- Series hub: Spurs-Heat
Rare is the moment when a triple-double of 18 points, 10 assists and 18 rebounds in the NBA Finals can be deemed not good enough.
Welcome to the upside-down world of LeBron James.
The King left his Cleveland throne three years ago for the company of more noble servants, not more clown jesters. Yet here is, fresh off a grueling, seven-game series just to get back to The Finals and he and his favored Miami Heat — The Big Three a vanishing contrail of past conquests — have fallen behind the magnificent Tony Parker and his humming band of San Antonio Spurs, 1-0.
Right: James had just eight points on seven shots in the second half and he took just four shots in nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh, dared by San Antonio to shoot long-range jumpers, took five shots and missed four. Credit young Spurs defender Kawhi Leonard for his quiet, determined one-on-one defense against James (7-for-16 shooting) all game. Leonard made a huge steal on a James pass attempt with six minutes to go that extended a 79-78 Spurs lead to 81-78 and ignited a 6-1 surge. The Spurs never lost the lead. Fact is the Spurs will live with an 18-10-18 triple-double from James every game. It’s the 32-10-10 ones that’ll get them killed.
Wrong: With 1:08 to go and the Heat down 90-86, Bosh received the ball behind the arc on the right wing. Not a defender stood between him and Miami Beach. Although he was 0-for-3 from 3-point range, Bosh unleashed a wide-open 3 … and he still missed it. Bosh needed to put is head down and drive to the basket, at least hope to get to the free throw line where was 1-for-2 in 35 minutes.
Right:Parker is a magician with the basketball and if his Curly Neal impersonation as the shot clock ticked down on the Spurs’ final possession isn’t convincing, nothing will be. The Heat don’t have an answer for Parker and that’s going to be a big problem. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were helpless and when Miami matched LeBron on him, the Spurs’ screens created switches. Parker scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while the Heat managed just 16. He finished with 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting, six assists and — this is amazing — no turnovers in darn near 40 minutes of orchestrating the offense.
Wrong: The Heat have now lost one of the first two games at home in three consecutive series. It hasn’t proven fatal yet, but in the 2-3-2 Finals format, it’s more difficult to recover (as the Heat remember well from 2011). When Cole busted a 3-pointer for a 38-29 lead early in the second quarter, Miami appeared to have that winning look in their eye, but never could put their foot down. Only two minutes later it was 38-36. It would be the theme of the night with the Spurs continually reeling itself back within a bucket or so until finally pulling ahead in the fourth quarter for its first lead since the first quarter. That nine-point bulge Miami briefly enjoyed was its largest.
Right: Any suggestion that 37-year-old Tim Duncan wouldn’t victimize Miami’s thin interior in the same manner as the Pacers’ young and rugged Roy Hibbert seemed asinine — and indeed were. Duncan opened the game 0-for-5 from the floor, but the quickly heated up and tormented the Heat the rest of the way for a do-it-all 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
Wrong: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra‘s rotation went haywire. By the end of the first half he and already used six players off the bench with five logging six-plus minutes (Rashard Lewis — DNP-CD again — must really feel awful). In Game 7 against the Pacers, Spoelstra went nine-deep with Shane Battier playing fewer than nine minutes. Sure, maybe Spoelstra felt his guys were a little worn out after the Pacers series and wanted to spread some minutes, but look for him to tighten the rotation and seek more continuity.