LeBron James can’t do it on his own.
It’s why he shredded his old efforts and came to the Miami Heat for help.
That’s exactly what he got in Game 2 on Sunday. While the King only put up 17 points and seven assists, his teammates carried the bulk of the load in their 103-84 victory over the Spurs.
The two biggest names meant to ease James’ individual burden, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were far short of spectacular in combining for 22 points, but Mario Chalmers scored a game-high 19 points and the Heat bench scored 40 points in the victory.
More spectacular was Miami's defensive efforts, a scheme of trapping and pick-and-roll pressure that subdued Tony Parker (13 points) and Tim Duncan (nine points). The Heat's aggressive, yet intelligent, style in playing passing lanes forced 16 San Antonio turnovers.
None of this was the case in Game 1, when San Antonio committed just four turnovers.
Overall, the Heat presented the dangerously balanced team that breezed through the regular season and made their third consecutive trip back to the NBA Finals.
But it's not the same type of team that won an NBA championship one year ago.
There's still the question of Wade. He was 5-of-13 in Game 2, though he did have six assists and was part of the Heat's sprinting pace.
"Love how Bosh and Wade played tonight." Umm no disrespect but what did Wade do exactly? Bosh had a double double. All LBJ needs r shooters.— Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) June 10, 2013
Wade is averaging 13.5 points, four assists and two rebounds through the first two games of the series. In last season's NBA Finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wade averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds.
Bosh averaged 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds against OKC and is currently averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds through the first two games against the Spurs.
No, this is not the same Heat team. While clearly this postseason hasn't featured "superstar" sidekicks in Bosh and Wade, the difference has been the Heat's bench.
Crazy thing is, most of the 30-5 run by the Heat came with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 10, 2013
The Heat's bench averaged just 18.2 points last postseason, but has averaged more than 30 points per game in this year's playoffs and is averaging 35 points through the first two games against the Spurs. The reserves on James' 2007 Cavaliers averaged just 19.9 points.
To beat the Spurs, the Heat have to play like the Spurs.
That means hero ball vanishes and the ball is instead moved through each option until it reaches the highest-percentage spot on the floor, even if it's not a superstar who has the open shot.
Credit much of this to James, whose trust has grown along with his maturation as a leader. LeBron has always been a pass-heavy superstar, and now he is maintaining his faithfulness in the system ahead of panicking and trying to take games over himself.
"LeBron couldn’t get into a rhythm early on,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, according to Howard Beck of The New York Times. “Other guys stepped up. He showed great poise and trust in not getting caught up and feeling like he had to make the play or score, but either facilitate or let other guys make plays. And that’s what they did.”
Of course that's easier to do when you have guys worthy of trust, as James now has.
That's not to say James didn't take this game over in Most Valuable Player form. With the Heat trailing 58-56 midway through the third quarter and facing the possibility of being down 2-0 in a series headed back to San Antonio, their star stepped up in a big way.
The Heat went on a 19-7 run to end the third quarter and kept pushing until James left the game with just under five minutes remaining and the Heat leading 96-71. In that time, James was 5-of-7 for 11 points and had three assists to go with a plus/minus rating of +27.
Oh, and of course, this monumental play sparked the Heat:
More importantly, in that window of being down two points to ultimately winning by 19, the Heat shot 56.3 percent and received contributions from Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller and even Rashard Lewis.
Chalmers, who has shown a knack for big-game output, was 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from three-point range. He was also part of the defensive team patrolling Parker.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, quoted in the Washington Post, agreed the Heat are more dangerous when contributions are diversified: "That’s when they’re at their best."
It's no longer just James versus the world. It's no longer just James, Wade and Bosh versus the world either.
It's a complete team now, and it's what could save the Heat in the Finals against an equally complete Spurs team.