SAN ANTONIO — The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 98-96 in Game 2 of The Finals on Sunday. One stat stood out from the rest as the Heat evened the series at one game apiece as it heads to Miami for Games 3 and 4.
8 - Baskets by LeBron James from outside the paint, all in the second half.
James got out on the break and got to the basket in the first half of Game 2, shooting 6-for-9 in the restricted area and 0-for-2 from mid-range. In the second half, the Spurs were able to cut off the paint, forcing him to take all 11 of his shots from the outside.
But he made eight of them. He was 5-for-8 from mid-range and 3-for-3 from 3-point range. That was more baskets from outside the paint than the rest of the Heat (7-for-28) had all game. James’ 35 points were the second most he’s scored in 24 Finals games, only topped by the 37 he scored in Game 7 last year.
James’ eight baskets from outside the paint were his most in 31 games (since he scored 43 points in a win in Cleveland on March 18). When his jumper is falling, there’s not much the defense can do.
It wasn’t falling through the first six games of last years Finals. As the Spurs sagged off him and dared him to shoot, James was just 21-for-62 (34 percent) from outside the paint in those six games. And if Chris Bosh doesn’t get that rebound and Ray Allen doesn’t hit that three at the end of regulation of Game 6, that would be that.
But in Game 7 last year, James was 9-for-20 from outside the paint. And he’s now 12-for-21 from outside the paint in this series. He’s had as many baskets from the outside in his last three Finals games as he had in his previous seven (he was 0-for-4 in Game 5 vs. Oklahoma City in 2012).
James still isn’t nearly as dangerous on the perimeter as he is in the paint, but if he’s hitting from outside, the Spurs have no choice but to play him closer. And that can open up lanes to the basket or shots for his teammates.
And as long as James is on the floor, the Heat offense is dangerous. Since halftime of Game 1, Miami outscored San Antonio by 22 points with James on the floor and has been outscored by 30 with him on the bench.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA