After leaving the fourth quarter of Game 1 with leg cramps, there was no doubt LeBron James would have an appropriate response in Game 2. That part of it was not going to be a surprise. The bigger question was, with an increasingly thin bench and the lack of secondary scoring, if LeBron’s brilliance would be enough to give the Heat a split of the first two games on the road in San Antonio.
It turns out it was, and barely. After just two points in the first quarter, LeBron exploded—with stretches in the third and fourth quarter that were absolutely frightening—and finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. The Heat trailed by double digits in the first half, and it felt as though they were legitimately going to be blown out of the building. But despite looking terrible for stretches, and seemingly giving up wide-open looks from three and at the rim to the Spurs, the game was tied at the half.
The Heat trailed by two mid-way through the fourth quarter when an important sequence happened. On a drive to the basket, Tony Parker was elbowed in the ribs by Mario Chalmers. After struggling to get up for a few minutes, Parker went to the free throw line for two shots as Chalmers as assessed a flagrant on the play. He missed both. The Spurs regained possession on the in bound and Duncan was able to draw a shooting foul. He too missed both of his free throw attempts. With a chance to open up a six point lead—which in a game like this, would have felt like a lot of breathing room—the Spurs instead allowed the Heat to hang around and eventually take control.
It must be frustrating for the Spurs, who held series leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 last year before losing to the Heat in seven. In these Finals, they have now let a golden chance at going up 2-0 slip away. But credit to the Heat, and to LeBron, who have now won 12 in a row after a playoff loss. Which is incredible considering the scrutiny and pressure this team and their best player faces. Put simply: in the last three post-seasons when Miami has needed a win, they’ve gotten it every time.
Since LeBron joined Miami four seasons ago, the Heat have played in 84 playoff games and counting, more than a season’s worth of games. If not physically, the mental aspect of the playoff grind has to be wearing on the Heat at this point. It feels at times like LeBron has to single-handedly win four games in this series if the Heat are to three-peat. He played a huge part in getting the Heat on the board in this series in Game 2. And the scary thing is, it does not feel inconceivable that he has three more of these in him.
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