Cue the ‘Heat’ puns. The air conditioning at AT&T Centre, home of the San Antonio Spurs, didn’t beat the Miami Heat, the Spurs did. The Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 110-95 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in an unorthodox manner, recording twenty-three turnovers.
The lack of air conditioning certainly had an impact on the game but the Spurs still had to make their shots. The game was pretty close throughout until the final few moments when Danny Green finally got hot despite missing his first four shots and made back-to-back threes. The main casualty of the temperature was LeBron James who missed seven minutes of the fourth quarter because of cramping in his leg.
To suggest that Miami would have won the game had LeBron not been hurt isn’t really a fair reflection of the game. Danny Green and Tony Parker would still have been open for their threes but it would have been on the offensive end where James could have helped. Mario Chalmers, who missed the majority of the game due to foul trouble, checked into the game in the fourth quarter as James began to cramp up. Miami’s offense stalled without James and Chalmers tried to take over and over dribbled the ball ignoring the healthy Dwyane Wade.
Despite an uncharacteristic twenty-three turnovers from the Spurs, some of their other numbers were classic San Antonio. They made 59% of their shots including 52% of their three-pointers. Despite the fantastic shooting night the Spurs know they won’t get away with those kinds of turnovers again against the Heat.
A rule of thumb during last year’s finals, during the first five games especially, was if the Spurs kept the turnovers to less than 17 they’d usually win. Anything above 17 and they were in trouble. Game 1 seemingly didn’t abide by those rules.
Regrettably LeBron James will be scrutinized for not playing out the final few minutes of the game. Everyone must have experienced a cramp in their life and struggled to move with it initially, but try functioning on a cramping leg, in a building with no A/C. In fact try playing in one of the most important basketball games of the season, after running up and down, scoring and defending for a solid 33 minutes. It’s near impossible.
People can sit there and say ‘Jordan would have played’, ‘Bird would have played’, ‘Kobe would have played’, but does anyone really think James didn’t try everything he could to get back on the court? He gave it one more shot, drove to the basket and made a layup but as soon as he came down he was unable to walk. Adrenaline probably got him through that play but as soon as he landed he was done for the night.
Criticize him all you want but LeBron going out shows how incredibly important he is to this Miami team. When James first went out with cramp the Heat were up by two and wound up getting beat by fifteen. As mentioned, the Spurs would have gotten the same open looks had LeBron been on the court but he would have made it more difficult. He isn’t the one who gets the Heat all those open looks but he keeps them ticking defensively. You could hear LeBron shouting at Ray Allen to ‘watch the screen’ earlier in the game, he knows what’s coming.
This game was set up to be an all time great with neither team really pulling away until James went down. Don’t take anything away from the Spurs, they got the job done. This writer expected a blowout win for the Spurs in game 1 but that prediction could not have been more wrong. Expect a long series ladies and gents and expect to hear a lot more about the ‘cramp game’.
Aodán Mitchell, Pundit Arena.