The NBA Finals got off to a hot start — literally — in San Antonio last night. The Spurs took Game 1 from the Miami Heat, 110-95, thanks in part to LeBron James spending a good portion of the second half on the bench.
An electrical failure at the AT&T Center caused the air conditioning to shut down and temperatures in the arena to rise above 90 degrees at points during the game. The heat clearly took a toll on the players down the stretch, especially on James, who asked to be taken out of the game twice in the second half, once saying “They’re trying to smoke us out of here,” when he returned to the bench.
James came back into the game with 4:33 left in the fourth quarter, driving and scoring on his first offensive possession. But he immediately came down from the play with a cramp, unable to make it back on defense.
“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping to the bench like that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
LeBron never returned to the game and the Spurs took advantage, connecting on three three-pointers in the final two minutes, bringing the already simmering stadium to a boil.
Though the conditions in the building were certainly an obstacle to overcome for both teams, it was the hot shooting of the Spurs that eventually led to Miami’s demise in Game 1. San Antonio shot 52 percent from beyond the arc and was perfect in the fourth quarter.
After going 0-5 from the field through the first three quarters, Danny Green came alive in the fourth, scoring all 13 of his points. While Ray Allen’s coast-to-coast dunk (that’s right, Ray Allen turned the clock back and rose above the rim) was the highlight for much of the game, Green’s fast break slam over Rashard Lewis with less than five minutes to go took the cake.
“That’s what he does,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Green’s fourth quarter explosion. “If he’s not going to do that, then we might as well play somebody else…I thought the percentages were with him, so we stuck him back out there and he came through.”
The battle of the big threes was evenly matched in this one, with Miami’s trio combining for 62 points and San Antonio’s putting up 56. But it was once again the work of the Spurs’ role players that lifted the team. Tiago Splitter had 14 points to go along with Green’s 13, and Boris Diaw dished out six assists and grabbed 10 boards.
If there were any Heat fans in the building on Thursday night, they left with sweat on their foreheads for more reasons than one. Miami played well enough to win this game, and if the dials are turned up this high for both teams the rest of the series, it won’t be the last time fans of either side find themselves perspiring.
And while Dwyane Wade sounded sure in his postgame press conference that James “will be fine,” the King’s health is the big question mark looming over Sunday’s Game 2.
Photos: Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images, Andy Lyons/Getty Images