Game 2: AC and LeBron return


VIDEO: Sekou Smith and John Schuhmann preview Game 2 of The Finals

SAN ANTONIO — They’ve barely started and things are already hot, hot, hot between the Spurs and Heat heading into Game 2.

The basics:

Game 1 tips off Sunday night at 8 ET on ABC.

Bring the gallon jugs of water, lofts of cold towels and plenty of ice.

Stay hydrated.

You don’t want to cramp up in the fourth quarter when LeBron James just might exact his revenge on the faulty air conditioning system at the AT&T Center by adding to his legend.

The maintenance folks say everything has been repaired and temperature inside the arena won’t feel like a hot yoga class. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be sweaty moments as the Heat try to bounce back from the fourth quarter collapse in Game 1 that produced a 110-95 defeat.

The narrative:

LeBron has never won the opening game of a playoff series that was played on the road and that hasn’t exactly put a crimp in his career.

The Heat dropped the opener to the Spurs a year ago, but that was at home and made bouncing back a bit easier. Miami has been incredibly resilient over the past two post-seasons, following a playoff loss by winning a record 12 straight times.

But now out on the road, the stakes are highest, the situation most dire and opponent the toughest as Miami tries to avoid going down 2-0 in any series for the first time since the Heatles formed a band.

All eyes, of course, will be on James, who had to leave Game 1 on Thursday night with severe cramping and watch helplessly as teammates were rolled down the stretch by the Spurs.

James has been resting, getting monitored constantly by the Heat medical staff and promises to be at full throttle for tonight.


VIDEO: Rachel Nichols updates LeBron James’ condition as Game 2 nears

The subplots:

Danny Green made another big splash with his trio of 3-pointers to spark the Spurs’ big fourth quarter rally in Game 1. But kicking his feet like a duck below the water level was center Tiago Splitter. After being phased out of minutes in The 2013 Finals and coming off the bench in Games 5 and 6 in the 2014 Western Conference finals, Splitter started and came up big, hitting 5 of 6 shots for 14 points. His nine-point burst from late third to early fourth quarter was an example of how the Spurs must attack the smaller Heat in the low post.

Mario Chalmers is often the wild-card in the Heat lineup that can be an offensive weapon and some of the pressure off the Big Three. But Chalmers got into early foul trouble and wound up playing just 17 minutes, scoring only three points and having five turnovers against 1 assist. Chalmers has got to stay under control and stay on the floor, if only to help coach Erik Spoelstra manage minutes.

Xs and Os:

Just because Tim Duncan shot 9-for-10 in Game 1, don’t expect the Spurs to turn back the clock a decade or more and pump the ball inside to the Big Fundamental. Those days are gone and now Duncan gets his shots out of the flow of the passing game offense. It’s still all about keeping the ball moving and trusting that eventually enough open looks at the basket will produce the necessary points. One thing the Spurs cannot afford is another game with a glut of 23 turnovers. They’ll look to keep their passes simpler and take fewer chances.

Even putting talk of a faulty air conditioning system aside, it is likely necessary for Spoelstra to go deeper into his lineup to keep the likes of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh fresher down the stretch of games. With San Antonio’s bench so deep, the Spurs always have rested bodies on the floor and Spoelstra would benefit just from getting usable minutes from Udonis Haslem and Toney Douglas. The Heat also have to attack the basket and get to the line more. They shot just 11 free throws in Game 1.


VIDEO: Relive Tim Duncan’s monster Game 1 performance

Who’s hot?

Boris Diaw scored just two points in the series opener, but with his 10 rebounds, six assists and solid defensive work against James, finished with the highest plus/minus figure in the game at +30.

Bosh continues his evolution into one of the best 3-point shooting big men in the game. Spreading the floor was a necessary part in the Heat’s growth into two-time champions and Bosh nailed 3 of 4 from behind the arc in the opener.

Whatever happened to…

Chris “Birdman” Andersen continues to be MIA off the Miami bench. He played 17 1/2 minutes in Game 1, but was hardly the disruptive force that can change a game. He grabbed just three rebounds and had one bucket.

