Heat Check: With LeBron ailing with cramps, Miami stumbles in final minutes
JUN 06, 2014 12:13a ET
The heat was turned up on the Miami Heat on Thursday night -- literally and figuratively.
The air conditioning went out due to an electrical failure at San Antonio's AT&T Center, and the conditions had a major effect on Heat star LeBron James, who asked out of the game three times before sitting out the final four minutes.
On-court temperatures were as high as 88 degrees, and many of the players were wearing ice packs on their necks while sitting on the bench.
San Antonio came away with a 110-95 win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Spurs finished the game on a 31-9 run.
"It feels like we've played a whole game already," James, wired for sound by ABC, said during the third quarter. "They are trying to smoke us out of here."
James seemed to have trouble breathing, suffering from fatigue and cramping when he took himself out in the third quarter. The Heat led by two when he left again, this time with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Finally, with 3:59 left in the game, James cramped up again, and he had to be helped off the court. He never returned.
"Both teams had to deal with it -- we're not making excuses," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the conditions. "It was unfortunate. It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader (James) limp to the bench."
James still scored a game-high 25 points in 33 minutes, but it wasn't enough. Dwyane Wade had 19 points, Chris Bosh had 18, and Ray Allen had 16 off the bench. Mario Chalmers, plagued with foul trouble most of the game, had just three points in 17 minutes.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker added 19 points, and Manu Ginobili had 16 points.
"It was significant," Duncan said of the lack of air conditioning. "It was definitely a factor. I don't know what happened to LeBron, but I think all of us were feeling the heat. We are all dehydrated. We played through it and found a way to win."
Duncan was asked his reaction to James being helped off the court.
"In this situation, I'm not worried about it," Duncan said. "I'm worried about trying to get that lead back and trying to get that win. Obviously, you don't want anybody to get hurt."
It's too early for Miami to panic. The Heat will feel just fine if they win on Sunday night and head back to Miami tied 1-1. But if they lose again, the pressure will be turned up on the two-time NBA champions.
And here is another cause for Heat concern: The Spurs are 10-1 at home in the playoffs, including nine in a row. And the last eight of those wins have been by 15 points or more, which is a first in NBA history.
Duncan said the key was when San Antonio stopped turning the ball over.
"All of a sudden, it turned into ball movement and our shooters getting open shots," Duncan said. "That's what we were trying to get to all game long, but their defense was too much in the passing lanes. We kept pushing and we found a way."
Early signs in Thursday's game favored San Antonio. Parker, who had battled an ankle injury in the Spurs' previous game, showed he was healthy in the first quarter when he made a reverse layup and then a spin move and pass to Duncan. Parker played a game-high 37 minutes.
Another indication that things were going well for San Antonio was the shooting of Ginobili, who came off the bench to score nine points in his first four first-quarter minutes.
With all that, the Spurs led 26-20 after the first quarter, mostly because they made 4 of 7 on three-pointers, including 3 of 4 by Ginobili. The Heat shot 1 of 4 from distance.
San Antonio led 54-49 at halftime as Duncan had 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Ginobili had 11 points, five assists and three steals.
James led the Heat with 11 points, but Miami's bench was outscored 24-12, and San Antonio shot 50 percent from the floor, including 7 of 14 on three-pointers.
San Antonio led by as many as nine points early in the third quarter. But Miami turned up the defensive intensity, forcing nine turnovers to take a 78-74 lead after three quarters.
But the heat got to James and the Heat in the fourth quarter.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Spurs guard Danny Green missed his first five shots in the game and didn't make his first field goal until the fourth quarter. But then he got hot. He hit his second straight three-pointer with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter to give the Spurs a 90-88 lead. A minute later, a Green dunk on a fast break put the Spurs up 94-90. Then another Green three made it 97-92. He finished with 13 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Spurs won despite committing 22 turnovers, and the main reason was their shooting. They made 58.8 percent from the floor, including 13 of 25 for 52 percent on three-pointers. Six different Spurs players made three-point shots.
Game 2 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. That gives James and the rest of the players two days to recuperate. And it gives the folks at the AT&T Center two days to fix their problems.
Or, as Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich joked after the game: "Hopefully, we can pay our (electric) bills."