The San Antonio Spurs seemed to handle extreme weather conditions better than others. It might also be the fact that the Miami Heat, the better team until LeBron James started suffering from cramps, fell apart without their star in the fourth quarter, losing 110-95 as the home team took a 1-0 in the NBA finals.
After a very strong third quarter and an overall excellent game from James, scoring 25 points and not finding it too difficult to score against Kawhi Leonard or anyone else, cramps started affecting him. Initially he tried playing through it, but as the air conditioning in the arena wasn’t working, it seemed like it was bothering him and his teammates more than the home team. He was eventually pulled out of the game with four minutes left, which signaled the big finish for the Spurs.
San Antonio went on a 36-17 run during the fourth quarter that included going 6-for-6 from beyond the arc. With James on the floor the trapping and movement on defense seemed to do the trick, but once he was off, Danny Green kept finding himself open, while Miami failed to score a single point through transition, unlike 23 points on 16 opportunities before the fourth quarter, as San Antonio missed only two shots in the fourth, going 14-of-16 from the field.
Tim Duncan was solid throughout the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds, finishing with 9-of-10 from the field. The Heat focusing too much on him and Boris Diaw in the paint during the fourth quarter helped free up Green and others as they ran away with the game. Green finished with 13 points, once again not doing anything except hit open shots, while Tony Parker helped with 19 points, followed by an excellent game from Manu Ginobili with 16 points, becoming the first bench player with at least a 15-5-5 night (he added 5 boards and 11 assists) in the NBA Finals since Michael Cooper of the Lakers in 1982. He is the first bench player ever in the finals to have a 15-5-10 night or better.
The Heat had a problem all game long but especially late in the game with the Spurs’ ball movement and their catch-and-shoot. The Spurs hit 12-of-18 shots of such manner, and 14 of them were uncontested, finishing with 13-of-25 overall from beyond the arc. Combine that with the Heat turning the ball over 16 times and generally looking completely lost the moment LeBron James left the floor, especially on defense, and you get a slightly misleading ending to a very close game.
The Heat went with a nine-man rotation which included Norris Cole, Chris Andersen, Shane Batter and Ray Allen coming off the bench. Chris Bosh was shooting very well and giving the Spurs a lot of trouble with 18 points. Dwyane did a good job with 19 points, while Ray Allen added 16 off the bench, including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Rashard Lewis started and scored 10 points while doing a decent job on defense. All that didn’t matter once their big star left the game.
Beat the Heat, the slogan every opposing team’s fans shout during games when hosting Miami, took on a different meaning without air conditioning creating the stifling conditions. The Heat took the worst hit from the sweat and rise in temperature, but both teams were under the same kind of conditions. The Spurs simply handled things better, and made the most of the opportunity presented to them.
The Heat held a 86-79 lead with 9:38 remaining in the game, but it all went south from there. Not just James’ injury, but other issues, especially the turnovers and the loss of direction without their star player. The Spurs continue their streak of winning by at least 15 points in their home games (eight in a row), with some suggesting that their international roster, with players used to playing without air conditioning overseas, helping out a little bit.