Duncan had 18 points in the game, but none in the fourth quarter.
In years past, the Heat would have had a chance to close out the Spurs in Miami without a return trip to San Antonio. But prior to the season, the 2-3-2 format was changed to match that of the rest of the playoffs.
The Heat will host the Spurs for Game 3 (Tuesday) and Game 4 (Thursday), before heading back to San Antonio for Game 5 on June 15.