The air condition broke at the AT&T Center, leading to rising temperatures that overcame the Heat's superstar. LeBron James couldn't play in the fourth quarter because of cramps, allowing the Spurs to pull away.
The most detailed-oriented observers could see it coming. Brilliant SI scribe Lee Jenkins warned in the first half that the sweltering temps caused by the AT&T Center's broken A/C could cause problems for LeBron James. Somewhat early in the third, Erik Spoelstra yanked LeBron for an early blow. During breaks, LeBron and teammates draped themselves in ice and requested colder water.
It was still stunning to see LeBron ask to exit in the fourth, only to come back and score on a driving layup. And after that score, he stood as if a statue on the baseline, literally unable to move under his own power due to a cramp in his quads. He eventually was carried to the Heat bench; he wouldn't return.
The Spurs deserve buckets of credit for taking advantage, but given how much Miami suffered without LeBron it's hard to take too many lessons from Game 1. That game was firmly in Miami's grasp before LeBron's legs stopped working. It's not surprising that without LeBron on the court San Antonio is way better than Miami. Of course they are! Chances are that the Spurs are better than Miami with LeBron playing.
That's what makes The Cramp Game so disappointing: these teams are brilliantly matched and totally competitive ... when both teams are at their best. And while San Antonio will take the win with glee, one imagines they'll expect a tougher slog when the A/C is working next time. -Tom Ziller
Danny Green comes alive
Danny Green needed to make his impact felt in this Finals, even if only for a game. After a dominating performance in the first five games last year against Miami, Green was shut down in the last two. With his chance at redemption, Green rebounded from three quiet quarters to carry the Spurs home down the stretch.
Green started off incredibly slow, going 0-for-5 and failing to score until the fourth quarter. Then, with less than seven minutes remaining, Green came alive. He hit his first three pointer on an assist from Boris Diaw to cut the Heat lead to one. A possession later, Diaw funneled another pass toward the sharpshooter and Green nailed a second three, giving the Spurs a two-point lead. That's when it really fell apart for Miami.
After a missed Dwyane Wade layup a minute later, Green snuck out on the break and threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk on a pass from Tim Duncan, stretching the Spurs lead to four points and signaling in one play why losing James to cramps was so crucial. Green wasn't finished yet, and put in another three-pointer to seal the game on the next Spurs possession. San Antonio came away with a sweaty Game 1 victory, and everyone watching got to see one of the most exciting players of last year's Finals once again.
Welcome back, Almost Finals MVP Danny Green. We've missed you. -Dane Carbaugh
The legend grows
The heat nor the Heat much bothered Tim Duncan, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 9-10 from the floor. The only problem Big Fundamental had in Game 1 was when Miami jumped passing lanes and slapped at the ball in the pivot -- Duncan had five of San Antonio's 23 turnovers. Once he got the ball up, it was always in a high-percentage shot. We know he works the pick-and-roll with Tony Parker like a Swiss clock, but he also found space as the Miami defense reacted to Boris Diaw and S.A.'s shooters.
Tiago Splitter also did well, especially late. But Duncan's continued excellence has been a key part of this title run as Splitter hasn't quite lived up to the standard set by expectations. This is bridge time between Spurs eras, with Kawhi Leonard coming into his own. If Duncan weren't able to dominate a game still, the Spurs would be in a tougher, less competitive spot.
Duncan's determination to win another ring is something to marvel at. He doesn't come off as a lunatic like MJ or Kobe, but there's a certain smoldering focus you can't ignore. He wants to win this as badly as anyone else, but it presents in a healthy way and manifests as a flavor of basketball that never panics or presses destructively hard. Tim Duncan's version of Hero Ball is to keep calm and play on. It's just marvelous. -Tom Ziller
Miami's missed opportunity
The biggest reason this loss stings for Miami is that its defense was on point for large stretches. Its margin for error is thin, because the difference between a completed pass and a steal in the Heat’s scheme is a fraction of a second.
On this night, though, the margin was falling in the right direction. Nobody slows the Spurs forever; they’re the Spurs, after all, and they powered into high gear once LeBron James cramped up. But the Heat’s blitzing defense was dialed in for most of the game and especially during the third quarter, when they forced eight Spurs turnovers. The Spurs’ tic-tac-toe passing is so much fun to watch, but Miami defeated it by anticipating the toe before the tic was even completed. They were in passing lanes and picked up steals.
The Spurs needed to change something quickly, and luckily they did. San Antonio’s misdirection, out of whack during that third quarter, returned in the fourth. Danny Green snuck away in the middle of plays and buried open threes. Boris Diaw started looking for the right pass instead of the obvious one. Eventually, San Antonio cracked the code.
And thus, a strong defensive effort was squandered. Can Miami duplicate it? -Mike Prada
Ray Allen's fountain of youth
Usually, we think of Moses when the sea parts and freedom awaits on the other side. In Game 1, Jesus himself decided to do the job.
Ray Allen collected one of his game-high five steals late in the third quarter and broke out for a fast break. After giving a hellacious stiff-arm to Marco Belinelli, a crevice of daylight opened up and Mr. Shuttlesworth thought he was back at UConn with a turn-back-the-clock dunk on Danny Green.
I yelled a few obscenities and jumped up from my loveseat in amazement. Who the hell does Ray Allen think he is? It was like Allen got one of those stars in Super Mario Bros. and momentarily forgot he was 38 years old.
It seemed impossible to think that Miami would lose the game at that moment. Alas, Allen didn't score again after that personal 6-0 run. Dwyane Wade vanished after a great start, The LeBron Cramp Game happened and the Spurs decided that they'd shoot 14-16 from the field, make all six of their threes, complete 14 assists, and score 36 points in the fourth quarter. Ray Allen's out-of-body experience will go down as a minor footnote in what was a phenomenal basketball game for 3 1/2 quarters. Damn shame too. -Eddie Maisonet
NBA Finals schedule
Game 1: Spurs 110, Heat 95 James (25 pts), Bosh (19 pts, 9 rebs)Duncan (21 pts), Ginobili (16 pts, 11 ast)
Game 2 on Sunday, June 88 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CTABCAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game 3 on Tuesday, June 109 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CTABCAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 4 on Thursday, June 129 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CTABCAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 5 on Sunday, June 15*8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CTABCAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game 6 on Tuesday, June 17*9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CTABCAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, Fla.
Game 7 on Friday, June 20*9 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CTABCAT&T Center, San Antonio, Texas
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