The best player in basketball was getting the stuffing beat out of him. His shot was missing, his game bleeding. LeBron James looked weary, overmatched and so unlike the LeBron who normally bends steel.
"What's wrong with him?" Heat fans asked.
"Not normal,'' ABC's Jeff Van Gundy said.
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What was LeBron shooting? Two of 12 at one point? Anyone could see this was a Heat disaster-in-the-making Sunday night in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Except these Heat are dramatic, and dramatic needs a stage. And what stage is bigger than the NBA Finals to beat San Antonio 103-84, in perhaps the strangest manner any Heat fan could imagine.
They didn't ride LeBron's cape, as they have so much of this postseason. There wasn't even a cape to ride. He had four points at half. He was out-rebounded by San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, 12-1, at one point.
He was put on San Antonio guard Tony Parker for two possessions in the second quarter. Parker scored on both of them to give San Antonio a lead that swung back and forth.
All signs pointed to a burial, as LeBron's play stayed that way into the third quarter. Even the weather was cloudy outside. Perfect. When do we begin burying the Heat season?
We don't. We don't because Mario Chalmers came through with 19 points. We don't because the Heat went on a 33-5 run between the third and fourth quarters. We don't because their defense locked down on Parker, who had just 13 points.
There's a lot of basketball left to be played, a whole lot of ways this series can go from here. But if the Heat go on and win this series, this is the night that started it down that way. And, by extension, this is the night San Antonio would look back on and wonder what happened.
San Antonio dared everyone but LeBron to beat them. And everyone did in a manner that alternately delighted and amazed even the staunchest Heat fan.
A game ago, it was the Heat who looked in trouble as LeBron had a triple-double — 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists — and the Spurs still won. How could the Heat have their best player at his best and lose?
Now LeBron was missing until the game was decided and the Heat won going away. What will the sports think of that?
In other words, don't go overplaying one game, one night, one unusual result. San Antonio isn't happy, just like the Heat weren't happy after the first game.
"If you turn it over like we did tonight, and don't shoot well, it's a bad combination,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popvich said.
Around the Heat, it's a different story, a team story, one where LeBron can go three quarters where he scores just eight points, look anything like the best player in the world.
In that, LeBron understood his role. He moved the ball. He didn't force things too much. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. But don't misread. More than half the points (nine) came in the fourth quarter, when the Heat had a double-digit lead.
It was one of those games for him. Well, that's not true. He never has games like this. Yet Allen hit a 3-point shot to put the Heat up, 67-62. The next possession, Mario Chalmers came down the lane and passed to a streaking LeBron for a lay-in, his third make in 13 shots at that point.
That jump-started his offense. And his defense? He made the snapshot of the night late in the game. Tiago Splitter drove for a dunk. LeBron met him at the rim. Swat.
"What you liked about that from a competitive standpoint is a lot of players wouldn't go for that,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The risk-reward, they weight that right away. They get dunked on and get put on a highlight film …"
A host of emotions swirled in the air before this one. Nervous? Heat fans were. Confident? They were that, too. The Heat hadn't lost consecutive games in five months.
So that stat holds up, as does the Heat hopes for a title. LeBron wasn't LeBron in Game 2. But the Heat proved they were a team, tied the series and now to San Antonio this journey moves.