Bottom line:

The Heat habit is to follow a playoff loss with an inspired win. You’ve got to think LeBron won’t let anything cramp his style.

15 Comments

  1. Blog-So-Hard-NBA says:

    Game one: very unfortunate for James; Game 2, well.. Ok
    Best of five: and 3 of those games are in Miami and with A/C

  2. MikeH says:

    Perhaps a pattern is developing here. The Spurs come in with a good game plan, lead often during the game. Are in it all game and fade/fail to close out the Heat in the final minutes. Game 6 and 7 last year and now this year (except for LBJ being out of the game with cramps in game 1.)

    With all the mental masturbation about the Heat not having a deep enough rotation or being a “one man” team, it appears that may be the biggest difference between these teams. Coaching?…don’t think so. Is Eastern Conference tougher?…don’t think so. Talent?….two evenly matched teams.

    For all you Heat/LBJ haters, you may need to consider the possibility it may be LBJ. While I don’t think it is fair to compare dominant players of different eras, he does what MJ, Bird, Johnson, Russell etc. did for their teams. He makes the plays at clutch time and his team mates better. He doesn’t need to take the winning shot every night and he often leads his team on defense.

    He has the option of opting out after this year. Doubtful he will leave considering the way he has been treated around the league. But if you’re a Spurs fan, take a moment and imagine LBJ playing for SA…..don’t think so.

  3. Lebron has the will of a champion!

  4. latteonpaper says:

    Miami should have won game 1. LeBron being on the court would have made things different, but also, San Antonio got hot at a really fortunate time; these are factors that they simply can’t count on for other games. Miami will win game 2 and San Antonio will be lucky that it’s only 1-1 instead of 2-0 in Miami’s favor. I’m counting on the Heat to win this series, but even if San Antonio does, it won’t be until game 7. This is going to be a long series.

  5. ROMULO CATOR says:

    Lebron is ready. The AC will be fully operational. Lebron does not lose twice in a row. Miami will win game 2.

  6. Palmatron says:

    I’m hoping the spurs win, but I just don’t see it happening. miami’s defense looks too good and san antonio gave up a lot of good, open shots to the heat. they didn’t make them, but I imagine they will during the series……also, turnovers….23 is way too many….

  7. holyspectator says:

    id be very surprised if miami loses game 2. if they do, it just may be over for them

  8. nba fan says:

    i like both teams, but i hope spurs will win the series since most of the nba writer thinks that heat are invinsible,

  9. EggieJ says:

    I think we all hold on to things of the past too much. I’m not a fan of either team but I do appreciate them. I believe the Heat will play a hard fought game but I think their history of winning game 2’s won’t factor in this time around. I’m a Bulls fan but I have said from before the playoffs started that the Spurs will win the championship and I really believe they will get the best of the Spurs in game 2. I just see the ball movement of the Spurs being too much for the Heat in this series. If the Heat want to win game 2, then I feel either Chalmers or Battier will have to come up big for them. I would say Ray Allen but I feel that Allen is consistent enough for them. It will be a great game for sure.

  10. MikeH says:

    1995 NBA Finals – Houston Rockets coach, Rudy Tomjanovich

    “We had nonbelievers all along the way, and I have one thing to say to those nonbelievers: Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion!”

    Heat, 2 time defending champions (without any weirdness, snakes, bats, or “A/C failures”)

  11. Jim Jacques says:

    LeBron is weak and although there are all the comparisons from sports writers and fans, he will never, ever be as good as Jordan was.

  12. Peter says:

    Nice article and info. Lebron and company will be on fire this evening! Chalmers and Anderson will have an efficient game. Second game goes to Miami Heat! Cant’ wait for the game to begin.

  13. Kimmy says:

    Doubt it. Spurs are hot and Heat are not. Even if Lebron James stayed in the game, Spurs were still winning. I’m not a Spurs fan (or even a Heat fan for that matter), but Spurs will not allow the Heat to win on their own floor. No way Jose.

    • Jgainor says:

      Everyone always count the heat out but every time they prove the nay-Sayers wrong

  14. Big Al of Bondi says:

    In both the Heat’s past two championships, they lost Game 1. The trend won’t be any different here, I’m sure.