Late 3 helps Heat even series
By Shandel Richardson
SAN ANTONIO -- The Miami Heat never said this was going to be easy.
And so far, it has been anything but.
The Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 98-96 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday at AT&T Center. The best-of-seven series is tied at 1, with Game 3 on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Miami narrowly avoided a 2-0 deficit for the first time in the Big Three era with the help of center Chris Bosh. Trailing by one, he received a pass from LeBron James and made an open 3-pointer from the corner to put the Heat ahead 95-93 with 1 minute, 18 seconds remaining.
"With us, he's arguably one of our most important players," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We've said that now for four years."
It was the third time Bosh and James were in late-game position during this postseason. He hit the winning basket against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 4 of the conference semifinals. In the previous round, he missed in Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers. Both shots were from the same spot and came after passes from James.
"We've always played unselfishly since we came together," Bosh said. "Just me knowing how LeBron is, you always have to be poised and ready to shoot the basketball."
On the Spurs' next possession, guard Manu Ginobili made an errant pass to Tim Duncan. After a James free throw, Ginobili missed a jump shot that ended hope for the Spurs.
"It's rewarding in the fact it was a huge play to help us win," James said. "I saw it developing the whole time ... I was able to find (Bosh) in the corner in one of his favorite spots on the floor."
James led the Heat with 35 points and 10 rebounds, just days after he was unable to play the final four minutes of Game 1 because of leg cramps. Bosh finished with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting while Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis each had 14.
Guard Tony Parker who led the Spurs with 21 points, gave them a one-point lead when he hit a 3-pointer from the wing before the Bosh shot changed the outcome. In a game so close, the Spurs can point to a fourth-quarter moment when they could have created separation.
Trailing by two, guard Mario Chalmers committed a flagrant foul on Parker. San Antonio failed to capitalize, with Parker missing both free throws. On the next possession, Duncan was fouled but also blew a pair from the line.
It was missed free throws that haunted the Spurs in last year's Finals. Kawhi Leonard and Ginobili each misfired on attempts in the closing seconds that would have sealed Game 6. Instead, it allowed Ray Allen's 3-pointer to force overtime and the Heat eventually won the series in seven games.
After this batch of misses, James hit a 3-pointer to put the Heat ahead 88-87.
"That hurts," Ginobili said. "We were pretty poor from the line. In a game that's so close, that always helps. It was a tough one."
The game began with no concerns about the playing conditions. Three days ago, both teams played in sauna-like conditions after the air-conditioning was damaged. With the temperatures back to normal, it was the Spurs who held the early advantage.
San Antonio shot 57 percent in the first quarter, with Duncan scoring 11 of his 18 points. The Spurs kept the pressure on, grabbing a 30-19 lead on Ginobili's jumper with 11:01 left in the first half.
The Spurs eventually cooled on the offensive end, allowing the Heat to build momentum. At that moment, the Heat were awakened by James. After a 3-pointer by Allen and layup by Wade, James scored six straight points. The personal run ended with him being on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Chalmers to pull the Heat to within two.
The Heat never led in the half, but felt fortunate to go into the locker room tied at 43. In the third quarter, it was more James with a little Lewis sprinkled in.
Lewis gave the Heat their first lead, 51-50, on a turnaround jump shot at the 9:04 mark. He followed that with a 3-pointer before turning things over to James. He scored 12 of the Heat's 13 points during a three-minute stretching, making two 3-pointers.
James' last points of the quarter, a jumper over Spurs forward Boris Diaw, put the Heat ahead 59-54. Still, it wasn't enough to rattle the savvy Spurs. Handling the Miami outburst was nothing for them, especially with veterans like Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.
They showed why they are playing in their sixth Finals by regaining the lead before the end of the quarter. This time, the spark was provided by reserve guard Patty Mills, who made two 3-pointers. The Spurs then regained the lead on Parker's floater on the last possession of the quarter.