When the A/C goes out, heat usually wins. Just not Thursday night in San Antonio.
The first game of the 2014 NBA Finals will forever be known for an air conditioner malfunction and LeBron James being carried off the court. And, oh yeah, the Spurs sweated out a 110-95 victory to take the early edge in the sauna better known as AT&T Center.
The Spurs ended Game 1 in rousing fashion, burying Miami with a 31-9 run down the stretch. San Antonio spent much of the night getting in its own way with turnovers before righting its ship in crunch time.
"We stopped turning the ball over," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said after scoring 21 points and adding 10 rebounds. "All of the sudden it turned into us with ball movement and our shooters getting open shots.
"It was what we were trying to get to all game long. We weren’t able to get to it, they were too much in the passing lanes, they were too aggressive and we couldn’t find a way. We kept pushing and we found a way."
The Spurs made 14 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter, including all six of their 3-point tries.
"You can’t give them open looks," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "They buried us with open looks."
The Spurs’ finish in sweltering conditions — temperatures on the court reached 90 degrees due to an electrical failure — comes with a caveat that either gives Miami hope or worry. James sat most of the final seven minutes because of apparent cramping in his legs.
Cramping has been an issue before for the four-time MVP, including during the 2012 Finals against Oklahoma City. James needed an IV after the game, though no one expects him to miss Game 2 Sunday night back in San Antonio.
"It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping like that back to the bench," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But at the same time, we still had an opportunity to make plays going down the stretch. They made obviously the biggest plays the last five minutes."
When LeBron checked out for good with four minutes left, the Heat were down just two points. The Spurs quickly pulled away with guard Danny Green leading the way, turning a tight affair into a rout.
"It was an explosion," Spoelstra said. "They flattened us out offensively. Danny Green shook free for those 3s. The floodgates came open at that point."
Quiet and without a field goal for the first 3 1/2 quarters, Green found the stroke that Miami knows too well from last June. He lit the Heat up with three 3-pointers in the last six minutes and scored 13.
"That’s what he does," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That’s his major skill. If he’s not going to do that, we might as well play somebody else. That’s the honest-to-God truth. I thought the percentages were with him, so we stuck him back out there and he came through."
The game went back and forth before the final San Antonio kick. The Heat had the early advantage coming out of the opening tip, only to watch Spurs guard Manu Ginobili take over as the Spurs surge ahead. After a Miami push from Wade and James, San Antonio finished the period strong and took a 26-20 lead.
Ginobili nailed three 3-pointers in the first quarter, and the Spurs hit four. Miami shot only 41 percent and managed only two points from players not named James, Wade or Chris Bosh.
Heat guard Ray Allen picked up the 3-point baton in the second quarter, as Miami briefly regained the lead. The Spurs finished the half strong and took a 54-49 advantage into the break. San Antonio was shooting 50 percent from the floor, and from 3-point territory, through 24 minutes.
Duncan led all scorers with 15 points going into the locker room, with Ginobili and Tony Parker also in double figures. Miami’s Big Three combined for 35 points, with Allen chipping in 10 off the bench.
Miami stormed ahead in the third. James knocked down a pair of treys and Rashard Lewis had eight points. The Spurs hurt themselves by not taking care of the ball, leading to a number of empty possessions during the Heat’s run.
San Antonio had 23 turnovers, but outrebounded the Heat by 10 (39-29) and had nearly twice as many assists (30-16). The Spurs also shot 59 percent, compared to Miami’s 47 percent.
"The turnovers are usually a killer," Popovich said. "We feel very fortunate to have won this game tonight."
Coaches and players from both sides don’t hold back when asked about the unsavory conditions in the building. Ice packs and early trips to the bench were the norm, as fans took to fanning themselves with programs or anything else they could find.
"I don’t think I’ve played in anything like this since I felt the islands," said Duncan, a native of the Virgin Islands. "It was pretty bad out there."
Spoelstra said the Miami humidity that penetrates American Airlines Arena doesn’t compare to what developed as the most important series of the season opened. He wasn’t making excuses.
"It was an unusual environment," Spoelstra said. "We’re used to having the hotter arena this time of year, but both teams had to deal with it. It’s unfortunate that it was that way."
As for Game 2?
"Hopefully," Popovich deadpanned, "we can pay our bills."