MIAMI — LeBron James overcame a terrible start to finish with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and the Miami Heat rolled to a 103-84 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night to even the series at a game apiece.
Mario Chalmers scored 19 points for the defending champion Heat, who trailed late in the third quarter before going on a 30-5 run to take control. Chris Bosh added 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Danny Green scored 17 points on 6-for-6 shooting and Tony Parker had 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting with five assists for the Spurs, who turned the ball over 17 times after tying a finals record with only four in their Game 1 victory.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.
Dwyane Wade added 10 points and six assists for the defending champion Heat, who were down 62-61 with under four minutes to play in the third quarter and in danger of falling into a serious hole in their bid to repeat.
Tim Duncan and nine points and 11 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard had 14 rebounds, including eight on offense, for the Spurs, who shot 41 percent.
James had a triple-double in Game 1 with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. But his scoring total was the lowest in these playoffs, and again there was chatter that the four-time MVP somehow needed to do more. James brushed those suggestions off, saying it was important to get guys like Bosh and Wade going early to get them into the game.
Actually, it was Chalmers who ended up being the one to get James going.
James missed eight of his first 10 shots and was 3 for 13 after three quarters, and the Spurs led 62-61 on a layup from Green with less than 4 minutes to go in the third.
Green, who was cut twice by the Spurs and once by the Cavaliers during an early portion of his career that took him to Slovenia and Reno in the NBA's developmental league, was flawless in the first three quarters after playing a big role in the Game 1 victory.
But Chalmers seemed to have an answer every time. Often the brunt of harsh prodding from James and Wade on the court, the former Final Four hero from Kansas kept the Heat going in this one. His three-point play gave Miami a 64-62 lead in response to Green's layup, Ray Allen hit a 3 and James finally converted on a tough drive to the rim for a 69-62 lead, eliciting a roar from the white-clad crowd.
James scored two more layups on a 7-0 run to start the fourth, stuffed Tiago Splitter on a dunk attempt and then fed Mike Miller for a corner 3. James capped the staggering Heat surge with a soaring tomahawk dunk for a 91-67 lead, prompting Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to pull his starters and start thinking about Game 3 back home.
Even though it's only Game 2, there was so much on the line for the star-studded Heat. An incredible 27-game winning streak fueled a 66-win season, with many handing James and Co. their second straight title before the playoffs even started.
Then the Indiana Pacers took them to seven games in a rugged Eastern Conference finals series, and a seemingly invincible team suddenly looked beatable.
After leading for most of Game 1 behind 17 points from Wade in the first three quarters, the Heat appeared to run out of gas in the fourth. Wade was held scoreless in the final period and the well-rested Spurs got a miraculous shot from Parker with 5.2 seconds in a 92-88 victory.
In the history of the NBA Finals, only three of 31 teams had come back to win the championship after falling behind 0-2. None of those teams did it after losing the first two games at home, and the series is headed back to the River Walk for three straight games this week.
Leading up to the game, the Heat remained confident in the fact that they have come back from a 1-0 deficit so many times before. They trailed Chicago in last year's playoffs, but rebounded to win 4-1. They did the same to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the finals and again to the Bulls in this year's Eastern Conference semifinals. But there was a big difference in all three of those series.
"We didn't lose any games at home," Bosh said. "Dropping one on your home floor in the opening is a tough pill to swallow, but it's our reality."
They walked into an arena on Sunday night with white t-shirts draped over every seat that read "Larry loves Miami," a reference to the Lawrence O'Brien championship trophy. But there was no question that this 1-0 hole may have been their biggest yet since James arrived on South Beach three years ago. Wade called it a must-win game.
Duncan and Popovich, one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, have won four championships together. But the core that also includes Parker and Manu Ginobili hasn't hoisted the trophy since 2007, when the Spurs beat James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"For some reason when our
backs are against the wall, we really respond appropriately and that kind of propels us through the rest of the series," Bosh said. "Maybe when we look back on this we'll say losing Game 1 was the best thing that could happen to us."