Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat was everything there is to love about this series.
On one hand, there was LeBron James silencing his critics with a superhuman 35-point, 10-rebound effort, not to mention one huge assist to Chris Bosh, who nailed a corner 3-pointer to put the Heat ahead for good with 1:17 to play which, ultimately, tied the series at 1-1.
Then there was San Antonio, which somehow weathered James’ shooting clinic before four straight missed free throws by Tony Parker and Tim Duncan — with the Spurs nursing a two-point lead — seemed to cause everything to unravel for the home team.
And yet the game was still the Spurs’ to lose in the final two minutes.
The narrative of this series may very well change with each passing game — Miami went from in desperate need of a win to possibly in control of the series in the final two minutes Sunday — but what remains true is that these teams are as evenly matched as it gets.
At least when James is on the floor.
Without James, the Heat have been outscored by 24 points in 25 minutes.
Because of that, the series may become a war of attrition for the reigning Finals MVP, as his presence alone drastically affects the balance of power in the series.
Miami has good reason to believe that it can be up 2-0 heading back to South Beach had cramps not conspired to turn James into a bystander at the end of the Game 1 loss.
But the Spurs have reason for optimism after two games as well.
With or without James in Game 1, San Antonio found a way to score 110 points while committing 20-plus turnovers in a 15-point win.
The Spurs then nearly withstood a monster individual effort by James in Game 2 but ultimately failed in large part because they abandoned their trademark ball movement on offense in the final two minutes of the game.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich lamented this after Game 2 and rightfully so.
While the Spurs have ceded home court advantage to the Heat for the time being, they also were two minutes away from a 2-0 series lead having yet to play their best basketball for four quarters in this series.
The Heat and its frenetic trapping defense certainly deserves credit for that, but San Antonio has proven last year, and at times this year, that it has an answer for that.
With all that said, when a cramp or ball movement is the difference between a win and a loss, it is a sign of two evenly matched teams.
If that statement deserves an asterisk because of James, then rightfully so as he is the best player in the game and one of the best ever, depending on whom you ask.
Thus, there will be adjustments and counters as the series continues, just as there were last year.
Yet in the end, none of it may matter.
Because like last year, the series may be decided on an offensive rebound or an extra pass.
These teams, once again, are that close.