He needed help. He needed Mario Chalmers knocking down jumpers off those kick-out passes LeBron fired at him. He needed Mike Miller, Chris Andersen and Ray Allen to put up numbers, 50 points in all, to even the series at one game apiece, before the series heads to San Antonio.
LeBron, who made just 3 of his first 13 shots, needed to struggle mightily and genuinely frighten the 20,000 people crammed into this little bandbox they call the Triple-A near Biscayne Bay. He needed to scare them badly Sunday night into thinking his team might go down 0-2 for one reason:
While you can’t repeat without your star making shots, you also can’t win a championship if your role players are awful and stand around waiting for the star to bail them out.
“I already know what we have here,” LeBron said after he scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of game-turned-rout of the Spurs. “I don’t really read into it of what people want more of me of whatever the case. I will continue to find my shooters, if they’re open. If I draw two, I’ll find my shooters. I have confidence they’re going to knock them down.”
The moment he left Cleveland the possibility of being Magic, Bird, Michael, Isiah or Tim Duncan or Bill Russell disappeared. He could no longer stick around and win multiple titles with the team that drafted him. But he could certainly become Shaquille O’Neal or Kevin Garnett or any of the other future Hall of Famers who needed to leave to win it all.
And Sunday night showed how important a supporting cast is for him.
By the time LeBron dunked menacingly ahead of everyone on the break, the score was 93-67 and the game was over midway through the fourth quarter after a devastating 33-5 Heat run. A 62-61 Spurs lead at the end of the third quarter had vanished amid an array of blocks, dunks and deep jumpers from the Heat.
The Spurs’ role players are all younger than most of the Heat’s role players. If they are decidedly better the next week and a half, San Antonio probably hoists the trophy after it’s over.
That why Miami’s role players finally had to rise to the challenge in Game 2. If that was a harbinger of their play to come,
It’s a good sign this series is going at least six games.
“I think the supporting cast is really why both teams are here,” LeBron said. “They feel like their supporting cast is better. We feel like our supporting cast is better. It’s who goes out and do it every night to help seal wins.”
Chalmers, his ego bruised by the fact that LeBron had to move over and guard Tony Parker more, finally showed his merit as a spot-up shooter when LeBron penetrated and kicked out. He scored 19, setting his feet, releasing and firing with regularity during big Miami runs. He looked as confident as the Kansas kid who shot down Memphis at the end of the national title game.