The Miami Heat had taken control of Game 1. Midway through the third quarter, hot shooting and more Spurs turnovers had put Miami ahead with a 13-2 run. The Heat would go into the fourth up four, and pushed that up to seven after a Chris Bosh four-point play two minutes later. A Game 1 win on the road was in hand.
Two minutes later, LeBron would be forced out of the game with cramps. That's when all hell broke loose.
On its final 12 possessions -- of which LeBron was on the floor for one, and then only in a literal sense -- San Antonio scored 26 points. Please understand how totally ridiculous that is. San Antonio only came up empty on two of its final 12 possessions, and one of those was a missed jumper by Manu Ginobili right after LeBron and Chris Bosh hit the bench. The other was a Tim Duncan turnover. The Spurs missed one other shot in the run, but Duncan picked up the board and Kawhi Leonard nailed a veritable dagger of a three.
Without LeBron, Miami's defense totally collapsed. Nine of the 10 makes by the Spurs in the run were assisted. Six of the 12 shots attempted were three-pointers (all successful), four were layups or dunks (three were successful) and two were mid-range jumpers (Parker hit one of them). Miami had trouble keeping San Antonio out of the net all night, but without their defensive centerpiece, the Spurs' shot-making went into overdrive. LeBron's man, Boris Diaw, assisted on two of the threes and hit a layup during the run. The lane kept collapsing and Spurs shooters were left open. It looked like what the Spurs did to the Thunder during Games 1 and 2 of the West finals.
That they did it while suffering through the nasty heat that felled the four-time MVP makes it all the more insane.
Reaction to external stressors is determined by physiological factors. LeBron suffers from cramping because he plays a high-activity style for huge minutes with a huge, muscular body. Additionally, he's from northern Ohio, where he spent the bulk of his life. He's lived in Miami for a few years as a multi-millionaire who, I'm guessing, usually practices and trains in air conditioned facilities. His body has not been trained in heat.
Tim Duncan grew up in the Caribbean. Parker, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and Ginobili grew up and/or played professionally in Europe, where most gyms are bandboxes without A/C. Three years ago, during the NBA lockout, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News reported that Duncan, Danny Green -- who lit it up in the fourth -- and former Spur James Anderson were doing wind sprints in triple-digit weather to keep up their conditioning.
Totally unintentionally, Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford built a team that can succeed playing in a 90-degree gym. The magic of the Spurs knows no bounds.