In Game 1, LeBron James‘ body succumbed to the sweltering heat at the AT&T Center due to an air conditioning malfunction. James went to the bench with cramping in his left leg with 4:00 to play and did not return in the steamy conditions during the Miami Heat’s 110-95 loss Thursday night.
That was not the case in Game 2 Sunday night. The four-time MVP finished the game with 35 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat tied the series with a 98-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
LeBron James played over 37 minutes shooting 14 for 22 from the field, three assists, and two steals. James had 22 of his points in the second half, including 14 in the third quarter where the Heat began to find offensive and defensive success against the Spurs.
“Just play the game, try to play the game the right way,” James said. “However the flow of the game is going, I just try to impose my will in some kind of way — either scoring or rebounding or assisting or defending. Put myself and my teammates in a position to succeed, and I was happy in the fact that I was able to make some plays to help us get the victory tonight.”
James constantly gets criticized with his passing versus shooting decisions when the outcome is undecided late in the game. It resurfaced in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers when James decided to pass to Chris Bosh for a potential game-winning three-pointer. Bosh missed, the Heat lost Game 5 and the floodgates of criticism opened up.
“When the ball is in my hands, I’m going to make the right play,” James said. “To have that trust from my teammates, they know when I got the ball, I’m going to make the right play. Doesn’t mean it’s going to go in. Doesn’t mean it’s going to result in a win, but they believe in my ability to do that.”
The situation presented itself twice in the late moments of Game 2. With 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Heat trailing 93-92, James passed to Bosh in the corner, where he missed the shot. Forty-nine seconds later, James again passed the ball to Bosh in the corner, Bosh made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining. Bosh finished the game with 18 points for the Heat.
The Spurs blew a chance to take the sort of 2-0 series lead that has historically spelled trouble for the trailing team. 28 of the 31 teams that took a 2-0 lead in the Finals have gone on to win, the latest anomaly was in 2006 when the Dwyane Wade led Miami Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games after dropping the first two.
The four missed free throws midway through the fourth quarter were exactly the sort of thing the San Antonio Spurs discussed back in training camp, when head coach Gregg Popovich shared his message about how all the little things made such a big difference against the Heat in Game 6 and Game 7 last year. Yet here we are in Game 2 of this year’s Finals where Spurs point guard Tony Parker ( hurting from the Mario Chalmers elbow to his rib cage that put him on the line ) missed two in a row. Then, Spurs power forward Tim Duncan missed two more freethrows on the very next possession.
The Miami Heat have won 13 straight following a loss in the postseason. Just like last year, they rebounded from a loss to the Spurs in Game 1. The Heat are headed home for Game 3 Tuesday night.
Milestones: Parker has 1,026 assists in the postseason, moving past Michael Jordan (1,022) for eighth place on the career postseason list. He also passed Scottie Pippen, for 13th on the career scoring list with 3,655 points.