We all knew that was coming. It was close in the end, but the Spurs had no answer for LeBron James, who started game 2 very slowly but ended up with 35 points and 10 rebounds. Conversely, Tim Duncan started with 11 in the first quarter, but ended up only scoring 7 for the remainder of the game.
The atmosphere in the AT&T Center was strange last night. It seemed flat. The air conditioning was most certainly fixed – local media mentioned that the San Antonio Stars WNBA game the previous night had seen supporters wearing layers – and there seemed to be an air of apprehension among the Spurs fans. They are, and remain, one of the best fan bases in basketball (well, outside of Greece, who has the best basketball fans in the world) but perhaps a wariness had developed among supporters, conscious of the fact that they might have gone too far in their mocking of LeBron James.
James might claim to ignore social media (particularly during the playoffs) and Bill Simmons might argue that “he’s not wired that way”, focusing more on the defeat in game 1 than the criticism he received, but there is no doubt that LeBron was very much aware that the world was laughing at him. And, like he always does at this stage in his career, he responded in the most spectacular fashion.
For a stretch in the 3rd quarter, it seemed as though LeBron had keyed in on the bottom of the net – successive jump shots didn’t trouble the rim whatsoever. The Spurs were still very much in the game, indeed they ended the 3rd with a 2 point lead, but apprehension grew in the stands and seemed to reflect the increasingly erratic Spurs offense. Coach Popovich criticised his players for not moving the ball as the Spurs have been known to do for years and it was a fair criticism, but perhaps some credit should be given to the Heat’s defensive strategy, masterminded by Erik Spoelstra, which dared the Spurs to beat them one-on-one, luring them into a form of the game that the Heat is more comfortable with.
Given I took the Spurs in 6, I expect them to take home court back on either Tuesday or Thursday, but they won’t relish facing the multi skilled monster that is LeBron James on this sort of form.