By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
SAN ANTONIO – The big story from Thursday night’s Game 1 of The NBA Finals was the electrical issue that knocked out the AT&T Center’s air-conditioning and, eventually, the Miami Heat’s superstar.
LeBron James asked out of the game a few times when he never would have under normal conditions. When he asked out in the middle of the third, it was clear his body was not reacting well to temperatures rising into the upper 80s, combined with stifling humidity.
Finally, with 3:59 to go in the game, after making a layup that cut the Spurs’ lead to 94-92, James’ left leg cramped up. He left the game and was unable to return. San Antonio blitzed Miami from there to take a 1-0 series lead.
Both teams have until Sunday night to catch their breaths and rehydrate.
A look at what went wrong and what went right in Game 1:
Wrong: The Heat’s training staff is going to have to take a look at why James couldn’t stay hydrated. The conditions were awful, but he was the only player to suffer such a fate. Without their best player, the Heat got run over in the end. He played only 32 minutes, 53 seconds — 16 seconds fewer than 38-year-old Tim Duncan.
Even Gatorade took a swipe at James on Twitter:
Right: What a night for the ageless, ever-fundamental Spurs star Duncan. He outlasted the heat and the Heat for 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds. Everything came in the lane and mostly at the rim. If Chris Bosh is going to be unable to contain Duncan — and quite frankly, why shouldn’t he be able to check the old man? — then this could be a monstrous series for Duncan. If Chris “Birdman” Andersen is not going to start, or play fewer than 18 minutes (as he did in Game 1), who is going to guard Duncan?
Wrong: The Heat have to get something out of point guard Mario Chalmers. He wanted to put Tony Parker‘s ailing left ankle to the test early, but he continually got burned. He was so bad that coach Erik Spoelstra mostly planted him on the bench. Chalmers played 17 minutes, committed five fouls and registered just three points, one assist and five turnovers. Reserve Norris Cole got 29 minutes but wasn’t much better offensively, with just two points and five assists.
Right: This series is being hailed as a redemption tour for the Spurs. It’s also a personal redemption tour for Manu Ginobili, who continues to have an outstanding postseason at age 36. He subbed into Thursday’s opener five minutes into the first quarter and quickly buried three 3-pointers as part of his memorable 16-point, 11-assist, 5-rebound effort in 32 minutes — eight minutes above his season average.
Wrong: Dwyane Wade‘s defense, especially late in the game, did not match his offense, which was especially good early. He was caught flat-footed on several occasions, once late in the game when Ginobili drove right past him for an uncontested layup. Wade was probably gassed by the fourth quarter as well, but that was not Heat defense (though Miami did force 23 Spurs turnovers).
Right: Popovich said after the game that if Danny Green is not hitting 3-point shots then there’s little reason to play him. Well, he was 0-for-4 from deep and 0-for-5 overall entering the fourth quarter. But Popovich also said the percentages would fall back in line, so he stuck with his shooting specialist. It paid off. Green scored 11 of his 13 points, including hitting three 3-pointers, during a bang-bang run midway through the fourth quarter that proved to be decisive.
Right and Wrong: The Spurs were at there precision-passing best with 30 assists on 40 baskets, just a ridiculous ratio. If they keep that up, the Heat won’t be able to keep up and the Spurs will score 110 every game. On the other side of that, the Spurs tried to force a lot of the action and paid for it. Go back to Game 2 of the first round against Dallas, and the Spurs — on their home floor mind you — threw the ball all over the place for 24 turnovers. They lost that game badly. In Game 1 against the Heat, they turned it over 23 times, leading to 28 Heat points. Teams don’t often win turning it over 20-plus times, but it helped that the Heat committed 18 turnovers of their own that went for 27 points the other way.