The NBA Finals began with everyone wondering whether the Spurs could beat the Heat.
By the time we got to the third quarter of Game 1 on Thursday, it was LeBron James who couldn’t take the heat.
And by the time the clock struck zero in San Antonio, The King was in the locker room, laying on a training table, his teammates wondering how long they would be without their leader and the Socialsphere exploding, haters from all directions taking shots at James after the 110-95 Spurs victory.
With temperatures reaching a high of 91 in San Antonio during the day, and staying in the 80s throughout the night, the air conditioning at AT&T Center broke down before halftime, sending temperatures in the building soaring toward 90 degrees — and sending players and fans alike scrambling for ways to cool off.
As the temperature continued to rise, ABC’s Doris Burke reported that most of the conversation on the bench revolved around the heat (not the Heat), but said one coach said the heat would not play a role in rotations going forward in the game.
That all changed five minutes into the third period, when James asked to be removed from the game. At the timeout, microphones caught James telling teammates “I feel like I played a whole game. . . . They’re trying to smoke us out in here.”
It would only get worse for James, who removed himself from the game again in the fourth quarter, and with four minutes to play stood under his basket while the rest of the players headed down the court as the Spurs had the ball.
That was the end for James.
"It’s frustration and there’s anger," James told reporters after game while lying on the training table long after the game. "But at the same time, it’s something you try to prevent, you try to control. I got all the fluids I needed to get. I did my normal routine I’ve done. It’s something that was inevitable for me tonight.
"It just sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point of the season."
James missed the final 3:59 because of cramps throughout the left side of his body, scoring the last of his 25 points on a layup that got Miami within two before the play on which he was no longer able to run.
And once James’ night was over, so was the game. The Spurs outscored the Heat by 13 the rest of the way, and took the series opener for the second straight finals against Miami.
But the night was just getting going for the Internet.
James was affected throughout the second half, asking for breaks more than once, and some players placed ice bags on the backs of their necks in an effort to combat the temperature.
Tim Duncan agreed, saying the heat was a significant factor in the game.
"I don’t know what happened to LeBron, but I think all of us were feeling the heat," Duncan said. "We were all dehydrated."
If there is a bright side for James — who used cold towels, drank what he could and even changed uniforms at halftime — it’s that Game 2 isn’t until Sunday. CBS reported that crews working at the game said the problem would be repaired on Saturday.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged afterward that James’ departure obviously played a role in the finish, though lauded the way his team executed in the deciding minutes.
"Certainly could have been a different story. There’s no doubt about that," Popovich said.
It’s not the first time electricity has had a significant impact on a championship event in recent years. The Super Bowl in 2013 between Baltimore and San Francisco was marred by a power outage at the Superdome in New Orleans, interrupting play for 34 minutes.
Power was the culprit in Game 1 of the finals as well, arena officials said.
"An electrical failure for the power that runs the AC system in the AT&T Center has occurred," Spurs Sports and Entertainment said in a statement distributed in the second half. "We are continuing to work on resolving the problem. We apologize for any inconvenience."
Many fans removed the giveaway black T-shirts handed out before the game, obviously wanting to wear as few layers inside the steamy building as possible.
"Not NBA Finals worthy," Wade said of the conditions in the locker room afterward. "I’ll tell you that. This is crazy."