National Columnist

Was Heat's Game 2 win so big the Spurs will never recover?


MIAMI -- The Spurs didn't have to win Game 2. That was a must-win game for one team in the NBA Finals, and that team wasn't the team from San Antonio. Down one game, and with Games 3, 4 and 5 on the road, the Miami Heat simply had to win Game 2. And they did.

Now we move on, and the series is even, although the Spurs did steal home-court advantage from Miami, which means the series is tilted toward San Antonio.

So why doesn't it feel that way?

Why does it feel like the 2013 NBA Finals spun wildly -- not a little bit, but wildly -- toward the Miami Heat on Sunday night?

I can answer that. Time could show I'm wrong, so don't go too far and read this as a prediction of what will happen the rest of the way. I'll say it here: What happens the rest of the way? No idea. But if the Miami Heat did claim control of the 2013 NBA Finals on Sunday night during Game 2, if years from now that's what history shows us, well, I don't need to wait years from now to explain why. I can tell you right now:

The Spurs let the Heat wake up late Sunday night. They let LeBron James recapture that feeling of being the best player on planet Earth. They let Chris Bosh remember that he can carry his own weight. They let Shane Battier see a ball go into the basket. They let the Heat feel good about their offense, their defense, their bench.

Not only because of one game. One victory doesn't necessarily do any of that for LeBron and Bosh, for Battier and the rest of the Heat, and you know it.

But this wasn't only one victory. And you know that, too.

This was complete domination by the Miami Heat, and not over the course of 48 minutes, but for only 10 or 12 minutes. That's all the time it took for the Heat to remember who they are, and to remind the Spurs who they -- the Spurs -- are not. And they (the Spurs) are not the alpha male in this series.

After Game 1, both teams could have fooled themselves into thinking the Spurs were the alpha here. They walked onto Miami's home court and walked out with a victory. Game 1 was tight in the fourth quarter, there for someone to take, and the Spurs took it -- and the Heat let it be taken. The Heat fumbled and bumbled while the Spurs were playing solid, vintage San Antonio basketball, and vintage San Antonio basketball worked. Would it keep working? For nearly three quarters of Game 2, it did. The Spurs were in the same position in Game 2 that they'd found themselves in Game 1, within striking range as the third quarter was coming to a close.

And that's when it happened. When this series, the history books might well show, turned irrevocably toward Miami.

It starts as all things in this series do, with LeBron. For three quarters he was a mess. It wasn't just that he was missing shots, though he was. He was 2 of 12 from the floor, including a missed layup in transition. Last time you saw LeBron James miss a layup in transition? Anyone?

For nearly three quarters LeBron couldn't make a shot. Shot? Hell, he couldn't make a thought. LeBron is one of the smartest players in the NBA, basketball IQ and otherwise -- I mean that -- but he was so out of sorts that he went for a defensive rebound late in the second quarter, couldn't get it, then saved it from going out of bounds by flinging it to the Spurs, right under the San Antonio basket. It's the kind of play a high school kid makes, then gets yanked. Because you don't make that play, not even in high school, and get away with it.

We've seen this happen to LeBron before, in the 2011 NBA Finals when he just sort of ... shrank. It was bizarre and controversial but it was real, and it happened, and late in the third quarter of Game 2 it seemed to be happening again.

And then it happened. The Heat hit a shot, then another shot, then another. It was Ray Allen from 3, LeBron cutting to the rim and getting a pass from Mario Chalmers, and then LeBron finding Mike Miller for a 3.

Now LeBron was feeling good about himself, and that's trouble for anyone, even the Spurs. For nearly seven quarters Kawhi Leonard had been Kryptonite to LeBron's Superman, holding him to 9-of-28 shooting in Game 1 and most of Game 2.

But LeBron saw that layup go through the rim, and then he started the fourth quarter with a 16-footer, and now Superman was screaming and blocking Tiago Splitter's ambitious dunk attempt and dunking at the other end and swinging from the rim like this was his playground, and then LeBron was hitting a 3-pointer and that's when you started to think:

What just happened here? Did the Spurs just lose control of this series?

After that 2-for-12 start, LeBron hit his final five shots and zipped no-look passes all over the court. Meanwhile Chris Bosh was putting up a 12-and-10 double-double, with four assists and three steals and a blocked shot. And Shane Battier, a 3-point specialist who hadn't seen a 3-pointer go through the basket in five games, hit one late in garbage time. Those things matter to NBA players. That's why you often see the whistle blow and play stop, but someone on offense launches a 3-pointer just for the hell of it ... and someone on defense jumps up and goaltends that 23-footer because there's no way they're letting your team see the ball go through the basket.

Battier saw the ball go through the basket. So did Mario Chalmers, a lot. And Ray Allen and Mike Miller. Bosh, in a funk for weeks, saw how good he is supposed to be. LeBron James went from lost soul to destroyer of man.

It was only one game. Only 10 or 15 minutes of that one game, actually. But it felt like a lot more than that. And let's close with a stat, the kind of stat that probably doesn't mean much most years -- but seems relevant this time:

Since the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, the series has been tied 12 times entering Game 3. In those 12 series, the Game 3 winner has gone on to be the champion 11 times.

History says, in this quirky format, that Game 3 will decide who wins the 2013 NBA Finals. One team enters Game 3 feeling like the greatest, most dominant team in the NBA. Late in Game 2, the Miami Heat remembered who they are.

Can the Spurs make them forget?


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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