With three minutes and 50 seconds left in Game 2, the Miami Heat were nursing a one-point lead over the Indiana Pacers. But LeBron James shook free from Paul George on an in-bounds play to sink an open jumper. On the Pacers' ensuing possession, James stripped George Hill at the 3-point line, triggering a fast-break that resulted in a Dwyane Wade put-back slam. Wade then made two jumpers -- the last one in which the 2006 NBA Finals MVP waved off James and proceeded to nail a jumper in Lance Stephenson's face -- before making a gorgeous cut for a reverse dunk to put the Heat up eight with 21.6 seconds left.
Oh yes, the Heat are back.
Miami's two superstars combined to score 45 points on 19-of-34 shooting to secure the split on the road and head back home in a great position. The last few minutes of this nip-and-tuck game was simply another time to witness this championship team respond when on the ropes. Miami's defense was active, getting steals and deflections to stifle Indiana. And on the other end of the floor, we simply saw two proud, proud dudes convert to keep a team at bay, whether it was cuts to the basket or smooth jumpers.
Neither team played particularly well, and we could nitpick all the Heat's miscues -- the Stephenson tip-in with 0.1 seconds left in the half, Chris Bosh's second consecutive mostly pedestrian night (though he did have some solid moments), James' ball-watching on defense, the 16 Pacers offensive rebounds. But anyone could see that this was a winnable game for Miami on the road, and a team without home-court advantage should close out those winnable road games. That's what the Heat did in Game 4 of the 2013 Finals and Game 2 of the 2012 Finals. And after hearing about the Heat's disintegration from pundits, this team proved it still has that extra gear.
Erik Spoelstra made several adjustments from Game 1, beginning with starting Udonis Haslem. The move doesn't give Miami much spacing -- the Pacers are as willing to give Haslem the open jumper as the Heat are willing to do the same for Luis Scola -- but it does prevent James from having to defend David West and puts a defender on Roy Hibbert who effectively prevented some entry passes. Spoelstra even put James on Indiana's weakest perimeter player, either Hill or CJ Watson, and lived with putting Ray Allen or Wade on George. The results were positive, as James rested on defense during his 42-minute outing and George went a dismal 4-of-16 from the field.
Aside from James and Wade, two huge players for Miami were Norris Cole and Chris Andersen. Chalmers coughed up the ball five times, but Cole added instant energy after a lackadaisical Heat start. He dove for loose balls, defended well and hit two huge 3-pointers. Andersen, meanwhile, grabbed 12 boards, played fantastic defense and threw a great pass to James for a layup that pulled Miami within one with 4:50 left. Also of note: Cole was +14, Chalmers was -14 while Andersen was a +25 and Haslem was a -20. Those two rightly closed out the game with the Big Three.
The two Eastern Conference finalists will rest before playing Game 3 Saturday evening.