After defeating the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 103-84 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals to even the series at 1-1, it seems as though momentum has shifted toward the Miami Heat. One play in particular, however, will give Miami the confidence to succeed in the rest of the series.
In the fourth quarter of Sunday night's Game 2 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Heat star LeBron James rejected Spurs big man Tiago Splitter as he went up for what initially appeared to be a routine dunk.
It seemed as though Splitter had an open path to the basket, but James seemingly came from out of nowhere. Although the 6'11" Splitter is three inches taller than James, LeBron nearly jumped out of his shoes to emphatically stuff Splitter's attempt. You can see it in this GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report:
If those views of James' swat weren't enough, Jason Romano of ESPN provided an interesting perspective using the Vine app on Twitter:
The Heat were already leading by 19 points at the time. The block didn't cause Miami to erupt and win by 30 points, but it seemed to energize the fans and every Heat player as LeBron made a statement.
There was a lot of concern among experts after Game 1 as the Heat squandered a halftime lead and allowed San Antonio to come back and win. It almost appeared as though the block was King James' way of silencing the critics and telling them that rumors of Miami's demise were greatly exaggerated.
Not surprisingly, Twitter absolutely erupted following LeBron's nasty dismissal of Splitter's dunk. It's unclear if James actually said anything to Splitter as he provided him with a posterization of the block variety, but that didn't stop SportsNation from venturing a guess.
LeBron absolutely REJECTED Tiago Splitter on this play: pic.twitter.com/4AjZ85t2kF— SportsNation (@SportsNation) June 10, 2013
LeBron was fully aware of the possibilities when he went up to turn Splitter away.
While the desired result ultimately came to fruition from his point of view, he told NBA on ESPN that he knew he could have been on the receiving end of a highlight-reel dunk just as easily.
RT @tomhaberstroh: LeBron on the Splitter block: "Basically, I told myself, 'You're going to end up on SportsCenter one way or another.'"— The NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 10, 2013
The block meant very little in terms of the result of Game 2, as Miami seemed destined to win.
Its true value will be felt as the series progresses, though. The Spurs seemed to be empowered by their Game 1 victory. Veterans like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were having their way with the younger Heat, but James' block was a reminder of which team won the title last year.
How much will LeBron's block impact the NBA Finals moving forward?
Miami simply didn't approach Game 1 with the swagger of a champion, but the Heat's confidence should be at an all-time high heading to San Antonio. The Spurs may have a deeper team with more overall contributors than the Heat, but Miami has the best player in basketball.
He made his presence felt on Sunday.
Interestingly enough, James didn't even lead the Heat in scoring in Game 2 as he had 17 points to Mario Chalmers' 19. LeBron did a little bit of everything, though, as he dished out seven assists and grabbed eight rebounds. Of all the great, little plays he made over the course of the game, his block on Splitter is the one that promises to have a long-lasting effect.
ESPN's Skip Bayless, who is a noted Spurs supporter, attempted to downplay James' block on Twitter, but it seems like the oft-criticized pundit is in denial more than anything.
Oh, come on, people are going to get all worked up about LeBron blocking a dunk by TIAGO SPLITTER as he was losing the ball? Stop it.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 10, 2013
The Spurs looked like the more energetic team in Game 1, but the Heat exerted their physical dominance over San Antonio on Sunday. LeBron's rejection was unquestionably a microcosm of that fact.
While the Heat obviously have to bottle up that Game 2 energy and use it throughout the rest of the series, LeBron's block pumped his teammates up. That should be enough to ensure that they will be out of the doldrums moving forward.
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