And with their superstar making it to the finish this time, the Miami Heat won Game 2, just as they always do when they drop an opener.
James had 35 points and 10 rebounds in a powerful bounce back from cramps that knocked him out of the key part of Game 1, as the Heat tied the NBA Finals with a 98-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night.
Chris Bosh made the go-ahead 3-pointer on a pass from James with 1:18 remaining for the Heat, who have won 13 straight following a loss in the postseason. Just like last year, they rebounded from a loss to the Spurs to open the series.
Bosh had 18 points for the Heat. Game 3 is Tuesday night in Miami.
James played 36 minutes, making 14 of 22 shots. He was only 1 for 4 with three turnovers in a shaky first quarter, then made 11 of his next 13.
After two days of enduring criticism for not finishing and getting suggestions on how to avoid cramps, James changed the subject.
“Got to play hard,” James said. “I believe the man above will protect me. I just try to put myself and my teammates in position to succeed.”
He also had a key strip of Tony Parker down the stretch, playing a dominant game on both ends as if he had something to prove.
Whenever the haters come out, James always quickly can silence them.
He had 11 points in the second quarter, helping Miami erase an 11-point deficit early in the period. The game was played within a margin of a few points from there, and the Spurs missed a chance to seize control in the fourth quarter when Tony Parker and Tim Duncan combined to miss four straight free throws when they had a two-point lead.
James then made a 3-pointer and two free throws, setting Miami up to pull it out.
Parker scored 21 points and Duncan had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs, who had won eight straight at home by 15 more points.
The game was played in comfortable conditions inside the AT&T Center, where an air conditioning failure in Game 1 sent temperatures soaring to about 90 degrees in the second half. The problem, caused by a broken circuit breaker, was fixed by Friday afternoon, and it was much cooler inside the arena.
James had the toughest time with the heat Thursday, needing treatment midway through the fourth quarter before eventually having to leave for good. He had plenty of time to recover, with the two days off between Games 1 and 2.
He personally erased a 62-56 San Antonio lead by scoring eight points in less than a minute, and his 14 points in the third quarter had Miami down only 78-77 heading to the fourth.
After their sensational finish to Game 1, the Spurs picked up right where they left off, making 10 of their first 15 shots. They led 26-17 after Duncan’s follow shot with 1:49 left, but missed a chance to expand their lead by committing three straight turnovers, and coach Gregg Popovich looked irate when the quarter ended with San Antonio ahead 26-19.
The Spurs opened an 11-point lead early in the second before James got going. He had three straight Miami baskets, and a follow shot later in the period gave the Heat their first lead at 34-33.