San Antonio Spurs have drawn first blood in the 2014 NBA Finals by beating Miami Heat 110-95 in a game where there was an unexpected talking point.
The majority of the game at the AT&T Center was played with no air conditioning due to a power failure and out of every player on court the one player who felt it the most was LeBron James.
When James went out with leg cramps, the Heat struggled, so he came back. Once he took it strong against Boris Diaw and scored the contested lay-up, he stopped. Unable to even bend his left leg, James was at the other end of the court desperately signalling to be subbed out. From there, LeBron was done for the night and San Antonio, then up 94-92 with 4:08 left to play would make their move and close the game out for good.
A 16-3 closeout inspired by San Antonio’s hot shooting from outside cooled down the Heat (team that is) for good as Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and 10 rebounds, Tony Parker had 19 with 8 assists but the statline of the night fell to the Argentine Manu Ginobili who got 16 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds and even stripped the Heat 3 times.
James had 25 but couldn’t finish.
WHAT DECIDED THE GAME?
AIR CONDITIONING will be the main talking point of Game 1 as it is an occurrence that you just get often. These things happen and both coaches respected that. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra most importantly did not use the sauna-like conditions as a factor in the loss.
“It was an unusual environment,” said Spoelstra afterwards. “We’re used to having the hotter arena at this time of year but both teams had to deal with it. It’s unfortunate that it was that way. It was how we responded in those minutes after that point.
“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping like that back to the bench but at the same time we still had an opportunity to make plays down the stretch and [the Spurs] made the biggest plays.”
Of course that leader that Spoelstra was referring to was LeBron, as quite possibly the best athlete in sports scored a routine lay-up and then stopped. He was unable to bend his leg and he was helped back to the bench and would not return.
“It was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side,” James said. “I was losing a lot [of fluids] throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot.”
LEBRON coming out twice due to cramp was a huge factor as well because with James on the bench and the temperature in the arena getting hotter, the Spurs benefited.
Miami’s perimeter defence was left wanting, and Danny Green took full advantage with big buckets and then when James came off for good, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker got in on the three-point act as San Antonio closed out Game 1 with the Heat only managing three points in the last 4:08 of the game.
SAN ANTONIO’S OFFENSIVE BALANCE was no doubt taken into account as they had different players ready to step up whereas Miami looked lost without LeBron.
Tim Duncan led the way with 21 points, but Manu Ginobili stepped up, and in clutch time, Danny Green came good and Tony Parker used his Finals experience to lead the Spurs in the closeout.
Without James: Miami had no-one.
A FOURTH QUARTER BLOWOUT of 36-17 paved the way for the Spurs’ Game 1 success. They went 14/16 from the field, including 6/6 from three-point land. They more than matched the temperatures inside, while Miami froze (impossible as it would seem).
The Heat went 7/16 from the field and didn’t share the ball as much as the Spurs did. The movement from San Antonio was sharp and precise, and the final 12 minutes was another factor in the game. Miami were leading 78-74 after three quarters.
Argentina’s Manu Ginobili had an extremely efficient night for the Spurs with 16 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and a block, which earned him the NBA’s statline of the game.
France’s Tony Parker was another key component in San Antonio’s offence as he had 19 points and 8 assists on the night. He hit a dagger three to make the score 105-95 to make sure Game 1 was in the bag.
Brazil’s Tiago Splitter played a pivotal role with 14 points as the center got the better of Udonis Haslem and Chris “Birdman” Andersen on this night.
Australia’s Patty Mills scored 7 points off the bench for the Spurs. Not one of his brighter performances but will play a role in the 2014 Finals after this breakout season.
France’s Boris Diaw only managed 2 points in 33 minutes and was mainly dominated by James until he came off. He won’t care though, San Antonio got the win.
Italy’s Marco Belinelli had a solid outing for the Spurs, scoring 9 points in 18 minutes. Will he be fined for a “flop” after colliding with Ray Allen in transition?