The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat prepare for game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight, with the Spurs leading the series, 1-0 after winning the opening round, 110-95. Heading to game 2 of the NBA finals, the rivalry is only going to get more intense, with Lebron James looking to make a big impact following his early exit in game 1 due to leg cramping. The Spurs face a huge challenge, not wanting to surrender home court advantage to the defending champs.
I expect Game 2 is going to have a different outcome than game 1. Both teams will give a maximum level of effort, but I believe that despite the Spurs are having the home court advantage, Miami has more to prove. There are several aspects that likely occur in game 2.
1. The Maestro of Miami is back.
In game 1, I don't think that if James continued playing till the end that the Spurs would have exploded for a 31-17 run in the 4th quarter. We noticed that once he left, the Heat's confidence dropped and their defense was compromised and they couldn't resist the Spurs runs. Now that James will be back for an entire game, this is going to bolster the Heat squad physically, mentally, and emotionally, and they will exert their athletic advantages over the Spurs. Look for LeBron to have a huge 1st quarter in game 2. James will leave his touch in every aspect in the game in rebounding, assists, scoring, and most importantly providing the Heat defense with its best and smartest defender, which will lower the Spurs' success scoring inside. Easy points will be harder to come by.
2. The Heat Bench.
The Heat bench underperformed in game 1. Ray Allen led the way with 16 points, but even his shooting was not consistent. In previous years, the Heat had multiple dedicated 3-point shooters, including Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier. This season, Battier is struggling and Miller is no longer with the team. Outside of Allen, the rest of the Heat bench only had 4 points. The Spurs already have a clear bench advantage, but the Heat bench can play much, much better.
3. The Spurs' X-Factor Kawhi Leonard will play better.
Leonard struggled in the previous game both with foul trouble and in his offense (he finished with 4 turnovers), but did finish strong. Leonard is a major factor for the Spurs, as he is the Spurs' best defender and is needed to slow down Dwyane Wade and LeBron. The Spurs need their own trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili to play well against the great Heat defense, but Leonard is critical to helping his team counter the Heat's attack. His able to score from the outside and finish on the inside, as well as act as one of his team's best offensive rebounders.
I pick the Heat in game 2 to even the series, because the Spurs suffer against the Heat flexibility and athleticism, as their 22 turnovers in game 1 indicated. The Heat do have the keys needed to unlock and break out Spurs defense, and we have seen that in last years NBA 2013 finals game 7. There is no one on the Spurs entire roster that could stop James one-on-one (or the rest of the league, for that matter), and if James starts aggressive, he will also be biding his time before the Spurs are forced to give help defense, which will leave Miami's shooters open.
The Heat have proven that they had another level to go from the regular season and even the first few rounds of the playoffs. Dwayne Wade is getting healthier, better, and he's improving overall, including his shooting from behind the arc. Chris Bosh, being guarded by Tiago Splitter, should have the advantage off the dribble. In the end though it will be James that makes his mark on what should be a great game 2 in these 2014 Finals.