(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann)
The Miami HEAT evened the NBA Finals at 1-1 with a 103-84 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night. The HEAT blew past the Spurs in the third and fourth quarters, going on a 33-5 run at one point. Game 3 is Tuesday at 9 PM in San Antonio.
Impact Performance of the Night: Tonight the HEAT and Spurs were locked in a tight contest into the third quarter. The HEAT then blew the doors off the Spurs with a certain lineup doing most of the work. Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, LeBron James and Chris Andersen played seven minutes tonight. In those minutes, they outscored the Spurs 22-5. Offensively, the lineup dominated, going 8-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-3 from three-point range. With shooters spacing the floor, LeBron James was able to pick apart the San Antonio defense. On the other end of the floor, the fivesome forced three turnovers. The Spurs offense was not able to get in rhythm because of tight rotations and an increased activity level. The lineup hasn’t had much play this season, but they delivered a knockout punch when the HEAT needed it most.
The Deciding Run: With three minutes remaining in the third quarter the HEAT trailed 62-61. The HEAT had threatened to pull away from the Spurs a few different times, but were unable to as San Antonio kept manufacturing baskets and much of the middle of the third quarter was a seesaw affair. After a Danny Green bucket though, things changed. Over the next eight minutes or so the HEAT unleashed a 33-5 run that sealed a Game 2 victory for the HEAT. Three-pointers fell for Ray Allen, Mike Miller and LeBron James and Mario Chalmers attacked the basket, scoring and generating fouls. Defensively, the HEAT locked the Spurs down, pressuring their ball handlers and making every possession difficult. The run happened so quickly that if you had gotten off the couch to let the dog out, you may have missed it. That burst knotted things up in the NBA Finals.
Play of the Game: The game may have been iced away at that point, but LeBron James rejection of Tiago Splitter will be replayed over and over for a long time. James met Splitter at the top of the mountain and sent the ball back. Chris Bosh gathered the rebound and the HEAT took off down the floor. James caught the ball in the middle of the floor and fired a pass to Ray Allen, who drilled another three. That sequence was the whole second half summed up in 13 seconds.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 119.5; Defensive Efficiency: 97.3
Trend to Watch: The defense returned for the HEAT. In the first half Miami forced eight San Antonio turnovers, but there were still a few rotations that weren’t totally sharp. There were signs of what was coming, but the defense wasn’t ready to click. In the second half, it clicked and then some. The HEAT forced nine more turnovers and blanketed Spurs’ playmakers. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combined for six points in the second half on 2-of-10 shooting. The speed with which the HEAT made decisions increased significantly. It was a return of the defense that won Games 5 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. As we have reiterated in this space on numerous occasions, when the HEAT defense hits on all cylinders like it did in the second half, they’re tough to beat. When three-pointers fall on top of that defense, they’re even tougher. The defensive effort is what sends the NBA Finals back to San Antonio all square at one game apiece.
The Takeaway: The word “identity” is used a lot around the HEAT and Sunday’s victory was a return to it. The HEAT spaced the floor well, ran the break, forced turnovers, blocked shots and created a whole lot of skirmishes. Going with smaller lineups once again proved to be key for the HEAT as the extra space enabled LeBron James to get going late in the third quarter. For the second NBA Finals in a row, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller delivered for the HEAT. Chalmers led all scorers with 19 points as he hit a couple of threes and got to the line consistently. Miller’s insertion into the game in the third quarter gave the HEAT the spark they needed. In his nine second half minutes, the HEAT beat the Spurs by 23 points. The HEAT weathered an early storm from Gary Neal and Danny Green in this one. While the final score is impressive, the first two and a half quarters give the HEAT plenty to improve upon. But for most of Game 2, we saw the HEAT return to their identity. An identity we know can deliver.
Notes: Mario Chalmers finished with 19 points, four rebounds and two assists. LeBron James added 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks. Chris Bosh tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while also pitching in four assists and three steals. Dwyane Wade facilitated well, wrapping up with 10 points and six assists. Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Chris Andersen combined for 31 points off of the bench. Jarvis Varnado and Juwan Howard were inactive.