LeBron James played sloppy basketball for nearly three quarters, but he and the Miami Heat still managed to fend off the San Antonio Spurs and pull away late for a 103-84 win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
James scored 17, with 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, and 3 steals. He helped ice the game on a block of a Tiago Splitter dunk, followed by an assist on a Ray Allen three-pointer then a thunderous tomohawk dunk on a fast break with just under eight minutes to go.
The play gave the Heat a 24-point lead on a 30-5 run. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich emptied the bench after that, conceding the win to Miami.
"Honestly, for me, when I was struggling offensively, my teammates continued to keep it in range," James said. " And we even had a lead at one point, especially late in the second quarter when we made that run and I was struggling a little bit."
Mario Chalmers led the Heat with 19 points on 6 of 12 shooting, Chris Bosh scored 12 points with 10 rebounds, and Dwyane Wade scored 10. Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Chris, "Birdman" Andersen contributed quality minutes off the bench, combining for 31 points.
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"Rio more than anybody kept us aggressive, him getting into the paint, him getting those and-ones and making a couple of threes," James said. "It allowed me to sit back and wait for my time."
But the story of the game was James, who looked listless and disengaged for much of the first three quarters. He scored just 8 points on 3 of 13 shooting in the first three quarters. Only three of those attempts came in the paint.
Then he got a pep talk from veteran teammate Juwan Howard near the Miami bench during a timeout, after which point he came alive.
On three straight possessions after the timeout, he got a "hockey assist" (when Mario Chalmers took a James pass and dropped the ball off to Ray Allen for a wide open three-pointer), then a left-handed layup over Duncan while falling down, followed by an assist that led to a Miller three-pointer.
"For some reason when our backs are against the wall, we really respond appropriately and that kind of propels us through the rest of the series," Bosh said. "Maybe when we look back on this we'll say losing Game 1 was the best thing that could happen to us."
The first half was back-and-forth, with 7 lead changes and 4 ties. No team led by more than 5 points. The Heat led 50-45 at halftime. Wade and Chalmers led the Heat with 10 points each. James got off to a slow start, scoring only 4 points on 2 of 7 shooting, though he did have 4 assists. Chris Andersen scored 7 points off the bench, Chris Bosh had 6 points and 5 rebounds.
San Antonio shot 7 of 10 from three-point range, and just 9 of 29 from everywhere else. The Spurs missed 8 shots from within 5 feet of the rim in the first quarter alone.
Danny Green scored 17 points on 6 of 6 shooting (5 of which came from downtown), but the rest of the Spurs could not get much done on offense. San Antonio committed 17 turnovers, Tim Duncan scored only 9 on 3 of 13 shooting, while Tony Parker shot 5 of 14 for 13 points.
The win ties the Finals at 1-1. The series will shift to San Antonio for the next three games, with Game 3 tipping off on Tuesday night.
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