The first 2 games of the NBA Finals are in the books, and just like last year, the Spurs won the game 1, while the Heat won game 2.
When looking at what changed for the Heat in game 2, it’s easy to see why Miami evened the series.
LeBron James was forced to leave game 1 at the 7:31 mark of the 4th quarter, before coming back for one possession 3 minutes later.
Miami had an 86-84 lead when James left, and San Antonio went on to outscore the Heat 26-9 the rest of the way.
The situation in game 2 was eerily similar. The difference was that LeBron was on the court this time. He made sure he make his mark.
You could even make the argument James hit the biggest shot of the game. After Tony Parker and Tim Duncan each missed a pair of free-throws that could have put the game away, James responded with a 3-pointer to put the Heat in front. James recognized that the Spurs made a critical mistake, and he made it hurt.
Then with 1:17 left and the Heat down 1, the San Antonio defense collapsed on James as he was driving to the basket. He found a wide open Chris Bosh in the corner for a 3 that put Miami out in front for good.
The difference from when LeBron is and isn’t on the court has been truly staggering through the first 2 games. With LeBron on the court this series, the Heat are outscoring the Spurs by 11. When he’s out of the game, the Spurs are outscoring Miami by 24 points.
If LeBron had been on the court at the end of game 1, the Heat could very well be up 2 games to none.
Aside from LeBron being on the court in crunch time, the San Antonio Spurs inability to convert at the free-throw line did them in.
For the game, the Spurs made just 12 of the teams 20 attempts from the line (60%). The Heat meanwhile, shot 16/21 (76.2%).
When you play against a team as talented as the Heat, you must hit your free throws, and for whatever reason, the Spurs failed to convert in game 2.
Tony Parker and Tim Duncan had the opportunity to put the game away, and didn’t. It was basically inevitable that LeBron James and the Heat would take full advantage of the Spurs’ blunders, and they did.
Now, the series shifts to Miami for game 3 tomorrow night.