Knowing what was at stake, small forward LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, wouldn’t allow Miami to lose to San Antonio last Sunday in Game 2 of the NBA Finals after falling by four points in Game 1.
After a tepid start in which the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player tallied four points at the half, James erupted for 13 second-half points, including 11 with three assists during a stretch that covered nearly eight minutes as the Heat pounded the Spurs, 103-84, at American Airlines Arena.
If there was a defining moment it was James’ block of San Antonio center Tiago Splitter’s attempted dunk, who then found shooting guard Ray Allen (13 points) for a three-pointer as the Heat pulled ahead 89-67 with slightly more than eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what I do when I’m having trouble scoring,’’ said James of the rejection at the rim, and who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and three steals. “I try to help my team in other ways. I know my guys are going to make their shots.”
The Heat (66-16) are the defending champs, but trailed 62-61 on shooting guard Danny Green’s layup with 3:50 left in the third quarter, but then outscored the Spurs, 33-5, and led 94-67 with about seven minutes left in the final quarter.
The Spurs (58-24) are gunning for their fifth NBA title since 1999, and were tied at 22-22 after one quarter as Green (team-best 17 points) had nine points.
James, who tallied 18 points with 18 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 1, scored which cut San Antonio’s advantage to 36-34 and six minutes showing in the second quarter, but Green’s trey tied it at 45-45 with 1:55 left before the intermission.
Shooting guard Dwyane Wade scored all of his 10 points at the half for the Heat, who took a 50-45 lead into the locker room, as did Mario Chalmers, who finished with a game-high 19.
“We were getting good shots,’’ Wade explained at the half to Doris Burke, ABC’s sideline reporter. “We tried to keep them [San Antonio] out of the paint. We know they’re going to take a lot of three-pointers, and they’re going to make some.”
Indeed, the Spurs connected on 10 of 20 from three-point range, with Green canning five. Miami made 10 of 19 from that distance.
An unsung star was Chalmers, who also won an NCAA title with Kansas. “They’re always telling me to be more aggressive,’’ said the point guard who grabbed four boards and handed off two assists.
Coming off a 21-point, six-assist outing with no turnovers in the Game 1 92-88 win, San Antonio point guard Tony Parker managed 13 points with five assists, but five turnovers, while power forward Tim Duncan, who dropped in 20 points with 14 boards in Game 1, had nine points with 11 rebounds.
The Spurs looked rattled at times, somewhat odd considering they’re a veteran-laden team, turning the ball over 17 times after committing only four in Game 1, which set an NBA Finals record. The Heat had six miscues.
Miami center Chris Bosh has been criticized for his work in the playoffs, but scored 12 points with 10 caroms, while San Antonio swingman Manu Ginobili had five points.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.