The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 103-84, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night to even the series at 1-1.
In a series so heavily focused on the superstars, it was the play of the Heat supporting cast that helped tie things up as the scene shifts to San Antonio.
Suffocated by Kawhi Leonard's defense throughout, James didn't look like his usual, aggressive self. However, he broke out down the stretch and was able to finish with a respectable line of 17 points (7-of-17 shooting), eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks in 41 minutes.
Mario Chalmers redeemed himself after a 3-of-10 performance in Game 1, scoring a game-high 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-4 from three) Sunday night.
After watching the Spurs shoot 7-of-10 from three in the first half, the Heat found their groove toward the end of the third quarter. As the Spurs went cold from distance, the Heat caught fire. Miami finished the night shooting 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from three compared to 50 percent (10-of-20) for San Antonio.
Miami's ball pressure intensified as the game wore on, and the Heat forced the Spurs into 17 turnovers on the night, leading to 19 points for the home team.
Thanks to a 30-5 run over portions of the third and fourth quarters, the Heat were able to blow the game wide open and never look back. Threes fell from all angles and the Heat were able to get out in transition. Miami looked like the team we've grown accustomed to seeing over the course of the season.
Danny Green led the Spurs with 17 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting (5-of-5 from three), while San Antonio's Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to shoot a lousy 10-of-33 from the floor.
Parker totaled 13 points, while Duncan and Ginobili struggled to the tune of nine and five points, respectively.
Leonard was steady on the offensive end (nine points), but it was his defense on James that's the takeaway. Aided by superb off-ball defense, Leonard and the Spurs were able to limit James, but that didn't prove to be enough to slow down a diverse Miami squad.
Leonard was also a force on the glass, pulling down a game-high 14 (eight offensive) rebounds. One game after being out-rebounded by nine, the Spurs won the battle on the boards by eight (44-36).
Instead of calling James passive for not attacking early and often, it's more appropriate to credit the Spurs for crafting a game plan that's made James think twice when trying to get to the cup.
The Spurs continued to do an excellent job packing the paint and keeping James out of the lane, forcing the league MVP to rely heavily on jumpers. At times, it looked as if James was disengaged, but that's going to happen in a series going up against the league's preeminent tactician.
In the first half, James totaled just four points and four assists on 2-of-7 shooting.
Of all of Miami's contributors, Wade was the most aggressive early. With the Spurs intently focused on keeping James out of the paint, he took advantage with some dynamic drives to the basket.
After one, Wade and Bosh combined to score 10 of the team's 22 points.
Over the first 24 minutes, the Heat bench outscored the Spurs' 15-13, with Chris Andersen piling up seven points in just eight minutes of work. And Miami's bench ultimately reigned supreme, scoring 40 points compared to the 32 that San Antonio's reserves mustered.
Game 3 tips off Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs were careless with the ball early. They turned the ball over five times in the first quarter, exceeding their total from Game 1 over the first 12 minutes.
Green was simply on fire to start the game, knocking down three treys in the first five minutes.
Leonard's defense on James, particularly in the post, was a major reason the game was knotted at 22 after one. The Spurs shot just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first.
Erik Spoelstra put James on Parker midway through the second quarter, and the results weren't pretty for the Heat.
LeBron may have been unable to penetrate the Spurs defense, but the Heat's other contributors made quite an impact in the paint in the first half. Miami scored 26 points in the paint over the first 24 minutes.
Midway through the third quarter, LeBron was 2-of-12 from the field. James hasn't posted many comparable lines in the past.
The Spurs were hanging tough, but in an instant the Heat exploded.
The turnover battle may very well decide this series. ESPN's Tom Haberstroh cites one number of particular importance following Game 2.