Monday, June 9, 2014

Heat - Spurs Game 2: LeBron's Utterly Predictable Vengeance

Lack Of AC = Holy Water
Coming into tonight's game, the most predictable developments were that (a) LeBron James was going to have a monster game, and (b) there was no way on God's green earth that the arena AC was going to fail. The question was whether the Spurs could win anyway, and hold home court. Oh, and how bitter Cleveland Fan was going to be if James and the Heat tied it up beyond James' leadership, seeing how they just spent the last 72 hours enjoying the LeBron's A Cramping Cramper meme.

In the first, San Antonio came out like a house on fire, but the Heat kept contact, and when James got to attack benchers in the second quarter, he showed live legs inside and ended the early lead. If you were a Spurs fan, you had to be scared silly by the half, and not just because Tim Duncan got his b-annual technical. Dwyane Wade drew Manu Ginobili's third foul with an opera dive that should cost him $5K and enduring shame, not that NBA players seem shame-able anymore.

In the third, Duncan with more dominance, and it's a lock that he'll end this year with the most double-doubles in NBA playoff history, passing Magic Johnson. Wade draws Danny Green's third foul on a cheap pump fake and lean in that draws analyst ire, and if we had room in our minds for more than one narrative, it would be how Wade is turning into the dirtiest player in the game not named Kevin Garnett. Green cans a contested three for his first arc make of the night, and that was pure. James replies with mid-range magic, and if he's going to make those, the Spurs are going to have to score a lot to win. Rashard Lewis takes advantage of Green down low, which might be the first time he's done that in forever. James picks up two fouls in a hurry, and a technical, and that seemed sketchy; replay confirms it. On the critical Ball Don't Lie moment, Green touches every part of the backboard apparatus before God decides against James. Danny Crawford is your ref tonight, and the fact that I don't remember who it was in Game One tells you how much better that crew was...

Lewis and Leonard trade long makes and we're in lead change mode. Ginoboli enters, steals, makes. Like night and day, he is, especially compared to the guy who was in his jersey last year. Lewis misses, and the Spurs look ready to make a run, but Leonard turns it with his third foul as the Spurs overpass. Ray Allen makes in traffic. Parker eats Lewis for his second foul. Leonard makes at the end of the clock with a three, and the lead is four. Erik Spoelstra takes a timeout with 6:34 left in the third, and I'm grinning at everything, as this is just medicinal grade hoop, the first we've had since that blessed first round back in April. After the commerce, James with an 8-0 run where the jumper is all cotton, and Miami takes back the lead. When LeBron's Vengeance is all makes from distance, you have no chance, really.

Leonard picks up his fourth on a switch, and that could be very big. Paddy Mills misses at the end of Spur Tac Toe, and James does not; one more after a Manu miss and he's emitting smoke trails now. Diaw with the curious case of how the shooter with forever to make a three never will. James finally misses, and Duncan breaks the run with a deep catch and make. You'd never know that jumping is an important part of basketball, watching Duncan. Allen makes to push it back to five, and Spur Fan is getting nervous, but Mills makes another corner attempt, and it's 2 again. Mills is the kind of guy who always thinks he's hot, which makes him a liability on every team but San Antonio, where Gregg Popovich just rotates guys like this with abandon, while somehow never losing the locker room.

Cole and Bosh combine to turn it on ball pressure from Mills; dumb play by Cole, and the Heat PGs are not helping much yet. Tiago Splitter with the great dish, and we're tied again. Just gorgeous hoop right now. Chris Bosh gets to the line and makes two, but Mills ends that with another high arcing three, and the Spurs lead. Like heavyweights just landing  bombs. Wade with a quality make, 10 points on 4 shots, and like him or loathe him, he's giving his team exactly what they need tonight.

Mills keeps firing to start the fourth, to no avail. Splitter makes over Wade, who finally doesn't get the refs to bite on a flop. Lewis with another three, and he's got 14 and a hell of a make to give the Heat the lead back, with James on the bench. It's amazing that Lewis has been in the league for 16 years, and DNP-CD'd 22 times; he's like a boxer who did time, in that his calendar age has no relation to his real one. Heat up by 3 with 9 minutes left, right where they want to be, right where you'd expect them to be, had you paid attention to the rest of the Big 3 Era. They are just deadly after a loss.

