LeBron fuels Heat in Game 2 to set up epic Finals
SAN ANTONIO -- Here was the best player on the planet at the height of his powers. LeBron James, three days after being carried off the AT&T Center floor, carried his team back to Miami with a split. After making just one basket in the first quarter and a half, James delivered an unforgettable Finals opus with 35 points and 10 rebounds, making 14 of his 22 field goal attempts and all three of his three-pointers. But his most significant play may have been a pass, the drive-and-kick to Chris Bosh for a corner 3 with 1:17 left that gave the Heat a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The Spurs were finally beatable on their home floor, for the first time since the first round. Miami won Game 2, 98-96, and now the series is set up to be an epic.
NO CRAMPING HIS STYLE: James started Sunday, though he admitted he did not feel "normal," because of the severe cramps he suffered due to the air conditioning outage at AT&T Center in Game 1. James looked like he was at less than full strength early, missing three shots from close range, and scoring only a basket in the first quarter and a half. Then James warmed up, taking the ball straight to the basket and relying heavily on his cyclone of a spin move. Of his first 10 shots, nine were layups, the other a 10-footer. James steadily moved further from the basket. In a remarkable span of 50 seconds in the third quarter, when the Heat were slipping, James scored eight straight points with two threes.
PENDULUM SWING: Midway through the fourth quarter, Mario Chalmers was whistled for a flagrant foul on Tony Parker. Parker missed both free throws, but San Antonio regained possession, and Tim Duncan was fouled. Duncan missed both free throws also. Those four misses changed the momentum of the game and potentially the series.
PARKED IN THE PAINT: Through the first two games of this year's Finals, like last year's Finals, Parker has been able to probe the paint. Last June, Parker's hamstring eventually diminished his impact, and this time around he is supposedly struggling from a sore ankle. But Parker is still able to collapse the Heat defense regularly, either finishing at the basket or kicking out to open shooters. The Heat's trapping style always makes them susceptible to teams that move the ball well. The Spurs move it as well as anyone and they attempted another 26 threes, too many for Miami.
DUNKIN' DUNCAN: The Heat are struggling to contain the ageless one. Tim Duncan made 9 of 10 shots in Game 1 and started 5 of 6 in Game 2, including an emphatic put-back dunk that riled the crowd. Duncan, who declared before the series that "we'll do it this time" has backed up his claim. The Heat did improve on Duncan (18 points, 15 rebounds) as the night wore on, as he finished 7 of 14.
HELP WANTED: While San Antonio has developed one of the deepest rotations in the NBA, Miami's supporting cast is not as potent as it was in either of the past two championship seasons. The Heat were able to win Sunday because of James, but they cannot expect him to replicate this kind of effort in every game. Miami got 14 points from Rashard Lewis, who came through much as he did in the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana. But Chalmers, James Jones, Norris Cole and Ray Allen were not as productive. The Big Three will need more reinforcements moving forward.