MIAMI – LeBron James had another decision to make.
If he got dunked on, he would endure one of the game’s ultimate personal indignities. Or he could wind up making a play that would become the latest entry on his own copious highlight reel.
Suffice to say, Tiago Splitter lost this round.
James blocked Splitter’s dunk at the rim, the first salvo in what became a brilliant 38-second sequence by the NBA’s reigning most valuable player. The block was followed by James having an assist to set up a 3-pointer, then he deflected a ball to start a play where he got a twist-on-the-rim slam of his own. A slow start by the best player in the league was instantly forgotten.
“Just wanted to make an impact in some way,” James said.
He did that and more, and the best-of-seven NBA Finals are tied. Even on a night where James struggled offensively — or statistically, anyway — for three quarters, the Miami Heat topped the San Antonio Spurs 103-84 on Sunday night, getting the defending champions a split of their first two home games in the series.
Game 3 is Tuesday in San Antonio.
James didn’t score until the final Heat possession of the first quarter. He started 2 for 12 from the field, then made his last five shots to finish with 17 points. And when he got going, the Heat ran away and hid from the Spurs.
“LeBron couldn’t get into a rhythm early on and other guys stepped up,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He showed great poise and trust in not getting caught up in feeling like he had to make ‘the play’ or score, but rather he would facilitate or let other guys make plays. And that’s what they did.”
When the Heat loses games, it typically responds by blowing out its next opponent, and this one was no different. Contributions came from everywhere — Mario Chalmers scored 19 points, ex-Sonic Ray Allen added 13, Chris Bosh had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Dwyane Wade finished with 10 points.
The Heat was balanced, efficient and rode a huge 19-2 edge in points off turnovers. And for three quarters, James was far from his usually offensively dominant self, yet controlled other phases.
“He played solid basketball,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He played good ‘D.’ He took what was available, read the defense, involved his teammates.”
San Antonio’s Danny Green scored 17 points on 6-for-6 shooting. The rest of the Spurs combined to shoot 36 percent (26 of 72).
Tim Duncan of the Spurs shot 3 of 13 and finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t shoot well. I know I played awfully,” Duncan said.