SAN ANTONIO – The air conditioning was blowing, LeBron James' muscles were firing and that was all the Miami Heat needed to even the 2014 NBA Finals. Well, that and a timely 3-pointer from Chris Bosh.
James scored 35 points – 22 in the second half – and found Bosh in the right corner for a 3-pointer with 1:18 left to put the Heat ahead to stay in a 98-96 victory that squared the Finals at a game apiece on Sunday.
The series shifts to Miami for the next two games. Game 3 is Tuesday night.
"He has an incredible way to put his fingerprints on a game in a lot of different areas," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of James.
The two-time defending champion Heat once again showed their resilience, winning for an NBA-record 13th straight time following a loss in the playoffs. They haven't dropped consecutive games in the postseason since the 2012 Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics.
With the AT&T Center's air conditioning repaired following the Game 1 malfunction that sent courtside temperatures near 90 degrees and forced James to the bench with cramps, the Heat turned up their defense – a huge difference from three days earlier when they collapsed under a barrage of late Spurs' 3-pointers. After a 3-pointer by Tony Parker gave the Spurs the lead, they missed three straight shots and committed a turnover in the final 99 seconds, nearly going scoreless in that stretch until a meaningless three by Manu Ginobili at the buzzer.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lamented his team's poor ball movement down the stretch.
"We didn't do it as a group," Popovich said. "We tried to do it individually and we're not good enough to do that."
James had something to do with that. Miami's defense cratered in the fourth quarter of Game 1 when the Spurs made 14 of 16 shots. James watched much of that from the bench when he had to be carried off the court in the final four minutes because of cramps. That earned him a healthy dose of mockery across the Twittersphere and made his response in Game 2 all the more critical for the Heat's push to extend their championship reign. Not leaving anything to chance, James took a yoga class Sunday morning at the team's hotel to try to stay loose.
"Me and three other people, and also a little kid," James said. "But he wanted no part of it."
James' legs looked fine on Sunday, evident when he drove for a first-quarter dunk, but he didn't truly impose himself on the game until the second quarter.
By then, the Spurs had already run out to an 11-point lead. James returned and was much more aggressive, especially in the third quarter when he made his first six shots of the second half. He peppered the Spurs with pull-up jumpers, buried a couple of 3-pointers over their heads and looked ready to single-handedly take over the game. A pair of 3-pointers by Patty Mills helped San Antonio gain some traction, but it was clear if the Spurs were going to beat Miami again, it wouldn't be with James watching from the bench.
"For me, once I get into a good groove," James said, "I feel like everything is going to go in."
When ABC's sideline reporter Doris Burke asked Spurs coach Gregg Popovich what he wanted to see happen in the fourth quarter, he quipped: "I'd like to see LeBron play poorly."
He had no such luck. After Danny Green gave the Spurs the lead with a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter, James answered with an 18-foot jumper over Kawhi Leonard at the shot-clock buzzer.
Less than 30 seconds later, Heat point guard Mario Chalmers crumpled Tony Parker to the floor with an elbow to the ribs on a drive to the basket, drawing a flagrant foul. Parker missed both free throws and Tim Duncan followed by missing a pair on the ensuring possession.
The injury "definitely affected me," Parker said. "But I'm a little bit frustrated. Should have made them."
The missed opportunity became even more frustrating for Parker and the Spurs after James came down and promptly stuck a 3-pointer – a swift seven-point swing that sent the crowd into a collective groan.
"That hurts," Ginobili said.
So did Bosh's big 3-pointer. With the Spurs clinging to a one-point lead, James drove and passed to Bosh, who was alone in the right corner. Bosh set his feet, raised up and coolly buried the most important shot of the night.
"As soon as my guy leaves, one of two things is going to happen," Bosh said. "LeBron is going to shoot it and I'm getting back on defense. Or, he's going to pass to me and I'm going to shoot it. I know some people always question the motive and, you know, your opportunity.
"When you have the chance, you take it."
Bosh had been largely ineffective in last year's Finals against the Spurs until his key offensive rebound and pass to Ray Allen led to the series-turning 3-pointer in Game 6. He has also weathered criticism for his play, at times, in this postseason. He scored 18 points Sunday, the same as he had in Game 1. This time, he saved his best for last.
"Everybody gets criticized, and I understand that," Bosh said. "I'm not immune to it. To know that that's happened before, I'm not the first, I won't be the last."