Two teams fought valiantly on Sunday night, but only one could emerge victorious.
Two-time Finals MVP LeBron James carried his team to this team to the finish line and Chris Bosh gave them the final push.
Early in the game, the Spurs were able to get any and everything they wanted. Tiago Splitter was facilitating from inside, which is amazing. He had three assists before the end of the first quarter (most centers average that many per game) and Tony Parker seemed to be falling back into Finals MVP caliber play himself (he has one of those, too).
This was a back-and-forth game. I’m sure everyone expected it to play out that way. These two teams in a rematch, at this stage, probably aren’t going to have many double-digit deficits.
Rashard Lewis gave Miami valuable minutes as his 14 points played a vital role in the HEAT victory and established floor spacing for the rest of the series. Lewis was also a +8 in terms of +/-, third best to James and Allen in the final box score for Miami. So it’s very possible this move could serve for the rest of the series.
Tim Duncan exhausted himself on the boards. He pulled down 15 rebounds and the HEAT still managed to win the rebounding battle. Kawhi Leonard grabbed two rebounds in what seemed to be a disappearing act for the rising star. Leonard scored nine points, fouled out, and simply could do nothing to keep James from getting wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Leonard’s point total isn’t what needs to improve, it’s everything else. The rebounding and the defense has to be better for the Spurs to have a chance at game 3 in Miami.
The Spurs big three did all it could, but in the end it was too much James, too much of Dwayne Wade, too much Bosh.
James’ final stat line reads: 35 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers.
After 48 hours of unjust criticism about how this guy would’ve finished the game, or that guy would’ve played through it, the King responded.
Then with the game on the line, Bosh did something many weren’t expecting. Rather than looking to get the ball to James, he drove the ball to the lane and split the defenders with a pass to an open Dwayne Wade standing under the basket.
This was essentially the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. At this point Miami made the game a two-possession ballgame in the closing seconds and you knew short of a miracle, this game was over.
Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how Gregg Popovich is able to get more out of his bench, especially on the road where role players typically struggle to perform.
We discovered that the big three alone will not be enough to usurp the defending champions of their title. Can Leonard and Co. rise to the occasion in game 3? We’ll have to find out tonight. Let me know who you think is going to win and what the defining moment will be in the comments below.