Here are five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 98-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday in Game 2 of the NBA Finals:
1. Are we done questioning LeBron James? The Heat star made the baskets his team needed during a 14-point third quarter and became a facilitator in the final minutes, finding Chris Bosh in the corner for the go-ahead three-pointer. James finished with 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, continually cramping the Spurs’ style three days after having to leave the series opener early because of severe discomfort on the left side of his body. “However the flow of the game is going,” James said, “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.” Done.
2. Miami’s legendary resiliency took effect. The Heat won a 13th consecutive playoff game after a loss going back to the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, putting the onus on the Spurs to try to rally on the court where they lost Games 6 and 7 of the Finals last year. “We gotta go to Miami and we gotta get one,” said San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili, who missed three of his last four shots and committed a costly turnover with a bad pass with 1:01 remaining. “We don’t want to come back here 3-1 down.”
3. San Antonio’s ball movement didn’t look so legendary in the second half. This was particularly the case during an 18-point fourth quarter. Miami’s defense was partially responsible for the Spurs not finding the kind of smart, open shots they usually get, but the Spurs also settled for too many jump shots. Tim Duncan took only five shots in the second half, making two. “The ball stuck to us,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. “We tried to do it individually and we’re not good enough to do that.”
4. Kawhi Leonard needs to have a bigger impact for the Spurs to win. Leonard has been a non-entity for the series’ first two games, scoring in single digits each game and struggling to defend James, though there’s no shame in the latter department. He fouled out after 31 minutes in Game 2 in which he scored nine points and grabbed only two rebounds. The confident, assertive player who was a difference-maker in the Spurs’ Western Conference finals victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder has not shown up in the Finals.
5. Old Spurs … and old Heat apparently never die. As recently as a month ago, who would have thought that Rashard Lewis would not only be starting but also scoring in double figures in the first two games of the Finals? The forward scored 10 points in Game 1 and followed that with 14 points in Game 2, giving Miami’s Big Three an added dimension. “Rashard has been huge for us ever since he’s been inserted into our starting lineup from the Indiana series,” James said. “He’s been in this position before. He’s been to the Finals with the Orlando Magic. He’s been in huge playoff games, and his experience and ability to knock down shots helps us out a lot. It spreads the floor for us, and every time he catches the ball, we tell him just to shoot it. Don’t think about nothing else besides shooting the ball, and we live with his results.”