Spurs focused to beat Heat with A/C and LeBron back

Tim Duncan experienced cramps once with the season on the line, and with the A/C working. The San Antonio Spurs were hosting the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals.

"I was cramping up the entire … fourth and overtime," Duncan remembered. "Ever since then I’ve just stayed more hydrated than usual, just tried to attack it before it gets to that point. And luckily I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve cramped up since then, but for the most part I’ve been able to stay away from it."

Duncan and the defending champion Spurs lost that deciding game eight years ago, as Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks’ finishing kick. Duncan wasn’t carried off the floor that night, but he also didn’t do much on it down the stretch.

San Antonio claimed Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals with LeBron James largely absent in crunch time. For as much scrutiny as the AT&T Center is taking for the air conditioner going out Thursday night on the league’s grandest stage — frankly it’s an embarrassment for the Spurs franchise — LeBron is getting it tenfold.

His manhood is being questioned, along with his competitiveness. Sports drinks dueling it out on Twitter is tame compared to the debate James has sparked after his body decided to revolt in conditions that should never come into play in an NBA game. Ninety-degree temperatures aren’t acceptable in the preseason, never mind in the Finals, no matter what the government officials in San Antonio say.

"There is no shaking it off," Duncan said. "Your body is shutting down and you’re unable to move. Whatever is cramping, you’re unable to get away from that. It’s easy to say to shake it off, but once it’s gotten to that point it’s hard to reverse in a short period of time."

A pair of Spurs with extensive experience playing overseas — Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker — know what playing in heat is like. While they got through Thursday night fine, they would prefer the Finals be about MVPs and not HVAC.

"It was a bad situation for him because he cramped in the most important part of the game," Ginobili said. "I’m pretty sure it was a tough one for him having to watch the last minutes."

LeBron’s cramps have largely overshadowed the Spurs’ brilliance in the fourth quarter of Game 1.

"I want the A/C to come back," Parker said. "I want to play the real Miami Heat, the two-time champs, with LeBron back. I hope it’s not bad. And I hope he’s going to be 100 percent on Sunday, because as a competitor you want to play against the best."

The Spurs need another win Sunday not to validate the first one, but to remain in command of the Finals. San Antonio lost the second game to Dallas in the first round, and as a result the Mavericks took the upper hand. That series went the full seven games.

The Spurs won the first two games against Portland and Oklahoma City, never losing control of either series. Miami, however, has won five consecutive playoff series after losing Game 1. The importance of Game 2 is clear for both sides.

"Did a good job winning the first game and now we have to focus on Game 2," Parker said.

Though the Spurs won the Finals opener by 15 points, the game was still a tossup when James exited. San Antonio survived 23 turnovers with a near-perfect fourth quarter.

"I still feel lucky because when we have 20-€‘plus turnovers, we lose those games," Parker said. "We definitely have to take care of the ball, that’s one of the keys. Don’t get me wrong, we have to give credit to Miami’s defense and I think we have to play a little bit better.

"And if we want to win Game 2, we have to take care of the ball."

Especially if the A/C is working.

Follow Art Garcia on Twitter @ArtGarcia92