It was the typical tropical weather that Floridians are accustomed to; quick and power-packed storms that come and go with a minute’s notice.
On Sunday evening at American Airlines Arena, the Miami Heat did their best to impersonate their tropical climate as they instantaneously made a competitive NBA Finals game into a 103-84 blowout victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
“It was awesome,” said Ray Allen. “I was thinking about anybody watching the game on TV, the people in the building, to be able to play in that fashion and bring the people to their feet to where they can enjoy it like that, it’s always a special feeling to be a part of.”
So how, exactly, did Miami convert a 62-61 deficit with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter into an unbelievably dominant 94-67, 27-point lead in just 7 minutes and 58 seconds that spanned the end of the third and early-to-middle of the fourth quarters?
In Game 1 San Antonio took care of the basketball with aplomb, recording just 4 turnovers.
During their epic collapse Sunday, the Spurs committed 8 turnovers, doubling their total from the previous game while showing the world just how easy it is to turn the ball over against the relentless pressure the Miami Heat employ on a possession by possession basis.
“We got outside ourselves,” explained Spurs guard Danny Green, who shot 6-for-6 from the field (5-for-5 3FG) in Game 2. “We didn’t stick to the game plan offensively. The biggest key against them is not to turn the ball over and obviously last game we did a good job of that. This game we didn’t and it led to easy fast break baskets for them.”
The most memorable turnover of the day was the highlight of the game for Heat fans.
LeBron James’ relentless motor and competitive spirit were on full display when, with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter, he rose up and blocked Tiago Splitter’s dunk attempt before he had a chance of getting to the rim.
“I just wanted to, I guess, make an impact some way,” said James.
Impact felt… And reverberating.
“What you like from a competitive standpoint is a lot of players wouldn’t go for that,” explained Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “The risk‑reward, and they weigh that right away and the possibility of getting dunked on and being on a highlight film. He’s been on that highlight film both ways. It takes great courage to go up and make one of those plays. Obviously you have to have that ability. He and Dwyane always make those plays, knowing there’s a big chance they’ll get dunked on.”
While that play will be shown on SportsCenter for days, weeks, months and years to come, it was the ball pressure the Heat applied that led to so many easy opportunities in transition.
“I thought our ball pressure was better, our attention to detail was better, and we’re a team that needs to force turnovers,” explained Wade. “We prey on getting turnovers and last game we (forced) four turnovers, so we had to make a difference. And obviously they don’t turn the ball over that much, but being able to get more opportunities to be able to score the bal,l which we are good at the halfcourt and we’re a very good offensive team.
“We’re the best in the NBA all season, so giving ourselves extra opportunities to do that is key.”
As they prepare to go on the road for three games in San Antonio, the Heat are aware that creating easy buckets thanks to turnovers will be a challenge, but one they must be prepared to meet.
“We have to rebuild this situation… They’ll be ready and we’re gonna be in their building so we have to regenerate and rebuild what we did tonight,” said Allen.
Quick: Imagine being LeBron.
You have to win this title – your fourth chance in this position – to pad your absurd statistical resume with championship rings.
Would you try to be aggressive, taking more shots because you trust your otherworldly talents, to get the job done?
Or do you pass the ball to your teammates so they can take the take some the burden off your plate?
This is a question that has been posed to James throughout his career and constantly entices reporters to question whether James is being as “aggressive” as he should be.
What some people might never understand is that LeBron James’ comprehension of basketball and what it takes for a team to win a title is beyond brilliant.
“I didn’t know he struggled,” said Allen, somewhat caught off guard by the question, regarding James, who missed 10 of his first 12 shots. “I don’t know what you guys call struggling. I think when you’ve got a guy who makes an impact on the game in all facets, struggle isn’t the right way to describe how he played the game. Their defense is designed to keep him from doing everything he’s been doing.”
By not forcing shots and trusting his teammates to knock down shots, James saves energy by not overexerting himself offensively and trying to be a hero while causing the Spurs to work even harder to stop the Heat at the defensive end.
“You have to give credit to the competition,” said Spoelstra. “They’re scheming and ready and taking our normal strengths away from us, and you have to have a player and players that have a team ego to understand that next layer of offense. Sometimes that’s facilitating. Sometimes that’s screening. Sometimes that’s executing offense and letting somebody else make a play against a very good defense. And that’s what he showed tonight. Even though a lot of people are unwarrantedly criticizing him for not being aggressive, he’s being aggressive. He’s creating opportunities for us. It just might not be in the way you’re accustomed to.”
So when LeBron told the world that he’d continue to feed his shooters following Thursday night’s loss in Game 1, it was because the confidence he has in his teammates’ ability to hit shots is through the roof.
“When Mike gets the ball ‑ our shooters got the fluorescent light on our team,” said James. “They’re not even allowed to pass. When Ray and Mike get the ball, they have to shoot it. No matter how close the defenders are, they have to shoot it. When you have that leeway and that confidence, you just have to let it go.”
“My shooters just need a little bit of room,” he said. “Mike showed that, Ray showed that and Rio showed that tonight.”
Whether it was Miller (3-3 3FG), Ray Allen (3-5 3FG) or Chalmers (2-4 3FG), the Miami Heat used their perimeter shooting as a catalyst on the offensive end (though Chalmers’ triples came in the first half, he did make a few jumpers during the streak and was certainly a threat).