Photo by Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat 98, San Antonio Spurs 96: Instant Reaction & Social Media Recap

Philip Rossman-Reich: Wow, what a game. Is there any doubt that these are the two best teams in the NBA? Or that these two teams are perfectly matched for each other? There seems little doubt that this series is going to go deep into the month, just like last year.

This was a tight game in the fourth quarter, down to the final two minutes. The Spurs rotations were a bit late and gave Chris Bosh a wide-open 3-pointer which gave the Heat the lead by two points. He then helped find Dwyane Wade beneath the basket for a layup as the Spurs were late to rotate and try to double James with less than a minute to play.

That was the most surprising part of this game. As execution became more important, it looked like San Antonio was confused. James and the Heat defense made plenty of plays, but the Spurs looked a bit lost. Players were falling down on cuts and screens, preventing San Antonio from executing its offense. It left Manu Ginobili to hoist a quick long 2-pointer with the Spurs trailing by three. Then on defense, San Antonio over-rotated and and did not seem to know when or where to trap.

It was strange to see. The Spurs never have these problems executing.

At least, we can all say that this game was decided by the players on the floor. There were not any extra curriculars to blame. This was about which team played better for all 48 minutes. The Heat did that and found a way to tie this series.

Matt Zemek: Yes, the San Antonio Spurs produced poor possessions in the final two minutes, with a missed pass from Manu Ginobili to Tim Duncan. Yes, the Spurs stood around and took low-percentage jumpers without working the ball. Yes, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich inexplicably refused to foul with 28 seconds left and a mere four-second differential between game clock and shot clock, trailing by three points. (The move would be allowable down one; down three? Not a chance.)

However, two things happened in Game 2 of the NBA Finals that were more important than anything San Antonio failed to do in the last few sequences of action:

First, LeBron James hit his jumpers. The Heat have to hit jumpers against the Spurs. There is no getting around that fact. Rashard Lewis and Chris Bosh provided just enough help in this regard to get Miami over the top, but it was LeBron’s consistency with the jumper throughout the second half which enabled this game to take on a different hue. Miami played a poor first half, in large part because its perimeter shots weren’t falling. LeBron’s flurry in the third quarter, sustained by a strong fourth, re-framed the game and breathed confidence into the Heat. Equally important was that the LeBron show of jump-shooting force injected a measure of uncertainty into the Spurs, who have not played two home games the way they played three home games against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. Credit the Heat and LeBron for doing what they had to do (and must continue to do) to win the series.

The second key point of emphasis is the series of four missed foul shots for the Spurs on one trip down the floor. Does Tony Parker get a pass for missing one of his two flagrant foul shots? Sure. Does the reality of two misses still hurt, though (more than his ribs)? Absolutely, and let us not ignore that particular point.

Understand this about those four foul shots: When you realize that you have a unique opportunity (two shots and the ball) to increase a small lead in the fourth quarter, the reality of self-awareness — in this case, that you have an unusual chance to create a working margin — means that when such an opportunity is not seized, the potential for a letdown is great.

Tim Duncan had another solid game. But four missed free throws will loom large. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan had another solid game. But four missed free throws will loom large. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Missing two free throws is one thing. Missing four foul shots on the same possession? That can linger with a team more than a normal sequence of events bereft of a flagrant foul. The air went out of the air-conditioned building after those four misses. The Spurs scored only six points the rest of the way until a meaningless three by Ginobili when the outcome had already been decided.

Free throws killing the Spurs in a Finals against the Heat? San Antonio has to walk over the hot coals of pressure in South Florida as a result.

Josh Burton: We all knew it was going to eventually happen in this series, but after a shaky Game One highlighted by the cramping that forced him to leave early, LeBron James took over in Game Two and led the Heat to a huge victory that gives them home court advantage in this Finals.

He got off to a slow start, but simply took this game over as it progressed towards the end of the fourth quarter. Kawhi Leonard, who eventually fouled out, was hampered by foul trouble throughout, which certainly decreased his effectiveness in guarding LeBron, who scored 35 points on efficient 14-for-22 shooting in addition to grabbing 10 rebounds. That 35 led the Heat by far, and the player with the next most was Chris Bosh, who came through in the clutch again for Miami, hitting an enormous three down the stretch to give the Heat their lead for good.

Tony Parker, who was San Antonio’s best player tonight, led the Spurs with 21, but just did not have enough help from his teammates late to grab the 2-0 series lead. Him, Manu and Tim Duncan were the only Spurs to reach double figures, and even they could not get high-percentage shots off late in the game. The fact that no one else on the team could get open or was even looking to shoot definitely didn’t help. Either was the fact that they went just 12-for-20 from the free-throw line on the evening. That is good for 60 percent and represents at least four or five points just forfeited by San Antonio.

The series shifts to Miami now, where the Heat can really take control if they can dominate their home court. Obviously, that is easier said than done, and if they get just 12 bench points in Game Three, it may be impossible. Players other than LeBron, Wade, and Bosh (Rashard Lewis was actually good tonight with 14 points) need to score for the Heat if they are to continue to hold off the experienced and playoff-toughened Spurs.

Social Media Recap

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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