Was there ever a time in Cleveland where it was LeBron James taking on the role of needing to be carried to victory?
After a postseason where LeBron and the Miami Heat disturbingly resembled those Cavaliers teams in certain games, it was the supporting cast that carried LeBron on their shoulders and provided him with the kerosene necessary to begin the raging fire that was Miami’s inferno in the late stages of the third quarter and early in the fourth.
Led by Mario Chalmers 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and playing his usual fearless style of basketball, the Heat utilized a dominating 30-5 run, with a 16-0 run thrown in, to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 103-84 to even up the series at one game apiece.
The series now heads back to San Antonio for Games 3, 4 and 5.
LeBron struggled for most of the night, but still put together a robust statline in the form of 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 40 minutes. He started out shooting 2-of-12 from the field, before settling down and ending the game making his final five shot-attempts.
A sense of uneasiness washed over the Heat faithful watching James for the first 30 minutes of the game. He was missing open jumpers, not getting into the lane with any momentum, getting outplayed by an inferior assignment and, simply, not looking like himself.
It brought about memories of the 2011 NBA Finals. Game 2 against San Antonio was looking like Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks where LeBron only managed eight points. James had eight points going into the fourth last night.
And then the 3:11 mark of the third quarter came. And all hell broke loose for the Spurs.
A Chalmers and-one would put Miami up 64-62 and it would be the last time this game was close as the Heat would put together a 9-3 run to end the quarter, capped off by three-pointers from Mike Miller and Ray Allen and another and-one opportunity from Mario.
This is where the fun began. Only a few days after the Spurs dominated the fourth quarter enabling a stunning victory, they were hapless and failed to register a point until a Gary Neal floater with 8:59 left in the fourth.
By that point, the Heat had already put together a 16-0 run that had them up as much as 19. LeBron had four of Miami’s first nine points of the quarter, as well as a brilliant assist to Miller in the corner, and had one of the most magnificent and jarring sequences one would ever see in an NBA Finals setting.
With the game essentially in hand and Miami up 19 with 8:44 left, LeBron would lay the groundwork for what could arguably be the most memorable series of plays for a player who we continue to think has done it all.
When Spurs’ 6’11” center Tiago Splitter received a pass in the lane off a pick-and-roll, the Heat could have easily allowed him to get an easy tomahawk slam that would have only cut the lead to 17 with 8:20 remaining.
But LeBron wasn’t having it. After a game of inconsistencies and doubts, James rose to the occasion and volleyball spiked the ball into oblivion with such ferocity and aggression that it rattled the fabric of time and space as we know it.
He wasn’t done, though. After posing a few seconds for the cameras, James sprinted down court, received a pass at the perimeter and pin-pointed a bullet pass to a wide-open Ray Allen in the corner, who naturally drained it as he has done throughout the series thus far.
But, wait, there’s more!
Miami’s constricting defense would force Parker, who finished with 13 points on 14 shots and 5 turnovers, into a turnover that would feature Miller throwing a 25-foot pass over his head and in rhythm to a streaking LeBron James, who would thrown down the dunk.
And just like that, a 64-62 lead had turned into a 91-67 drubbing. LeBron would make a three-pointer on the next possession to finish off a 30-5 run against a team that supposedly had the blueprint in Game 1 to defeating the Heat.
Miami would win the fourth quarter 28-19, and would not allow the Spurs to score five points in the final frame until the 5:01 mark. By that point, the coach Gregg Popovich had already began resting his starters.
Outside of Danny Green and Gary Neal, combining to shoot 7-of-8 from beyond the arc, the Spurs didn’t have many offensive answers. Miami shut down San Antonio’s pick-and-roll and forced Parker and Tim Duncan, 3-of-13 shooting is the worst he’s ever shot in an NBA Finals game, into a struggle all night.
Miami forced 16 Spurs turnovers after only forcing four in Game 1.
Perhaps the most insane part of this run, however? Barely any Dwyane Wade and barely any Chris Bosh. The lineup on the floor that ran with James and played the majority of the run featured Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Chris Andersen.
All four of those players were incredible on both ends of the floor last night. Allen shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and is now shooting 67 percent on nine three-point attempts through the first two games of the series, while Miller converted all three of his attempts last night and is 4-of-5 for the series from that distance.
Andersen had five fouls in only 14 minutes, but made a significant impact with nine points and four rebounds. His cutting to the basket continued to result in easy baskets as Wade, Bosh and James found him under the rim for easy looks throughout the night.
Wade, 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting and six assists, and Bosh, 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 10 rebounds, both played less than 32 minutes.
Also, Shane Battier finally made a three. It was that type of night.