VIDEO: Heat vs. Spurs – Game 2
SAN ANTONIO — As the Spurs retreated to their psychiatric summer of 2013 Sunday night thanks to a flood of missed free throws and blown opportunities, they’d later find out that LeBron James righted his mind and body during an early morning yoga class with a few guests at the team’s Hill Country resort.
Just what the Spurs need, their own weighty heads now headed to that padded, white-walled room called Miami, while James, coming off the Big Cramp to pound San Antonio for 35 points and 10 rebounds, floats home on a pillow of puffy, white clouds.
“We took a tough one today,” said Manu Ginobili, who had 19 points, but three turnovers, including an impossible-to-handle whip pass inside to Tim Duncan with 1:01 to go and Miami up two. “We were in a good spot. We played an OK game, not perfect, but we were right there, and it slipped away.”
It wasn’t quite 28-seconds-slip-away like last year’s Game 6, but the Spurs know they allowed Miami to escape from an 0-2 bind on their home floor. The Heat walked out of San Antonio with a series-evening 98-96 victory, holding the Spurs to 6-for-17 shooting and 18 points in the final period, a reversal from the Spurs’ 14-for-16 Game 1 closeout as James’ body shut down on Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter what we’ve been through before, we’re here now again and we lost a game,” Duncan said. “We’re not going to hang our head.”
Yet, there was the typically stoic Duncan shaking his head in disbelief as the halftime buzzer sounded, having raised his arms overhead, clenching his fists and unclenching them as his hands landed on each hip, his eyes staring incredulously at the floor. It doesn’t take an archivist to remember when and where we last saw such a reaction from Duncan. All that was missing was his Game 7 two-handed palm-slap of the floor.
How did that little 1-foot put-back of Tony Parker‘s miss not go down? How did San Antonio go to the locker room in a 43-43 tie when it led 30-19 and seemed in control only to see James and his merry band of role players Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris “Birdman” Andersen quickly close the gap?
“I honestly don’t know what happened in that stretch,” Duncan said. “But turnovers were probably a factor there.”
And then there’s the points the Spurs left on the free throw line, missing eight of 20 attempts and four in a row on a most unfortunate seven-point swing with 6:43 to go in the game as San Antonio led 87-85. Struggling Heat point guard Mario Chalmers tried to drive past Parker, and has he did in the paint, he popped Parker in the ribs with an elbow. Chalmers rightly got hit with a Flagrant 1 giving Parker two free throws and the Spurs possession.
Parker had gone down hard, grimacing in clear pain. He finally sat up, got up and went to the free throw line. He missed the first one off the front rim. The second one bounced off the side and Parker immediately reached for his ribs. Coach Gregg Popovich got Parker out of the game, although he never went to the bench, instead taking a seat on the scorer’s table to talk to Popovich.
“It definitely affected me,” Parker said of the shot to the ribs. “But I’m a little bit frustrated; should have made them.”
On the ensuing possession, Duncan got fouled and he, too, missed both free throws. James drained a 3-pointer to give Miami the lead, 88-87. Parker would quickly re-enter and he made a 3 that gave the Spurs their final lead, 93-92 with 2:26 to go.
But San Antonio’s crisp passing and player movement turned uncharacteristically chaotic down the stretch. Four consecutive missed shots and a turnover did them in as Miami executed with poise, making highlight-reel passes for easy baskets to secure a 98-93 lead with 9.4 seconds left.
Those missed free throws, though, reeled everybody’s minds back to Game 6 in Miami, when Ginobili missed one of two with 28 seconds left and then Kawhi Leonard split a pair with 19 seconds left. It can’t be said with absolute certainty, of course, but if those free throws go down, it’s most likely the Spurs playing for a repeat and Heat president Pat Riley‘s never going back to the well for more three-peat trademarks.
And so now it’s on to Miami for the veteran, savvy Spurs, who can never fully forget what went down there a year ago, just as they’ll need to erase the opportunity that slipped away on Sunday night.
“For me, personally, I’m definitely not going to think about that [last year] the next two games,” Parker said. “I’m going to focus on what I can do to help the team win.”