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James' all-around effort helps Heat even series

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- League MVP LeBron James failed to crack 20 points for the second straight game, but he still left his mark Sunday.

The Miami Heat star finished with 17 points, seven assists and eight rebounds, and his all-around impact helped the Heat even the NBA Finals 1-1 with a 103-84 victory over the Spurs Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The venue now shifts to the AT&T Center in San Antonio for three straight games in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Tuesday night.

James also had three blocks, including a spectacular rejection of Tiago Splitter, who was trying to dunk on him in the fourth quarter.

The block served as the exclamation point to a 33-5 Heat run that bridged the third and fourth quarters, putting the game away.

"I was just protecting the rim," said James, who made seven of 17 shots. "I wasn't doing much offensively -- I couldn't make a shot, missing layups.

"I knew I was going to end up on 'SportsCenter' one way or another -- either he dunked on me or I blocked it. Fortunately, I will be on the good side of the top 10."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James' block showed his competitiveness.

"A lot of players wouldn't even go for that because of the possibility of being dunked on and being on a highlight film," the coach said. "That takes great courage."

However, Spoelstra bristled when a reporter opined that James, who had 18 points in Game 1, isn't being aggressive offensively.

"He had a great performance," Spoelstra said. "It doesn't make sense that he wasn't being aggressive. ... He is being aggressive. He is creating opportunities for us -- maybe just not in the way people are accustomed to."

The Heat's leading scorer Sunday was not one of its "Big Three." It was point guard Mario Chalmers, who had 19 points.

"He's got guts," Spoelstra said of Chalmers. "Come on -- he's showed that all the way through college (and the NBA). If you don't have guts playing with our guys, you will get swallowed up."

Heat stars Dwyane Wade (10 points) and Chris Bosh (12 points, 10 rebounds) also contributed.

Miami snapped the Spurs' seven-game playoff win streak by showing its trademark resiliency. The Heat have not lost consecutive games since Jan. 10.

The Heat, which was nearly unbeatable from Feb. 3 through the first two rounds of the playoffs, going 45-3, remains relatively cold. Even with Sunday's win, Miami is just 5-4 over the past nine games.

But don't tell that to the Spurs, who struggled on offense (16 turnovers, 41 percent shooting) and defense (allowed 49.4 percent shooting and forced just six turnovers).

Danny Green led the Spurs with 17 points, making all six of his shots, including five 3-pointers. However, the Heat held down Spurs stars Tim Duncan (nine points, 11 rebounds), Tony Parker (13 points) and Manu Ginobili (five points). The trio combined to make just 10 of 33 shots from the field.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked about the contribution of his reserves, answered instead about his stars.

"Tony, Manu and Tim were the ones who were 10 for 33," Popovich said. "I'm not going to put that on the bench."

Still, the Spurs left Miami with at least some sense of accomplishment, having split the two games on the road. Right?

Ginobili had a reasoned answer when posed that question.

"If you asked me before we got to Miami if we would be happy with a split, I would say, 'OK, I'll take it,' he said. "But once you win the first one, you forget about it. You want to win (the second game), too.

"(Overall), the feeling is disappointment. We had a poor game. In the second half, they ran us over. Their pressure got us on our heels. They ran, they penetrated and did whatever they wanted."

The Heat led 50-45 at the half after neither team led by more than five points. Wade and Chalmers led the Heat with 10 first-half points each, and Chris Andersen went 3-for-3 for seven points.

That helped make up for James' relatively quiet first half. He had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting.

San Antonio's first-half wild card was Green, who had 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, all on 3-pointers.

The teams were tied 22-22 after the first quarter. The Spurs, who turned the ball over just four times Thursday, had four giveaways in Sunday's first quarter.

NOTES: Andersen finished with nine points for Miami. ... Spurs F Kawhi Leonard had nine points and 14 rebounds. ... The Heat have trailed in five of their past seven playoff series. In each previous case, Miami came back to win those series -- against the Chicago Bulls this year and the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder last year. ... The Spurs' four turnovers in Game 1 tied a record for fewest miscues in an NBA Finals game. ... Breaking down Parker's off-balance shot to help beat the Heat on Thursday: He stumbled through a Chris Bosh-Norris Cole double-team; James picked up Parker; Cole swiped at the ball, knocking Parker to one knee; Parker got up and pump-faked James. Parker then leaned in, and his bank shot trickled in after bouncing off the front rim and then the right side of the rim. ... James' triple-double Thursday was his 10th in the playoffs, tying him with Rajon Rondo and Larry Bird for third on the all-time list. Jason Kidd is second with 11, and Magic Johnson is way out front with 30. ... According to a report in The Miami Herald, Wade spent part of Saturday at Miami's Sun Life Stadium, watching reigning World Cup soccer champ Spain play Haiti. Other celebrities there included singer Shakira and Minnesota Timberwolves G Ricky Rubio, a native of Spain.
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