Much-maligned Miami group silences critics

San Antonio, TX ( - LeBron James had the eyes of the sporting world focused on his legs Sunday night.

They worked just fine, he worked just fine and the Heat worked just fine.

LeBron was sensational, as expected in Sunday's Game 2 victory. After not being able to walk in the fourth quarter of Thursday's Game 1 loss, he faced intense scrutiny from faceless voices on social media.

"I don't care, I really don't," James said Friday

He showed it on Sunday with 35 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in Miami's 98-96 win.

But the Heat showed their mettle, and while James casts a wider scope of disdain, some in the Miami camp don't get nearly the respect they deserve. They showed their worthiness on Sunday.

A huge moment in the fourth quarter Sunday was when head coach Erik Spoelstra pulled Chris "Birdman" Andersen. He played admirable defense on future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, but Spoelstra's decision to go back to Mario Chalmers proved critical.

Spoelstra was willing to sacrifice, to some degree, Birdman's defense on Duncan to make Duncan have to defend Chris Bosh, another of the much-maligned Miami roster.

James facilitated the move that gave the Heat the lead late in the fourth quarter. He penetrated then kicked to Bosh who buried an open 3-pointer. Duncan couldn't get there in time.

Then, with the shot-clock winding down and James away from the scene, Bosh put it on the floor, got by Duncan, and found Dwyane Wade for an easy layup that essentially ended the game and tied the series.

If James is the easiest target in sports, Bosh is up there in terms of basketball critics. He famously decreed himself a Hall of Famer and the jury may still be out on that.

But facts are facts and Bosh is still an elite performer. He's just a different type of elite performer than what we've become accustomed to.

No one sacrificed more of his own game and his own numbers when this Big Three was born than Bosh. He averaged 20-plus points a game his last five seasons with the Raptors, then his scoring went down in South Beach.

Now, he's a glorified jump shooter, but at least he's embraced the role and expanded his range to the 3-point line. And Bosh made the two biggest plays of the game in the most crucial time.

Yet, Bosh is still a punching bag. He's not a true superstar. He's the product of James and Wade's greatness. He's not a Hall of Famer, but where is the respect for a man who sacrificed individuality for the good of the team. Don't we abhor selfishness in our athletes?

"I don't care, that's the main part. I don't care about the criticism," said Bosh, who scored 18 points on Sunday. "I believe in my career."

His coach agrees.

"He's arguably our most important player," said Spoelstra. "Everybody's so critical about his game. He's stable. He has championship DNA. He understands he's going to be criticized. Chris has a lot on his plate."

So does Spoelstra.

He's heard everything a man can hear about being in the right place at the right time. Through it all, Spoelstra always has his team prepared. Throw Ray Allen in and he does have four future Hall of Fame candidates, but this group of Heat players hasn't lost back-to-back playoff games since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.

Think that's a coincidence? Think Spoelstra has not a thing in the world to do with that? Of course he's in one of the best positions a head coach has ever been put in, but you or I couldn't make this team work the way Spoelstra has.

"I don't take this for granted," he noted.

And finally there's James.

As foolish as it was to lambaste LeBron for not performing when he couldn't walk, he shut everyone up for one night.

And perhaps the most satisfying aspect of James' night was doing what he's always done in pivotal moments -- making the correct basketball play.

Early in his career, James was scrutinized for passing up the game-winning shot, even if he found a lesser teammate for an open look.

He even heard it after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. James ran almost the identical play that worked on Sunday night at the finale of that one. The only difference was Bosh missed the long- range jumper on that night and made it on this one.

Fast-forward to Sunday and the silence about James' decision to pass is deafening.

"It was rewarding in the fact that it was a huge play that helped us win," said James.

LeBron isn't in it for glory. Maybe to some extent he is because to be as amazing a player as he is, there has to be some ego. Remember, James doesn't care what the critics think.

"I know what I stand for," James replied.

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