The first game was about LeBron James missing when his team needed him the most, and game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals had the same man take center stage, but this time in a completely different light, as he led the Miami Heat to a 98-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs to make it 1-1 in the series.
No air conditioning issues, no cramps. Some flopping from Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili. An elbow from Mario Chalmers to the ribs of Tony Parker which actually changed momentum in favor of the Heat. The rest? Just basketball, without any wrong focus on different things, as the Miami Heat proved that with James on the floor instead of being carried off of it, they’re probably the stronger team, dominating most of the series so far.
James finished with 35 points and 10 rebounds on 14-of-22 from the field. He scored only two points in the first quarter, but completely took over the game in the next three and especially in the second half with 22 points. He made the decision to post up and attack the rim without wasting too much energy through the first two quarters, and moved to making jump shots and 3-pointers, usually stopping the ball, hanging on a few seconds and rising with someone guarding him. It almost worked perfectly.
He scored eight consecutive points in the third quarter brought the Heat back from behind after another momentum run from the San Antonio Spurs, giving the Heat full control of the game. It was quite close, trading shots from that moment, but the Spurs missed four consecutive free throws after the flagrant call on Chalmers, missing out on a chance to make it a two-possession game. It seemed they lost focus and courage from there, as their speed of moving the ball, which was decreasing from the moment they took a 30-19 lead early in the second quarter, came to a halt.
Manu Ginobili had a very good game until the final minutes. He scored 19 points, but made bad decisions on three consecutive possessions, which included a miss and two turnovers as the Heat put a final clamp down on the game as Chris Andersen gave Miami the lead on 2:48 in the game, a Chris Bosh 3-pointer, LeBron James from the line and a great layup from Dwyane Wade after some nice setting up from Bosh finished the job. Ginobili hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it didn’t change the outcome.
The Heat sometimes seem to struggle with their depth compared to the Spurs, as they were struggling when LeBron James was taking a rest, playing 38 minutes in total. But their defense managed to put some fear into the Spurs who didn’t turn the ball over in the second half, but were a lot less risky with their passing, making it a lot easier for that swarming Heat defense to close down spaces and give everyone their due attention.
It was a very good start from Tim Duncan, but usually big men against the Heat start fast and cool down. He finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, but was almost a non factor in the second half, as Chris Bosh had no problem handling him offensively, finishing with 18 points and doing a good job on the big man on defense. Rashard Lewis with 14 points was efficient as always, surprisingly finding himself becoming a key part in a Finals when it seemed his career was almost over.
The Spurs had too many players who once again didn’t show up: Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and even Tiago Splitter despite his passing. If it comes down to their big three doing all the work offensively while Leonard and Diaw can’t even slow down LeBron James defensively, then once again the team playing the “right” kind of basketball finds itself in something of a matchup problem heading into the two-game Miami switch.