After being criticized for not playing through cramps – which is more or less impossible to do – LeBron James put on a show in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, finished with 35 points and 10 rebounds and leading Miami to a 98-96 victory over San Antonio to tie the series at 1.
Twitter was awfully quiet Sunday night – among LeBron haters, anyway.
What do we make of the nonsense stemming from the Heat’s Game 1 loss?
“Well, a lot of it was reactionary by people that didn’t know what cramps were,” Sports Illustrated NBA insider Chris Mannix said on The Morning Show. “I think that people, when they heard the word cramps with LeBron, they assumed it was some kind of calf strain that he could play through – when the reality is, when your body locks up like that, you simply can’t do it. It’s just not comparable to Michael Jordan’s flu game or the ’88 Finals where Isiah Thomas played through that brutal ankle sprain. It’s apples and oranges. For LeBron, I know he knows he’s an easy target, but it was just over the top by an uneducated fan base that just didn’t know exactly what they were dealing with.”
“Now, him bouncing back the way he did, that’s not even remotely surprising.”
No, it isn’t. We’ve seen this time and time again since James joined the Heat, starting with Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. Miami headed back to Boston trailing 3-2 in the series, but James had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, willing the Heat to victory. Miami won Game 7 at home and then beat the Thunder in the NBA Finals.
“This guy’s proven in his time with Miami that he’s not the same guy that wilts under the spotlight – wilts under the pressure – in those same type of situations,” Mannix said. “So seeing him go out there and having 35 points, the 10 rebounds – none of that surprised me. A player on his kind of level with his kind of greatness – that’s just how he performs.”
And now, the series heads back to Miami, as the Spurs must figure out what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 2. San Antonio scored just 18 points in the fourth quarter – this after erupting for 35 points in the third. James shut down Tony Parker, and San Antonio’s typically fluid ball movement all but ceased.
“I don’t know if you can consistently stop San Antonio from moving the ball and getting open looks,” Mannix said. “That’s just what they’ve done for the last 17 years. It’s not like this is a new thing to them. I thought they got away from some stuff. They got a little isolation heavy in the second half of that game. They committed some costly turnovers towards the end of that game. I thought they got a little sloppy. It was very uncharacteristic of San Antonio, but we know from watching them the last few years that losing a game like this, going down to Miami – that’s not going to rattle them. They’re the best road team in basketball during the regular season. They’ve had great ball movement throughout the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan era. I would expect them to bounce back just fine.”
Game 3 is Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.