And so the 2014 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat got underway last night and prognostications are abound regarding whether the heat beat the Miami Heat and not the San Antonio Spurs. For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, the air conditioning at the AT&T Center in San Antonio either suffered a timely malfunction or was sabotaged by gremlins. Whatever the case may be, both teams soldiered through sweltering heat reminiscent of a window less church gym in the middle of August, as sweat-drenched opponents played a physical chess match in trying to get a Game 1 advantage, and it was the Spurs would were triumphant with a 110-95 victory.
Tim Duncan, aka Old Man Riverwalk, aka Timmay, turned in a performance for the ages with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Though those numbers aren’t astronomical, they are significant considering Duncan, at age 38, became the oldest player to lead his team in scoring in an NBA Finals game since 40-year-old Kareem Abdul Jabbar did it in the 1987 NBA Finals. Manu Ginobili got in on some of that historic actions as well as he became the first bench player since Michael Cooper of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1982 NBA Finals, to come off the bench and score at least 15 points, grab at least 5 rebounds and dish out at least 5 assists in a championship series.
Ginobili scored 16 points and dished out 11 assists in what was his best all-around playoff performance this postseason. Tony Parker got to the rim with less consistency than he did in throughout the 2013 NBA Finals, but when he did, a concerted effort was made by him to set up Duncan and Tiago Splitter for easy buckets close in and relied on his on again, off again, long range touch; lucky for the Spurs it was an “on again” type of night as Parker went 2 for 2 from downtown, including a dagger-three with a little over a minute remaining in the game. Boris Diaw, whose ability to pass the ball and attack Serge Ibaka off the dribble may have been the biggest reason why the Spurs were able to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, did nothave a great shooting night in Game 1; however, he chipped in six assists and grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench.
On paper, Miami Heat’s big three appeared to have had decent games with LeBron James scoring 25 points, Dwyane Wade scoring 19 points and Chris Bosh chipping in 18 points. But numbers do lie. James only played 33 minutes and suffered a debilitating cramp that caused him to sit out the last 3:30 of the game. Up to that point, Game 1 was something of a seesaw affair as the Miami Heat defense forced the home team into an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers, nine of which came in a sloppy third quarter, as the Heat chased Spurs’ designated shooter Danny Green from the three-point line for the majority of the evening.
The Heat led 86-79 after a Chris Bosh four-point play with 9:38 left in the 4th quarter. LeBron James would score on a driving layup only moments later, but that was the last hurrah for Miami as the Spurs ball movement resulted in them going 14 for 16 from the floor and outscoring the Heat by 19 points (36-17) in the final frame. Today many prognosticators are blaming the loss on Miami’s inability to beat the heat, but it’s difficult for this writer to see how LeBron’s presence could have prevented the Spurs from tallying 12 assists in the quarter or the defensive lapses on the perimeter that led to Danny Green getting wide open looks at the basket in crunch time. The Heat got 16 throwback points from Ray Allen off the bench, including a fastbreak dunk, but got virtually nothing from regular contributors Chris Anderson, Mario Chalmers and Norris Coles. The outliers are numerous: LeBron’s cramp, Kawhi Leonards poor play through three quarters, the Spurs’ 20-plus turnovers and Wade/Bosh’s failure to close the game following James’ departure; however, it’s a safe bet to say LeBron James’ will come back with a vengeance in Game 2 on Saturday.
We'll see if the electrical system is up to the challenge as well.