With ice on his feet and a towel over his head, Lebron James was in a much different place after Game 2 when compared to the events after Game 1. Instead of an IV and a loss, Lebron was soaking up the win and the positive vibes of a job well-done on the Heat’s way home to Miami for games 3 and 4.
He only scored 2 points in the first quarter, but then turned it on the rest of the game to a tune of 35 points and 10 rebounds. At 70 degrees, things were much more amenable towards playing basketball in San Antonio tonight and Lebron James showed why he is essential to the Heat success. He started off gingerly, testing his body, but attacking the rim. As he got his body warmed up, and felt more comfortable, he started pushing up shots further away from the rim. Lebron took over in the 3rd and 4th quarters and paced the Heat attack to help bring home the split.
Lebron also proved his worth and his mettle. Over and over again, he got physical on the low block and got the rebounds and plays around the rim that really forced the Spurs into defensive conundra. He also was able to get Kawhi Leonard into foul trouble and eventually out of the game.
There are some concerns heading into Game 3 though. The Heat shot 53% from the field while the Spurs shot 43% – yet the Heat were only able to manage a 2 point victory. Rebounds were pretty even (Heat with 38, Spurs with 37). Turnovers were manageable, 13 for Heat and 11 for Spurs. The key stat that jumps out though is three point shots – the Spurs shot 12/26 (46.2%) while the Heat were 8/19 (42.1%).
If the Spurs hit their free throws (60%), they probably have a 2-0 lead. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker missed their free throws (0-4) during a stretch in the 4th quarter which definitely factored into the result of this game.
Coach Gregg Popovich talked about how the ball just got stuck during certain points of the game and when the ball doesn’t move, the Spurs offense withers. Miami has to do a better job of defending the three while also continuing to press the Spurs passing lanes and force them to take longer to make decisions.
Now the Heat will come back to Miami and play in front of the home crowd where the AC will not fail and the crowd will cheer for your big plays. The Heat will need to get stronger, more consistent contributions from the rest of the cast but as long as they have Lebron James, they have an advantage.