LeBron can't miss, Spurs can't hit, and we head to Miami all tied up
JUN 08, 2014 11:10p ET
In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James was gassed before halftime and pretty much finished by the third quarter, and his inability to finish the game sent the Internet and the haters into a frenzy. In Game 2 on Sunday night, James was just getting going when the second quarter tipped off and was nearly unstoppable in the third -- and by the time he was done, the haters were silent and the Heat fans were the ones feeling frenzied.
After just two points in the first quarter, James scored 11 in the second, another 14 in a 6-of-7 third quarter and once again made himself the story, only this time in scoring 35 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Heat beat the Spurs 98-96 in San Antonio to send the NBA Finals to Miami tied at one game apiece.
James' final numbers were impressive enough: 35 points on 14-of-22 shooting, within that a perfect 3-of-3 mark from 3-point land, plus 10 rebounds and three assists. But after a first period in which he was ice cold and the Spurs led 26-19, James' numbers looked like he was determined to show people he still knows how to finish: 13 of 18 for 33 points to go with nine rebounds and two assists.
Still, the Spurs had a chance to stretch their home playoff winning streak to 10 games, but after Tony Parker gave the hosts a 93-92 lead with 2:26 to play, the Heat's Big Three went on a 6-0 run during which Chris Bosh hit a 3-pointer, James made a free throw and Dwyane Wade hit the clinching layup with 9.4 seconds to play. Manu Ginobili hit a 3-pointer with less than a second to pay to pull the Spurs to within two for the final margin, but that was after he missed two shots and turned the ball over during Miami's final run.
Now the Heat are now in control with home-court advantage heading to South Beach for Games 3 and 4. Miami is undefeated on its floor in the playoffs (8-0). Two wins at AmericanAirlines Arena this week would leave the Heat one win shy of a three-peat.
Series: Tied 1-1
Takeaway: An elbow from Mario Chalmers with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth knocked the wind out of Parker. It seemed to flatten the rest of the Spurs, too. San Antonio, up 87-85 at the time. had a chance to create a nice cushion midway through the fourth after Chalmers was called for a flagrant foul on the play.
The blow left Parker crumpled on the floor in obvious pain and, despite a lengthy break as officials decided on the severity of the foul, Parker wasn't comfortable when he stepped to the line. As a result, he missed both free throws before the Spurs retained possession on the flagrant call. Tim Duncan was then fouled, but he clanked two foul shots, too. Instead of possibly going up as much as six points, the Spurs failed to add anything to their advantage.
James drilled a 3-pointer on the next trip down to put Miami back in front.
The Spurs would lead again, but the missed opportunity to get extra separation came back to haunt San Antonio. Empty possessions, especially down the stretch, are often the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs. The Spurs missed only five free throws for the game (16 of 21), but those four in a row won't be forgotten.
Star review: Remember those cramps? James quieted the critics -- as if he needed to -- with a complete bounce-back performance at the air-conditioned AT&T Center. The 35 points and 10 rebounds underscored his impact in a contest the Heat felt they needed to win.
LeBron opened the game working almost exclusively inside, and after the cold first quarter, posted up and drove the ball to the rack relentlessly in the first half as the Heat settled into the game. The jumper began falling in the third quarter, especially with the shot clock winding down, keeping Miami close as the Spurs were operating at near-peak efficiency on the offensive end.
Bosh scored 18 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining. Wade wasn't at his best, but he scored 14 and that clinching lay-up. The Heat also got a number of solid contributions from the supporting cast: Rashard Lewis hit a trio of 3-pointers en route to 14 points, Chris Andersen grabbed nine rebounds off the bench, and Chalmers had five points and four assists -- and that one big elbow.
Parker scored 21 and dished out seven assists, but did leave the game momentarily after the two missed free throws. Duncan had 18 points and 15 rebounds for his 157th career playoff double-double, tying Magic Johnson for the all-time lead. Ginobili added 19 points, but no other Spurs player reached double figures in scoring.
Looking ahead: Game 3 at Miami, Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET
What to look for: The old adage that a playoff series doesn't begin until a road team wins is in full effect. The Spurs now need to win at least one game in Miami to end the Heat Dynasty. And while the Heat haven't lost at home in these playoffs, the Spurs were the league's best road team during the regular season (30-11). San Antonio also claimed road wins in each of its previous three playoffs series against Dallas, Portland and Oklahoma City (clinching the Western Conference in OKC).
As important as it was for Miami to get a split in South Texas, James needed the win to save face after being carried off the floor in Game 1. With all due respect to MVP Kevin Durant, the best player in the world has now put his stamp on these Finals and has shown us again that's he's capable of putting the Heat on his back. These next two games will go a long way in determining if LeBron can carry Miami to a third straight title.
Follow Art Garcia on Twitter @ArtGarcia92