Spurs with a turnover as Duncan gets whistled; just their first turnover of the half, and they aren't winning. Let that sink in; it's awfully telling. James can't make over Leonard, stagnant hero ball. Ginobili with a crazy long delayed make to cut it to one. Wade's shot rolls off on iso, Green makes a three, and the God Of Move The Damn Ball is pleased. James makes at the end of the clock, crazy difficult hero ball, tied again. Spurs just scoring more easily now. James fouls Ginobili, then falls down as the feet get a little tangled. Spurs already in the bonus, and Manu makes both. Parker down hard on an offensive turnover, flagrant call on Mario Chalmers, who throws an elbow in the mid-section. Clearly a cheap shot, and yes, John Stockton is throwing things at his TV right now, in that he made that move thousands of times without a whistle. Parker misses both and is removed, so advantage, Heat.

Duncan drives, misses, goes to the line and misses those, too. Ouch. Spurs with a zero point trip on 4 FTs; hard to do, and certain to be commented on at length later. James with a crazy make from three, and the Heat have the lead again, halfway through the fourth. Mills misses, ill-advised, and so much for my lionizing Popovich for getting guys like this off the floor before they hurt him. Allen turns after James gets shut down on a drive. I'm pretty convinced he'd have 50 if Leonard weren't guarding him, or if James was as selfish as his detractors claim. Two more makes after drawing a foul, but Diaw's corner three ties it again. Such good ball, this. Such.

James at the end of the clock, a wild lob to Chris Anderson, who can't get it on the board before the clock expires. 90-90 with 4:14 left. Spurs run the weave, Green misses a circus to try to keep it over Anderson. James misses an odd angle, trying to dominate Parker. Ginobili misses a 27-footer as Miami is starting to clamp down on defense. James to Allen to Anderson to lay-up, and that was Spurs-esque. Parker makes a three for yet another lead change and monster make, and with 145 seconds left, it's the Spurs by one.

Bosh misses the corner three, a good look, but not a great one, reminiscent of the Pacer loss a couple of weeks ago. James strips Parker on the drive at the end of the clock, and after an interminable replay review, the Spurs have 0.8 to shoot. James being able to shut down any player on the floor is probably his biggest gift. Ginobili misses from the arc, and Miami boards. James to Bosh, who has all day, and actually makes it from the arc; 2 point game for the road team, and that's immense. Ginobili gets no sale on contact and turns it, second of the half. One minute left. James trucks it to the hoop and gets tripped, Leonard's sixth. That foul should be on Ginobili. James with one make, one miss, which leaves the poor open, but Manu misses, Diaw can't get the board, and it's 28.3 left with Miami holding a three point lead. James brings it up on Green. Bosh drives, feeds Wade, lay up, and we're in Bosh Mode on the celebration. That's a very scary Mode, in that it resembles an ostrich having an orgasm, but with 9.4 seconds left when you make a kill shot dish, you get to make that face. Diaw takes too long, misses, then tips it  to Ginobili for a meaningless three at the buzzer. The Heat win 98-96, and it's tied up at one.

James finishes with 35-10-3, with 2 steals, on 14 of 22 from the floor; predictably fantastic. The Spurs are going to look at this and cite the missed FTs, but shooting 43.9% from the floor isn't going to get it done, even when you make 46% from the arc. If they can't get Leonard going, that might be the difference. ESPN wanted to make this all about Chalmers' dirty play, but the plain and simple of the Spurs is that they absolutely have to move the ball well, or their offense is entirely three or miss, and while Parker is critical to that, he's not the be-all and end-all of their ball movement. They shoot it well enough to stay in that kind of game at home. On the road, it could get ugly.

Game Three is Tuesday in Miami, and thank heavens, it's a 2-2-1-1-1 format now, instead of that terrible 2-3-2 crap. Popovich has got his hands full, but that's not a new experience. I'm just hoping it's 2-2 after 4, so we get as many games of this as possible. The off-season is long, and ball this good doesn't come around often.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule