Heat give up late rally, fall in Game 1 to Spurs

MIAMI — What happened: Commissioner David Stern called it the most anticipated NBA Finals in 30 years.
That’s a bit of exaggeration. Still, from the looks of Game 1, this could be a heck of a series.
The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat 92-88 Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Unfortunately for fans, they’ll now have to wait until Sunday for Game 2.
Guard Tony Parker led the Spurs with 21 points, including a 16-foot banker with 5.2 seconds left that just beat the shot-block buzzer and gave the Spurs a 92-88 lead. San Antonio forward Tim Duncan added 20 points and had 14 rebounds.
The loss spoiled a triple-double by Miami star LeBron James of 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the third triple-double of his Finals career and his second straight in a Finals game since he also had one in the decisive Game 5 last year against Oklahoma City. Also, the past three Finals triple-doubles all have come courtesy of James, his first one in Game 5 against Dallas in 2011.
The game was close throughout. Neither team ever led by double digits.
Trailing 76-73 in the fourth quarter, the Spurs went on a 15-5 run to take an 88-81 lead with 2:13 left on a Danny Green 3-pointer.
The Spurs had nine days off before the game after sweeping Memphis in the Western Conference finals while the Heat had just two off after going seven games in the East with Indiana. But inactivity or overactivity didn’t look to be a factor on either side.
The turning point: Trailing 76-73 in the fourth quarter, the Spurs took charge.
They went on a 15-5 spurt to take that 88-81 lead with 2:13 left on the Green 3-pointer. The Heat fought back to get within 90-88 in the final half minute.
But Parker beat the shot-clock buzzer with a 16-footer from the right side. He got it off just before the light went on. After a review, the basket was held up.
The difference maker:  Duncan looked all of 37 to start the game, shooting 0-of-5. That made him 10-of-37 in his past three Finals games, going back to 2007. He also had to go to the bench with two fouls in the first quarter.
But Duncan soon rounded into form. He made eight of his last 14 shots. And he started to gobble up boards.
Parker also came up huge for the Spurs. He had 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
What it means: If you listen to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, the series now has begun. His saying is that a series doesn’t start until the road team wins.
The loss makes the Heat just 1-3 Game 1s in their four Finals. However, this is the first time they’ve lost a Finals Game 1 at home. Their had beaten Dallas in 2011 in the only previous Finals with homecourt advantage.
The loss makes Sunday’s game at must win for the Heat.
What’s next: Game 2 of the series is at 8 p.m. Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson.