The Miami Heat were bound to look much better in game 2, even though LeBron James didn’t have the offensive explosion people expected him too. Instead, he did everything else, which started with excellent defense, and continued with hardly making mistakes on offense, making Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen look the way they’re supposed to.
The big key for the Heat was getting their offensive game going again, but it started with defense. The Heat forced 17 turnovers, including 5 by Tony Parker, who couldn’t get by Mario Chalmers as easily as he did in game 1. The Heat seemed to have the right switch for every play in the second half as they went on a 22-2 run that blew the game wide open late in the third quarter, carrying on in the fourth.
It ended in a 103-84 win, and James didn’t have to forget his teammates to do it. He finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. A little bit of everything, but it’s a lot more than that. James was the screener on most of Mario Chalmers’ points, which surprised the Spurs, but really shouldn’t have. Chalmers has a knack for coming up big in big games, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-12 from the field, being the point man during the 33-5 run that sent the Spurs’ big three to the bench.
During that run, the Heat were 6-of-7 from the field for 16 points, all beginning with Chalmers as the ball handler and LeBron James being the screen guy on the pick & roll. The completely threw out Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green from helping on the plays, creating open looks all around the floor, even during the moments when it was only James and four role players, as the Spurs simply didn’t have the offense to counter their defensive struggles.
Was it forseen in advance? The Heat are 5-0 in the playoffs following a loss, and are now 11-0 since January following defeats. Their 19 point win is the largest Game 2 win by a team following a Game 1 loss in the NBA Finals since 1991, when the Bulls came back from 0-1 to beat the Lakers in five games. No one is thinking the Heat are going to blow the Spurs out of the water from here on out, but there was a feeling that it was more than just adjustments – it was about Miami showing that when in form, they’re the better team.
Chris Bosh scored 10 points, this time a lot more choosy in his shots, finishing with 6-of-10 from the field. The Heat were a lot more aggressive going to the basket, but James started with only 2-of-11 from the field, before hitting five of his final six shots. Dwyane Wade didn’t have a great shooting day as well, missing too many shots from close range, but he also added 6 assists to his 10 points, which was just as good on a day that had Miami shooting 52.6% from beyond the arc, as both Mike Miller and Ray Allen each hit three tres.
As it has been for both teams in these playoffs, a lot revolves around making the open shots. The Spurs hit their shots quite well, finishing with 1.21 points per possession on spot up offense, but the Heat were close to impeccable, averaging 1.52 points per possession, and finally did a much better job in making a more varied offense, which including back door screens and cuts, which were hardly part of the offense in game 1.
The Miami Heat are evolving, and LeBron James can have games with “only” 17 points and the Heat can still dominate. Their greatest strength is their MVP, but not in the customary way. It’s in how he makes players around him better, unlike other players of his caliber, and the Heat having the kind of guys that eventually will hit the open shots the Spurs are giving them, which might force them to start re-thinking their defensive strategy, and once you start doubting yourself, the series is half over.