Starin’ Through My Rear View – The Miami Heat lead the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals five to four after coming into the AT&T Center last night and stealing Game 2 of this year’s series 98-96 in front of 18,581 properly cooled off Spurs fans. My fear coming into last night was that the Heat were capable of stealing Game 2 by forcing the Spurs into committing an uncharacteristic number of turnovers and then converting those into fast break points at the other end of the court. To my complete and utter shock, Miami indeed proved capable of stealing Game 2 but not through the formula that I believed to be their only path to victory. San Antonio only committed 11 turnovers last night which Miami converted into an uneventful five points. If I hadn’t been allowed to watch the game and was only allowed to look at one statistic from the box score after the game to try to determine whether or not we had won, I would have looked at the Spurs’ turnovers. The way that we have been playing at home this postseason, having seen those numbers, I would have assumed that we probably cruised to another double-digit victory at the AT&T Center. And, indeed, we were well on our way to doing just that for the first 14 minutes of the game. The Spurs were ahead of the Heat by 11 (30-19) when, for some inexplicable reason, Ray Allen was able to fake both Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw into believing he was going to pass the ball to a cutter while standing at the three point line. Both Marco and Boris bit on the pump fake pass leaving Allen wide open behind the arc. Ray Allen drained the triple to cut the Spurs lead to eight and in doing so, completely shifted the momentum in the game. Miami finished the second quarter on a 24-13 run to tie the game at halftime and were able to get the best player in the world going in the process. During that run, LeBron James scored 11 points and established a rhythm in the game that would come back to haunt the Spurs in the second half.
In the third quarter, James gave San Antonio a flashback of the nightmares we had all of last summer by shooting the basketball like he did in Game 7 of last year’s Finals; except this time he did it in our building. James shot 6-7 in the period (including a pair of three pointers) for 14 points. All of his baskets in the third came over the top of the defense from the perimeter. Yet despite LeBron taking over the game on the offensive end, the Spurs hung tight in the period and even took a one point lead into the final frame when Tony Parker hit a shot on our last possession to put us back ahead. The fourth quarter was back and fourth again as the Heat pretty much relied on James to create all of their offense by facilitating at the top of the key. LeBron was brilliant again scoring another eight points in the period and creating a wide-open three pointer for Chris Bosh to give Miami a two point lead with 1:17 left in the game. After Manu Ginobili committed the most costly of our 11 turnovers on the ensuing possession trying to force it into Tim Duncan on the post (to be fair, Manu was poked in the eye at the top of the key which should have been called a foul giving Manu two free throws), Kawhi Leonard fouled out of the game trying to defend LeBron’s drive to the basket. James split the pair of free throws and then Manu missed a jumper from 19 feet. The Heat rebounded the ball, gave it to LeBron at the top of the key where he was able to create a hockey assist by passing to Bosh who then hit a cutting Dwyane Wade under the basket to take a five point lead with nine seconds left. After a timeout, the Spurs ran a decent play to get Boris Diaw a look at a three pointer but he decided to drive and kick when a Miami defender rushed towards him. He got the ball to Manu, who drained the triple, but the play took too long to develop and time expired.
While LeBron James put on a masterful 35 point, 10 rebound, 3 assits Game 2 performance that put his team in a position to win an NBA Finals game on the road, the San Antonio Spurs beat ourselves. To my surprise it wasn’t turnovers that did us in last night. Instead, another nemesis of ours (that hadn’t reared its ugly head in quite a while) made an unfortunate and untimely cameo in the 2014 NBA Finals: missed free throws. The Spurs went 12-20 from the charity stripe in Game 2 including a brutal possession in the guts of the game in which we went 0-4. With 6:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, Mario Chalmers was flagged with a flagrant foul when he hit Tony Parker in the chest with a vicious elbow underneath the Heat’s basket as he tried to free himself from Tony off of his dribble penetration. This gave the Spurs two free throw attempts and possession of the basketball. Tony missed both and on the ensuing play, Chris Andersen fouled Tim Duncan for two more free throw attempts. Timmy also missed both. That wasted opportunity, ladies and gentleman, is the difference between being up 2-0 in the NBA Finals and now needing a victory in Miami in order to win the series. Despite the missed foul shots, Timmy was once again the player of the game putting up 18 points, 15 rebounds and tying Magic Johnson for the most double-doubles in NBA playoff history during the loss.
As heartbreaking of a defeat as last night’s ball game was, I’m extremely confident that it was an anomaly rather than what is to be expected as we move further into this series. LeBron James played about as well as you could ask him to play and it still took a Spurs meltdown in the fourth quarter for Miami to secure the victory. Granted, there will be a smaller margin for error once we get back to the circus-like atmosphere of American Airlines Arena in Miami (and all of its pyrotechnic glory) but the Spurs are equipped for the challenge. If we figure out a way to make LeBron work a little bit harder to manufacture the Heat’s offense and if we get back to our patented ball movement and rely on our deeper bench, we will put ourselves in a position to bounce right back from last night’s disappointment. One man can always win a basketball game against any opponent, but the 2014 San Antonio Spurs are too good to be beaten in a series by any one player; even one as gifted as LeBron James. If the Heat offense continues to be as reliant on James as it was last night, the odds are that Miami will prove to be the team with the smaller margin for error moving forward in this series. Yesterday, was a tough day at the office. The #BlackAndSilver need to forget about it and simply focus on what’s next. After all, we have been invited to host a passing clinic tomorrow evening down in the city of blinding lights which is providing us with an excellent opportunity to move one step closer to writing these San Antonio Spurs into the history books as one of basketball’s finest teams.
The city took something from me, it took something from all of us.
Upon arriving on our maiden voyage, we battled masterfully.
We were not distracted by the shimmer, we were not intimidated by the lights.
We saw those gaudy displays of opulence as hubristic,
The last gasps of an overextended empire, bumptiously unaware of its vulnerability.
We know that the fall is coming. It will happen, it just didn’t happen then.
We had advanced swiftly but as we moved into position to trample the throne,
The city, intoxicated in its excess, found favor with the gods.
Through the ostentatious worship of its false idols,
It seduced a fleeting moment of commotion that neutralized our resolve
And fire reigned down from the heavens like spears on our heads.
Blinded, we left wounded and empty handed.
But now we will return to the city once again, with our vision restored.
We will arrive on this voyage wiser, bonded by the fellowship of our noble scars.
We are still not distracted by the shimmer, we are still not intimidated by the lights.
After rebuilding the strength of our core, we are more resolute in our preparedness to persevere.
The city, more overextended than ever, relies now almost completely on the strength of its king.
We know that the fall is coming. It will happen, and we know that is has to happen now.
We have advanced again swiftly and moved back in position to trample the throne.
With the grace of a thousand stars we will embrace our chance at redemption
And working together we will use our wit to overwhelm the the city’s aggressive defenses.
While the spoils of a prolonged period of decadence are the desire of most challengers,
We return not in pursuit of the city’s abundance of treasure.
Just to rip the crown jewel from the king’s bare hands.
Written June 2014 in San Antonio, Texas
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