Well, that was something.
The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 110-95 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It was a close game throughout, but the Spurs closed it out on a 16-3 run to grab the 1-0 series lead.
The real story was the malfunction of the air-conditioning units of the AT&T Center. It’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals and the last thing the league needed is something like that effecting a game in their showcase event. Both teams were clearly dealing with the heat, as you could see players trying to cool off on the bench for much of the night.
The other subplot is LeBron James sitting out the majority of the fourth quarter because of leg cramps. Once he went down, the Heat fell apart. More on this in bit.
Aside from all that nonsense, they did manage to play some basketball.
Things that pleased me: Chris Bosh kept up his hot streak, by going for 18 points and 9 rebounds. He was also 3/4 from downtown. He was playing with confidence, as he had his jumper and ball fake working to perfection. He even had a 4-point play that helped put the Heat up 7 in the fourth.
Ray Allen was putting the fear of Jesus (Shuttlesworth) into Spurs fans, as you could hear the shrieks of horror every time he took an open 3-point attempt. Allen went for 16 points, and even had a monster dunk (!) in the third.
LeBron dropped 25 points in his 32 minutes of action, but he had to sit out the bulk of the fourth with muscle cramps. Dwyane Wade also contributed 19 points, while looking as spry as ever.
Miami’s defense kept Tony Parker in check, as he was limited to 12 points in the first 3 quarters. Sadly, they had to play a fourth quarter.
Things that annoyed me: The collapse of the Heat defense in the fourth quarter was painful to watch. Miami plays a very hyperactive defense that uses rotations and traps to throw off offenses. They forced 22 Spurs turnovers with that activity. However, they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, as the combination of the heat, coupled with LeBron’s absence, really hurt them as they allowed San Antonio to shoot 14/16 in the fourth, with 6/6 coming from 3-point range. That’s not going to beat the Spurs.
Danny Green scored 11 of his 13 points in the quarter, as Miami lost him on screens and/or failed to close out on him when he was open. This was a theme in last year’s Finals.
Things that perplexed me: A couple of years ago, I was playing flag football with some friends when I started to cramp up in my right leg. I sat out a few plays trying to stretch it out. Once I came back, I cramped up in my left leg. I was walking around like the Tin-Man and was in the absolute worst pain; you really can’t move a whole lot. Point is, LeBron James is the best player on the planet, and he happened to cramp up in the fourth quarter. I’m just a guy writing a blog; you’re just someone reading this blog. It can happen to anyone.
However, The Keepers of the Holy Grail of Jordan have risen up to bring down LeBron. You see, Michael Jordan was brought to this realm because of a tear in reality that allowed his essence to seep into our plane of existence. He then used his abilities to become the greatest basketball player ever. He would have played through muscle cramps, while battling the flu, because his powers grant him the strength to move beyond pain. He becomes the purest of light that we puny mortals can never comprehend because we only have five senses. He would also sell $300 shoes, just because. How dare you compare a foolish human to him? Or something.
Summary: we all get muscle cramps. They hurt. A lot. It sucks when they occur at the worst time. But that’s life.
Scale of 1-to-10, How badly did you want to throw a lamp because of Mario Chalmers?: 10. I have a great patience for Mario Chalmers. I understand what you’re signing up for when you have to watch him. Last night was bad. In 17 minutes of play, he had 5 turnovers and 5 fouls. Those turnovers were a lot of the “Drive to the basket and lose the ball” variety that he has patented. He never got going, which has been a common theme this postseason. He can be his own worst enemy, which can happen to all the great ones. At least, that’s what he’s thinking.
What we learned: Other than playing basketball in 90 degree temperatures is only fun when you’re playing for an hour and a half, while taking 10 minute breaks every 20 minutes? Probably that Spurs are really good when they are wide open. The Spurs shot 59% from the field (52% from 3) over the course of the game. The Heat just can’t allow them to get open looks at will.
Say what you want about the AC being a factor, but the Spurs also had to deal with it. Gregg Popovich was able to manage his team’s minutes better, as Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter all contributed big in the fourth, as all three played less than 28 minutes each.
Panic meter: 1. Much like Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat let a team have a crazy shooting night and it proved to be their downfall. Thing is, the Spurs are not the Pacers. Miami has to be cognizant of giving guys too much space on the perimeter because San Antonio will make them pay. LeBron’s issues also didn’t help matters.
The Heat could have won this game. Hopefully the AC and the effort are working in Game 2.