SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James, after being castigated in social media circles following game one of the NBA Finals because he got hydrated and could not finish the game, helped the Miami Heat get even with San Antonio 1-1 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. James was like a bull in a china shop in San Antonio, using his powerful, intimidating physical style driving the lane, scoring inside and out for 35 points and 10 rebounds.
Miami escaped the Alamo with a battle-tested 98-96 win to even the Finals. It was the 13th straight win by the Heat following a playoff loss. The loss for the Spurs, after routing the Heat 110-95 in game one, the night the air-conditioning failed with hot, humid, muggy, 92-degree temps outside the AT&T Center, ended their eight-game NBA-record playoff streak of winning by 15 points or more.
The Finals are now shifting to Miami, where the Heat are unbeaten in this post-season. James’ body started locking up on him in the sauna-like conditions of the AT&T Center with 18,581 fans sweating it out, many of whom could be seen trying to fan themselves in the dangerous setting. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in his first news conference said the league never considered canceling or postponing the game under the bizarre situation.
James needed to be helped from the court after scoring to cut the Spurs’ lead to 94-92 with 4.04 left in the fourth quarter. The Spurs, led by Tim Duncan’s 21 points and10 rebounds, out-scored the Heat without James 16-3 to finish the game. Miami did a much better job defensively in game two of defending the Spurs pick and role.
The Heat crowded the middle and helped limit the Spurs’ inside game, which burned them 48-36 scoring inside in game one. For the first time since 1984, the NBA Finals format of 2-3-2 home and away has changed to 2-2-1-1-1 in a best of seven Finals.
James, the unselfish superstar, has been the leading scorer in both games with 25 and 35. While Duncan has recorded double doubles points and rebounds in both games, he has tied Magic Johnson’s NBA playoff record of 157 double doubles.
Sunday’s game got away from the Spurs when, leading 87-85 with five minutes left, Mario Chalmers was called for a flagrant foul on Tony Parker. After getting up, Parker, who took an elbow in the ribs, missed two critical technical free throws. Then Duncan on the next possession did the same thing, missing two free throws. The crowd groaned and gasped, and the Spurs simply could not get over the mental lapse, particularly after James made a three-point shot to give the Heat a 88-87 lead.
Chris Bosh had 18 points in both games and made a another killer three-point shot after James attacked the Spurs’ middle and threw him the pass for an open shot. So here we go, off to South Beach for games three and four and Sunday for game five back in San Antonio.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.