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Monday, June 10, 2013
Game 2 aftermath: Spurs vs. Heat

The Miami Heat evened things up with a commanding Game 2 win. Our 5-on-5 crew breaks down the blowout and looks ahead to Game 3 in San Antonio.

1. In Game 2, LeBron James was ...

Kevin Arnovitz, Not nearly as unassertive or demure as we think he was. In basketball, it's not always about assertiveness, or resolve or guts or anything like that. Sometimes the ball has trouble finding a player, and the game becomes difficult. James' team had a prolific offensive night and he had a hand in much of it. Was he [Your Name Here] Player of the Night? Nah. The performance might've been a grind, but it isn't a concern.

Israel Gutierrez, An enigma. He was so uncharacteristically off in the first half, missing not just open jumpers but easy shots near the basket, that there were suggestions he was hurt. But in the second half, he managed to make everyone stop demanding he score, because he was changing the game with defense and passing. Oh, and he's not hurt. Just a floor burn on his left knee, he says.

Marc Stein, As spectacular -- for a half -- as anyone could possibly be when they finish with 17 points. It wasn't just the block on Tiago Splitter. How many no-look bullet passes did he throw? He was determined to do it his way, insisting on passing to teammates to counteract all the defensive attention he's getting instead of throwing up a bunch of more shots, and he was more than vindicated.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Insider: Befuddling. In the first half, James appeared sluggish -- slow on some closeouts, stationary amid available rebounds, stalled on his dribble by San Antonio's defense. Suddenly, in the third quarter, he sprang into something beyond animation. I have no clue what preceded or caused the switch, but those pick-and-rolls with Mario Chalmers certainly helped James get back on his game.

Michael Wallace, Measured. His shot was betraying him, but there's a reason the man has four MVP awards sitting in his trophy case. LeBron took his time, waiting for the game to come to him and finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. It was one heck of an off night.

2. In Game 2, the Spurs were ...

Arnovitz: Uncharacteristically sloppy. The Spurs run systems predicated on precision -- and they usually have it in large supply -- but not on Sunday night. The turnovers hurt them, and their pick-and-roll attack was off-kilter (for them). The half-court defense wasn't terrible, despite the Heat's output, but the paint wasn't as air-tight as normal and the Heat found at least four or five shots at the rim that weren't there in Game 1.

Gutierrez: Lacking a leader. It was great that Danny Green was burning the AmericanAirlines Arena nets, and that Kawhi Leonard was living on the offensive boards, but neither Tony Parker nor Tim Duncan was able to make that matter. Parker had five turnovers -- one more than the entire Spurs team in Game 1 -- and saw several different defenders and schemes. Seemed to throw him off.

Stein: Unrecognizably meek when Miami turned up its defensive intensity late in the third quarter to blow the game open. Manu Ginobili's postgame turn at the podium was must-watch as he explained how the Spurs will find it hard to feel good about the 1-1 series split they're taking home after such a drastic capitulation. Ouch.

Strauss: Terrible offensively. Tim Duncan missed a lot of shots that he usually makes, and the same goes for Tony Parker. Manu Ginobili was horrendous, submitting more turnovers than made baskets. The Spurs hit their 3s, but found little else below the arc, and handled the ball as if it were a grease-slicked pigskin.

Wallace: Satisfied. As Ginobili said after the game, the Spurs got what they came to Miami to get. A split and home-court advantage. Even if you told him in advance that split would include a lopsided loss. No, the Spurs aren't proud of the way they played in Game 2. But the series is 1-1 regardless of the outcome of specific games.

3. Does either team still have a "Big Three"?

Arnovitz: In the popular imagination, yes, but practically speaking, no. We'd have to call up the Big-3-O-Meter, but there are probably several teams in the NBA whose three best players have a larger margin statistically over 4-12 than either San Antonio and Miami.

Gutierrez: Yes, in that no one would be shocked if any of the Big Six (total) erupted for a huge game or two in this series. But no in the sense that you can't rely on all six in each game. James and Parker are going to duel throughout this series, attempting to carry their respective teams. As proved by Game 2, though, anyone can come along for the ride and be "Big," not just the big names.

Stein: Yes. Of course. On stature alone, no matter what the numbers say, both teams still have three-man committees somewhat separate from the rest of the roster. Besides ... I'm not going get suckered into one of those "no they don't" declarations you're looking for at a juncture in the series when no one should be declaring anything.

Strauss: Both teams have diminished Threes, but San Antonio's "Big Three" situation is closer to ending. Other, younger Spurs players threaten to eclipse Manu Ginobili. Manu has exhibited a brash genius over his career, but at this age, he sometimes finds "reckless" where the "brash" used to be. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter will never be as good as Manu once was, but all might be more important to the team, currently.

Wallace: Yes. Count Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh out for Miami at your own risk. Do the same, if you dare, with Tim Duncan and Ginobili. I won't. We all know LeBron James and Tony Parker are the clear catalysts for their respective teams. But they are flanked by likely Hall of Famers who are capable of taking over at any moment to lead the way.

4. Which statement is more true?
A. Miami solved the Spurs in Game 2.
B. There will be no carryover from Game 2.

Arnovitz: B-minus. Adjustments and tactics are informed by previous events, so in that respect there will be some carryover. But if we've learned nothing else about the Heat in this year's postseason, it's that the immediate past tells us very little about the near future.

Gutierrez: B. The more accurate statement might be there will be little carryover from Game 2. The Spurs are too good and too well coached to not have a response. If the Spurs control the ball at home, Game 3 could mirror Game 1. But the Heat will enter that game knowing they can play their style, even against the Spurs.

Stein: B. But I don't love that option, either. "Carryover" suggests something resembling a repeat of Game 2, which I definitely don't expect. Nothing has been "solved," though. So we'll grudgingly go with B and then just move on.

Strauss: I'm emphatically opting for Option B. There should be no "solved" in a series this evenly matched. Also, LeBron's strange game delivered more questions than answers. We tend to overestimate the carryover from one game to another. Each is its own event.

Wallace: B. The scene shifts to San Antonio, first of all. Each of these games seem to have their own identity and flow. These are also veteran teams that don't overreact to any one game. The Heat didn't solve the Spurs any more than the Spurs figured out how to bottle up LeBron James. So buckle up. We're in for a see-saw type of series in the Finals.

5. Do the Heat or Spurs have the edge now?

Arnovitz: The Spurs, who are up a break and have three of the next five games at home. They know how to calibrate their system to account for the Heat's adjustments. The counterargument is that the Heat can pivot as well as anyone, and that LeBron has at least one signature game in the mail to San Antonio.

Gutierrez: Ask me again after Game 3. Both teams have given us reasons to go either way. The Spurs have the home-court edge, but it's nearly impossible to win three straight against Miami anywhere. But San Antonio has managed to get uneven performances from LeBron (by his standards). And if that continues, it's difficult to expect repeat performances from his teammates. Looks pretty tied to me.

Stein: The team that wins Game 3 has the edge. History says that is a massively helpful game to win in a 1-1 Finals. So I'm deferring this one until Tuesday night.

Strauss: Am I allowed to say "Heat in 7" while also declaring "the edge" in San Antonio's favor? While I believe that Miami wins this series, the Spurs got the situation they wanted when they took one in Florida. Now, the Spurs can win this series in five games if they protect home court. Of course, "protecting home court" is easier said than done.

Wallace: Considering Miami won't pack an extra 19 points (Game 2's victory margin) in the luggage on the team flight to San Antonio on Monday, it's the Spurs who now have any edge that exists because they now have home-court advantage. That's the only edge that matters at this point for either team.