By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
SAN ANTONIO – While the game’s greatest player returned with a vengeance in Game 2 for the Heat, the Spurs’ most vital player is off to see the doctor.
So much went right for LeBron James in Miami’s 98-96 road win to even an NBA Finals series that now shifts to the Heat’s home court for a pair of quick turnaround games on Tuesday and Thursday. James showed why he’s the king of the league with an exhilarating performance of 35 points on 14-for-22 shooting, including a dominant 6-for-7 and 14 points in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, San Antonio point guard Tony Parker still seemed to be in some discomfort as he took the podium in the aftermath of Game 2, and the Spurs are left to hope there’s nothing more serious than a pretty decent bruise left behind from Mario Chalmers’ blatant swing of his elbow: “I”ll talk with the doctor, you know?” Parker said. “Right now, I’m just frustrated.”
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in Game 2:
Wrong: Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, so often billed as the future of the franchise, is taking a pretty good beating so far trying to do anything on either side of the floor against James. He fouled out in Game 2, was mostly helpless trying to defend James and finished with only nine points, same as his Game 1 total, on 3-for-9 shooting. And for the second consecutive game, Leonard was limited to just two rebounds.
Right: Check out the resurrected Rashard Lewis. The veteran had virtually no role in last year’s championship run and his role in this one has vastly increased seemingly only because Chris “Birdman” Andersen got injured during the Eastern Conference finals. It thrust Lewis into the starting lineup and coach Erik Spoelstra has kept him there despite the Spurs’ big starting frontcourt. Lewis came through in Game 2 with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting and drilled three more 3-pointers.
Wrong: The Spurs are so disciplined and so fundamental, yet there are times when the most simplistic aspect of the game eludes them — free throws. The Spurs went 12-for-20 in Game 2 and missed four consecutive free throws midway through the fourth quarter when they could have expanded a two-point lead to six. But Parker missed two after Chalmers’ flagrant foul and on the ensuing possession, Tim Duncan missed two more. James canned a 3-pointer at the other end for a rare seven-point swing that put the Heat ahead 88-87. The Spurs finished fourth in the league during the regular season in free throw percentage (78.5 percent), but 60 percent in a playoff game won’t often get the job done.
Right: Heat forward Chris Bosh just keeps doing his job. He takes the ridicule when he doesn’t score much or has a low rebound game, or whatever, but he just keeps coming back and delivering. He hit another key corner 3-pointer off a James drive and finished with 18 points in 36 minutes. There’s little mention of him only grabbing three boards because he’s been so solid (he did have nine rebounds in Game 1). The mild-mannered Bosh has scored 18 points in both games and is a combined 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Wrong: The Spurs’ bench, No. 1 in the league during the regular season, is so critical to the team’s success, but it provided little reinforcement in Game 2 outside of Manu Ginobili scoring 19 points. Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw and Patty Mills combined to score 18 points on 6-for-21 shooting. Those three also had 18 points in Game 1, but on a much more efficient 6-for-13 shooting.
Right: The Heat defense turned up the heat on the Spurs and made it much more difficult for San Antonio to score inside. Duncan started Game 2 4-for-5 from the floor, picking up where he left off in Game 1 with easy buckets under the rim. But he was just 3-for-9 the rest of the way, and Tiago Splitter was limited to 1-for-3 shooting and no free throws. The Spurs scored 48 points on 24-for-35 shooting in the paint in Game 1, but were limited to just 34 points on 17-for-33 shooting on Sunday.